Nothing screams “crazy” more than deciding to redesign your project the night before the final jury. Some would call it a forbidden strategy. Others, such as myself, find adventure in it and challenge themselves to overnight projects to a degree of discomfort. I mostly feel pity for professors who arrive to work the next day to an unpleasant surprise. 

On some nights, I also begin to pity myself and contemplate whether I should work with what I already have. Somehow, the fact that the final jury is tomorrow slips my mind, and it does so every time.

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University of Houston College of Architecture_©Cyndy Allard

The Night that Started it All

[It was only the second semester of my first year in architecture school. I felt more nervous than creative but thankful that I was no longer an engineering student. My first semester taught me how to sleep at night without really sleeping at all and I found myself doing strange things, such as crying over a crooked piece of chipboard. 

My doodles of silly little monsters and flowers were no longer adequate compared to the 3D drawings of vegetables we did during studio workshops. Whenever I saw anyone using a box cutter or an X-Acto blade, I became overjoyed. 

Architecture and all of its components, I realized, was creeping into every component of my life. I’ve heard a fair share of horror stories once entering architecture schools, such as students building cardboard beds because driving home would be too dangerous, or broken models along with broken hearts, or even students gluing themselves to their models. 

Imagine explaining that situation to the jurors. Fortunately for me though, I had yet to encounter an all-nighter, an X-Acto blade accident, or a broken model. What I had encountered, however, was the terrible idea to change my project in the span of a night.

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Architecture Student Sleeping_©

It was nearing the end of the first semester, and because we were new to the structure of architecture school, there was no final jury. That did not stop my spontaneous urges. You know when you watch those timed cooking shows, and everything gives you anxiety? The sweat on the chefs, the blending of food, the eyes of the judges. Well, put that into the context of me in my garage with the whole night ahead of me. 

The buzzing from the bandsaw, the scratching of sandpaper, the inconvenience of gluing parts together. Everything was giving me anxiety. An odd part of it, however, was exciting and, dare I say, fun. It was a continuous process of cutting, sanding, painting, and gluing. I was a robot on a mission, and no one knew about it. Specifically, my professor knew nothing about it. 

Before I could realize, with my head buried in dust and paint, the sun was up, and the night ceased to exist. It was my biggest nightmare but also, in a way, my greatest accomplishment. Luckily, I had no final jury, so my efforts stood unnoticed and possibly unwelcomed, but it was the catapult to many similar nights.

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Crew Working at Night_©

The Consequences that Followed

Jumping back to the second semester, I was glad to have finished all the ups and downs that accompanied the previous studio. I knew that it would not get easier, but I felt that I would learn from my mistakes and produce better designs on time. I stayed up less and slept more at night, held back my tears better, and was inspired to do even crazier things. 

No matter the scale, I felt determined to accomplish all that was thrown at me. It felt like smooth sailing, up until the final project for the semester. I was overwhelmed by the options of facades that I could have used. Was I to choose one that was light and airy, or heavy and patterned? My professor was aware of my indecisiveness and, as a good professor does, he advised me to use a facade that would balance the openness of my design. 

Finally, I chose a heavier facade that would oppose the lightness of the project. The only downside of it, however, was that I desperately needed to use the laser cutter to achieve the pattern of the facade, and, lucky for me, there were no openings available.

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Student and Professor Discuss Design_©Kent State University

I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. After much debate, my professor and I were finally on the same page. The design I perfectly laid out in AutoCAD stared at me as I stared back. It was the week of the final jury and my facade was incomplete. I knew I had only a few days to figure something out. I felt like the chefs in a cooking competition. 

After depleting my resources, it was the day before the final jury. My design still stood, bare of a facade. As night came, it was my time to shine. Earlier in the semester, I used yarn for a project and I noticed how my professor seemed intrigued by the fact that I knew how to weave. 

Hoping that my professor would still be impressed by my weaving skills, I grabbed some sewing thread, glue, my unfinished project, and started to work. It was right back to the first semester, minus the wood and much more glue. All I could see was string and glue. Throughout the night, I worked, and no one knew about it. Just like before, my professor was also out of the loop.

Results of Final Jury

Despite my cute outfit, I was tired, nervous, and far from confident. My professor walked around eyeing projects before the jurors came in. Overnight, my project became something different than what my professor was expecting from weeks of work. Watching my studio mates present their work only added to the pressure. 

It was funny how when working at night, I welcomed the anxiety and adrenaline, but at that moment, I wanted to melt into a pool of slime. At last, it was my turn to present while my friends silently cheered me on in the background. The memories of my night enveloped my mind as jurors began to question my choice of facade. Was it intentional? Did I want to have it light and exposed? Why did I not choose a heavier pattern to offset the open concept? 

Nothing, however, made me want to both bust out in laughter and evaporate as much as the look on my professor’s face. Everything about his expression screamed confusion and surprise. By the end of my review, all the dried glue on my palms was peeled and my outfit felt way less cute than it initially did.

Architectural Review_©

Now that I’m almost finished with my third year of architecture, the night continues to be both my best friend and biggest enemy. Creativity—I’ve learned, comes randomly but shouldn’t always be so readily accepted. Everything that we experience as students teaches us lessons and leaves us with fun memories to look back on. This is not to say that my spontaneous projects have lessened, but more that I’ve taught myself to give in to them less. 

I would say, however, that while architecture school pushes seriousness and rigidity, it is important to step back from that and take architecture and design a little more lightly. Be creative, challenge yourself and your professor, and most of all, have fun while doing so.


Shatha Abushaikha is an environmental design student in Houston, TX with a passion for writing and research. Aside from being captured by architecture and its endless possibilities, she also enjoys watching anime and painting. Shatha hopes to spread inspiration and believes that people are what drive design.