It is easy to carry criticism to heart at the architecture school. For any dedicated student, their project is essentially their entire world for weeks or even months at the end, so it is entirely understandable that any word of doubt cast about it could cause a great deal of anxiety, or worse, outrage
Yet knowing their enigmatic views and obscure directions is an important ability for those who want to endure mid-project lessons and end-of – term crits to learn. That is no easy feat: It took me six long years, and some of the archispeak that emanates from the more scholarly architecture proponents remain very perplexed.
With that in mind, here is a guide to decode some of what your professor of architecture might say over the next few years. While some of these may be a little tongue-in-cheek, students make no mistake — these are words worth memorizing.
1. What they say: “Be careful with your line weights.”
What they really mean: “If your drawings are illegible, I’m not going to be able to properly criticize them, let alone praise your design intent. Give me line weights that really demonstrate the hierarchy of importance in drawing
2. What they say: “Consider the context more.”
What they really mean: “It looks like you’ve designed an act of architectural novelty that in no way responds to the conditions of its site. You are not a Starchitect and you wouldn’t want to be.
3. What they say: “Do not concern yourself simply with form; focus on the experiential qualities of space.”
What they mean: “I want you to think about what it would be like to stand in the space that you design. Think what kind of environment you want to create. How does light and shadow change, beyond the physical form, the way that space makes you feel? How could it affect your mood if the walls were concrete instead of wood? What if you were with a crowd of people, or on your own within the place?
4. What they say: “You could do this … ”
What they actually mean: “Definitely, you can do this. I’m not going to tell you what to do, but the most potential tips are my advice.
5. What they say: “Draw it in section.”
What they mean: “The dozens of plans you’ve drawn don’t tell me anything about your project’s spatial quality and it’s driving me crazy. Using parts, views, templates … something that can explain how the three-dimensional building actually works.
6. What they say: “I think your project should be rectilinear.”
What they say (the following week): “I think your project should be curvilinear.”
What they mean: “I’m inconsistent because I don’t know what I meant last week or, more specifically, my reasons for saying that. This could be attributable in part to my own scatterbrain habits — I have a whole lot of assignments for students to review every day — but it may also have anything to do with a lack of consistency with your concept.
7. What they do: Pick up your model, peer inside it and then break a piece off and examine it with a squinty expression on their face.
What they actually mean: “Exploratory models will not be pure items on a plinth in the show room — they are expected to be taken down, abused and dissected in the quest for the best answer. This could also be that if I can quickly tear your idea down, then you need to step up a degree of your model-making craftsmanship.’
8. What they say: “Explain your project to me in 30 seconds.”
What they mean: “If you can’t explain your project to me in 30 seconds, your concept just isn’t sufficiently succinct. Oh, and before I fall asleep I really need to go out for another coffee.
9. What they say: “Are you feeling OK?”
What they actually mean: “You look like you haven’t slept in days, so if you persist in this direction it will definitely have a negative effect on the quality of your job. I find the best ideas come from people who work effectively through a 9-to-6 schedule, and not into the night for countless hours. Avoid fighting with your peers to see who can last the longest in the room, and start planning your work strategically.
10. What they say: “Your project is very interesting.”
What they mean: “I love your idea absolutely, but I can’t say that because I’m afraid to boost your morale too much, so I’m going to stick with … curious.”