Design juries undoubtedly form the very foundation of architecture school. Their success or failure, however, largely lies in the hands of the jurors who are assigned to review student work. While architecture is an inter-disciplinary subject with wide-ranging consequences, most jurors are specialists in a singular sub-field. This makes design juries a terrifyingly unpredictable affair; students don’t just battle against their nerves and sleep-deprivation, but are also required to be on their toes to ensure that they can handle anything that the jurors might throw at them.
However, this is easier said than done. As a student, defending your work against criticism from an easily-offended know-it-all juror will probably do you more harm than good. Similarly, it’s hard to impress a building services expert by harping on about the probable positive sociological impacts of your design proposal. Being able to correctly identify the academic or emotive leanings of a juror can go a long way in helping students present their work strategically, thus ensuring that they make the most of their jury experience. Here’s a compilation of nine types of design jurors every architecture student will probably face at some point in school:
1. The Pragmatist
Most likely to say things like, “I don’t care about the sculpture garden, show me your bathroom layout,” the Pragmatists tend to deeply consider the practical aspects of building construction. They won’t stop at toilets, however; everything from parking and structural layouts to plumbing and HVAC details are fair game. All your revolutionary ideas—think vertical gardens, fancy parametric forms, earth-berms—will most likely be discredited once these jurors start to question the building technology behind them.
2. The Theorist
These are the jurors who love to read. And write. And paint. And of course, talk. In fact, you’ll find that once they start speaking, they can’t stop. In the process, you’ll probably discover things about your work that you never knew of. Like how “your design vocabulary references the work of Toyo Ito but is too derivative to be of consequence.” The Theorists are also the ones most likely to ask for and pay heed to that fundamental design element called the “concept.”
3. The Social Activist
Does architecture have the power to influence communities and alter the course of society? Well, yes! These jurors firmly believe that it does. They are highly likely to mention the term “gentrification” at least once in their critique. Your site analysis and context survey work will be viewed under a microscope; their impact on your design proposal will be judged harshly as well. You’ll also find them saying things like: “Don’t you think ticketing introduces a barrier to the use of that park?”
4. The Economist
If you’ve ever been asked for the bill of quantities in a jury session, you’ve probably come across this type. Money reigns supreme in these jurors’ world—they generally have a background in real estate or property development—where quality plays second fiddle to quantity. These are the jurors who are most likely to focus on your proposal’s area statement and the rationale behind your planning strategy—think built-up area in reference to FSI, circulation diagrams, and floor plate efficiency. You’ll find them saying things like: “Why do you think you need a five meter-wide staircase? This is not a public building!”
5. The Designer
Seemingly more excited about your work than you are, these jurors will discuss your work at length while offering—with almost forceful enthusiasm—ideas to rework your design, albeit to reflect their own perspectives. They present a unique challenge: you’ll need to walk a tightrope to simultaneously ensure that your work retains your signature and that you don’t offend these jurors.
6. The Savage
These brutes are your worst nightmare for they have the potential to completely wreck your jury… and your self-esteem. They crave attention and will make it a point to interrupt your presentation frequently to offer their critique. Most likely to tear your sheets apart, or even break your models down, to make a point, these jurors seem to enjoy putting people down and won’t shy away from making personal attacks.
7. The Famous One
Sometimes your school pulls off a coup and gets a famous architect to show up for a jury session. More often than not, these jurors end up attracting so much attention that no one seems to care about the jury anymore. Most students are star-struck to the point where they can’t put two words together in their presentations. In this dazed state, any critique that comes their way isn’t processed either. However, there is a definite positive that comes out of this experience—your Instagram is sure to become one hundred times cooler as architecture students from around the world mob your jury selfies to say things like: “OMG! You must have died! #sojealous”
8. The Pea-Brain
These jurors are usually the youngest members of the jury panel and display a knack for focusing on the most immaterial of elements. Substantial architectural matters take the backseat while these jurors comment on color palette, rendering techniques, and graphical composition. You’ll find them saying things like, “Where is the North symbol on your plan drawing?” or if you’re lucky, “I recommend you re-order your sheets to make for a better narrative.” But while comments like these could signal a significant lack of academic prowess—or experience—on the part of these jurors, it could also mean that your work is so inconsequential that the juror can’t find anything worthwhile to comment on.
9. The Silent Killer
Mostly age-old professors with emeritus status, these jurors have seen and heard it all and are very hard to impress. They tend to hold their tongue, for lack of energy or will, throughout the course of the presentation and lull you into a false sense of security before going in for the kill during the assignment of grades. If they do choose to grace you with their pearls of wisdom, listen carefully and patiently. While their critique might not be specific to your current work, it will invariably give you something to reflect on in the future.