No matter if we are to talk about projects’ development, their put into practice, or even the most basic human interactions, architecture schools take their students around quite a wide variety of feelings and states of mind, yet there is one particular moment that really scares the life out of them: the project defense. The very idea that one has to defend their project in front of a jury puts it into a rather distressing situation as even the word itself, defense, implies a certain assault. For sure, things are not that dramatic, although more often than not the experience itself turns into a real offending situation.
Listed below there are a few such moments to which I assisted and I am sure they would call back other nostalgic funny moments among the readers.
A Sweet Approach
Without a doubt, architecture is a field that promotes creativity and sparks within those who are practicing it a flame of endless possibilities. Inspiration may come from all sorts of different areas, but for the final presentation, one has to make the best choices to better value their project in front of the jury. Those choices might vary from the color palette to the layout composition or even the outfit to wear, still one of the best possible ways to make your project stand out is through a physical model. Here the discussion can become a little complicated, but we can all agree on one thing for sure: when it comes to physical models, the more expressive they are, the better. They do not have to be 100% accurate, yet they have to be a representation of the project presented in front of the jury.
One time, a colleague of mine came with one crazy, unorthodox idea: to cast her model in white chocolate. Architects have indeed this ability to turn merely simple, common matters into complete marvels. It was her case too. We were all delighted to see what pure ingenuity looks like when completely cured. She made a complete hit, yet there was a little twist to it.
While defending the project, the jury members have in front of their eyes both the model and the layouts and you sit there next to them trying to expose your thoughts, but what do you do when they notice that your model is the exact same representation of the project, only mirrored? Well, that was quite a sweet mismatch and it did not really matter at the end of her presentation when alongside the jury members we all rushed to tear apart small shreds of that white chocolate model.
A Desperate One
On the same note of approaching innovative ways of dealing with model making, there is another moment that marked my experience in the design studio. For sure, working with models may be tackled in lots of different manners. Some consider that models are one of the best possible ways of understanding both concepts of space and materiality, but sometimes, when working on short projects, we only come up with the model when confronting the jury. In such situations time management is a definite must, otherwise, one will run out of time and adhere to desperate actions.
This very thing happened to another colleague a few hours before the actual project defense. He did not appreciate correctly the time spent on the layouts and had not much time left to deal with the model. Imagine the inner torment this poor fellow experienced, yet under the total rule of despair, he chose to take action. He went to a local grocery store and bought a handful of fresh bread and a few bottles of water.
As soon as he came back in the studio, he started making the model -honestly, he did his best trying. It was the funniest scene ever watching him meticulously mixing the bread crumbs with the water in order to obtain some wanna-be modeling paste. However, the paste never happened and instead of greeting the jury with an art installation resembling Kader Attia’s exhibition at Tate Modern, he went for a “no model this time” approach.
Generally, the final models happen last. First, you make sure you have the layouts ready as they require a bit more time to render and after that, you start building up the scale model. Even though most of the time they are done in quite a rush the results can still be spectacular.
Now the jury members factor comes into the equation. Whenever working with people, unforeseen is most likely to happen. One might state that having a great, intriguing model is always a good sign for how things will go during the presentation, but is it though? To one of my fellow mates, showing up with a captivating model turned out to be a real touchdown, but the cost was enormous.
One of the professors in the jury started turning around the model and moving it here and there analyzing with a critical eye every detail while he himself missed one important aspect: the table on which the model was placed was not an infinite one and so the model slipped over the margin of the table and smashed the floor. Imagine you have to see the work you did in a few days crushed like that in a matter of seconds. Of course, it was not a jubilant moment for my colleague, but she managed to get over it and rapidly turned it into a ludicrous moment.
That ONE Piece of Advice
It would be so easy to have someone preparing you for all this trouble ahead of any jury defense, yet for some studio tutors, it may be better to try not to say anything that could “cheer up” the students. I am sure there is at least one such professor in any architecture college out there.
For us, it happened after a one-semester project, minutes before the presentations started. We were nervous, as all first-year students happen to be, hopefully, our guiding member asked us to round up for that one piece of advice we were all looking forward to hearing. We gathered up, he inhaled, looked us in the eyes, and said: “Present just as if you would do give a damn about your projects”. Well, that really did build up our confidence, after all.