How To Survive An Architecture Crit

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The infamous architecture crit can be a very uncertain and nervous period to even the most senior of students in architecture school, but we believe there are several key tips, principles and actions you can take to help ensure it goes as well as it possibly could.

…and in short these are:

  • Learn to handle and accept criticism 

  • The feedback isn’t personal

  • Filter your work 

  • Don’t read your presentation 

  • Identity the 5 main points of your project

  • Explain your design concept 

  • Identify what you want the outcome to be 

  • Time your presentation

  • Don’t stand still

  • Dress appropriately 

  • Do not dwell on your final grade

For those that don’t know, “crit” stands for critique but is also known as a review or presentation, it is traditionally held at the end of a design project where the student will publicly pin up their work and present there solutions to their peers, tutors and guest critiques.

…The feedback process is almost instant and in front of the attending audience.

Few people look forward to these events, and if you fail to grasp the project or produce the work required they can be brutally honest. They do however also provide valuable training for life as a qualified architect, where you may find yourself presenting projects to directors, clients and investors on a frequent basis.

Here we spoke about how to prepare for an architecture crit, which is arguably more important that the crit itself, as to quote Benjamin Franklin who famously said "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. So the first step towards surviving the dreaded architecture crit and to help ensure it is successful is to prepare.

Following this, it’s time to get your game face on, and present the project you have spent the whole of last semester pulling together. 

We believe there are around 11 key tips, principles and actions you can take to ensuring a successful outcome:

Handle criticism 

This is a key skill that will follow you everywhere you go in the architecture world, but one that is often developed during architecture school. If you haven’t realised already, architecture is extremely subjective and by its very nature is constantly open to debate, praise and criticism. 

It’s the criticism part of this that can be difficult to handle, especially after you have slaved over your design project, made models, spent a fortune on printing and hours arranging and pinning up your presentation.

…Unfortunately, the only answer is to get used to it and in the end it’s what you do with it, that counts.

You need to remember that architecture is presented to and used by the public (it is dependent on it), and the more opinions you can gather the better your design process will become.

Don’t take it personally

Following this, it’s extremely easy to take negative opinions (if you get them) personally.

When you present your work it’s easy to find yourself in the mind-set that you are also presenting you (personally), and why wouldn’t you, you’re emotionally invested in your project having spent hours, days and weeks developing it.

But you need to leave any personal feelings aside, and think of your work as an object and representation of your ability and thought processes at that one precise time.

As next week you’ll have a new project, and quickly forget all about what you have just done!

Show your best and most relevant work 

You should only present your best and most relevant pieces of work, don’t show items that are half finished or that have been replaced and redeveloped elsewhere.

This should be organised and planned during your preparation phase, as by only presenting the key elements of you work limits the level of scrutiny you may be subjected to, and there is nothing a guest critique likes more than an unresolved drawing!

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Don’t read your presentation 

Your presentation should be free flowing and be able to bounce back and forth to adapt to comments and questions. A lot of people like to make notes to remind them of key items to talk about, and that’s fine, but don’t rely too heavily on them.

A presentation presented from a piece of paper can be extremely dry, hard to follow and quite frankly boring.

A good method is to use your presentation layout as a large set of cue cards, and this can be done by arranging your sheets in a narrative format that runs from beginning to end, enabling you to simply follow the structure and rhyme that they are presented in.

Doing this keeps you engaged with your audience, maintains the order and provides flexibility, all at the same time as appearing to be confident and relaxed.

Think of 5 main points 

Identifying the main primary points that have led to your projects outcome, is key in presenting and essentially selling the scheme to your audience. 

Write them down and using them as cue cards and reminders during your presentation, they should include the influences, turning points, inspirations and restrictions that led to your design proposal.

Remember that your audience needs to feel convinced that your proposal is the only solution for your site.

Explain the concept 

Your concept is the foundation and backbone of your project, and if used correctly will be the driver throughout the whole process.

We explain exactly what is meant by this here

A strong and solid concept will help you to answer questions from your critiques and provide justification to your decisions, and so clearly explaining this from the outset, will provide your audience with an early understanding of your project and may limit initial annoying questions.

This will also allow you to maintain your flow and help in delivering a smooth and concise presentation.

Identify what you want the outcome to be 

The critique process is in place to benefit you and so should be viewed as an opportunity to develop skills and gain invaluable feedback from not just your tutors but also external visiting architects and designers. 

If you can get yourself in this mind set and view the process positively whilst keeping the nerves at bay, then it becomes less like a test and more like an abstract tutorial. So taking this approach, you now need to consider what you want from your presentation and how it can best develop your project. 

Listing five key outcomes to discuss should provide you with enough useful information, whilst still staying within the presentations time frame. 

Don’t over talk 

Each presentation will have a time slot allocated to it, and you should aim to always keep within this. As presenting for too long will firstly cause all of the other presentations to follow to fall behind, but more importantly your audience will start to lose interest.

You must ensure that your presentation is relevant 

Don’t stand still  

Try to be slightly animated when you present, move about within your presentation space and physically address and point to the drawings and/or models you are discussing.

This is again about showing confidence and being relaxed, which will in turn make your advance feel the same.

Dress to impress 

We have covered dress codes here, but reiterate that first impressions are extremely important and do count. The first impression of your project that the people viewing your presentation will have is you, and if you are not looking prepared then the presentation itself is perceived in this way also.

A crit is a formal examination of a whole semesters work, and so dress appropriately to give yourself the best chance possible.  

Don’t dwell on your final grade

To finish, try to go into your presentation without worrying about your final grade. If you achieve a high result then great, but if you don’t, there will be another chance on the next project.

…don’t put unnecessary pressure onto yourself, as there is always another project

This is about making you as relaxed as possible and removing the worry of the outcome before it has happened. On the day there is nothing more you can do other than present your work in the best possible way you can, so concentrate on the presentation and don’t dwell of what may or not happen.