Two words that cause architecture students to panic, lose focus, feel tired (even if they aren’t), question convictions that they hold dearest, and generally lose their marbles. The culmination of a semester’s work all comes down to a short presentation and some temporary wall space for your drawings and models. Having just gone through a round of final reviews, I thought I’d take this moment to reflect a bit on this peculiar facet of the architecture education.
For final review, the student is typically tasked with producing drawings, a model, and maybe an animation, all of which best display their work. This material is then presented to a panel of reviewers. There is a lot of emphasis placed on the graphic elements and rightly so, drafting and modeling (perhaps less so now than before) are the primary means of communication in our field. Professors occasionally have specific requirements for the final presentation but a lot of time it is up to the student as to what is shown at review.
The ability of the student to discern which views best describe their project, which drawings are necessary to understand the concept behind the design, and what scale of model is needed are valuable skills to have.
However, one thing that I feel is ignored and should be addressed is the verbal presentation aspect of the final review. It is almost tragic how an incredible project can be thoroughly undermined by a subpar verbal presentation. While the reviewers are tasked with evaluating the student’s modeling and graphic presentation, the ideas and motivations of the project are primarily communicated through the verbal presentation. A strong project can communicate a lot through just the graphics but to ignore the verbal portion of architecture would be a disservice to the design education as well as the student.
Using words to describe space, design ideas, and abstract concepts coherently and effectively is a real skill and one that I believe is a necessity in our profession. To that end, I would like to see professors emphasizing this aspect of review and architecture more. In addition to requiring a certain amount of drawings, graphics, models, diagrams, etc. at review, I would like to see professors require a written statement or a scripted presentation. This would force students to think not only about their design but about how to talk about their design.
Some students thrive while drafting, others while working on the computer, and others through discussing and talking about architecture. The studio process should address all of these aspects of architecture. For proof of the importance of the verbal aspect of our profession, think back to the most recent moment you were inspired by architecture. I would wager that a good portion of people were inspired by a talk given by an architect or by a book or magazine describing a project. Certainly the images and graphics contributed, but the words were a critical part.
I hope that this aspect of architecture, so visible in practice, gets the attention it deserves in school. Or perhaps I’m going overboard, do I really want one more thing to worry about for final review?