A tutorial or crit is essential for a cycle of feedback and improvement. While you’re in architecture school, you’ll soon realise that a big part of sharing your ideas and parts of your projects involve a lot of presenting. Without a doubt, it is a necessary skill to have when you get into the workplace.
To explain it simply, a tutorial usually happens once a week, with your tutor or tutors, to go over how the project is going and have a general chat. Usually, they give you feedback or help you with certain aspects of your design, giving you references and making sure you’re on the right track.
A crit, or critique, is more of a presentation / open conversation that happens with other colleagues or outside guests. This is helpful as it provides an outside eye to have a look at your work and give you their feedback with regards to their expertise. This can also involve other tutors or people from the university. So, the way to handle tutorials and crits, and actually learn from them, involves some key things that you need to practice regularly.
We’ll also be including an excerpt written by Dimitra Peppa on how she dealt with a series of bad tutorials and the way in which it affected her work.
The first thing you can do, even before starting a tutorial is to be prepared to go over your work. If you’re worried about public speaking, look at our article on ‘Top Tips to Presenting your Work’. Preparation ensures you don’t look like you don’t care about your work. Being punctual for example, can show others that you want to share your work and you’re ready to receive feedback.
The presentation of your work is also important. Since tutorials can be a bit more informal, it’s fine to show ideas through your sketchbook or present developmental work and stuff that is not finished yet. Crits however, usually require you to pin up your work so the tutors can see your work in its entirety. The first thing to do is to get your work together and figure out what you want to say about it. For example, why you think some things work or which parts you’re working on at the moment. Then, tell them about the things you want to achieve by next week, next month or by the end of the project.
Before a tutorial or crit, you can also record a voice note of the conversation. Make sure you have permission to do this for the sole purpose of going over it. It can be easy to miss a lot of information while you are presenting or talking and catching up on note taking during the tutorial or crit can be difficult. If possible, during a crit, it can be good to ask a friend to take notes for you. It means you can present without dividing your attention and making your presentation great.
If you don’t understand something or feel like you missed it, take a second and just ask them to repeat it or explain it further. Some tutors will give you references of projects to look at or ways in which you can better your drawings and if you’re lucky they will even draw some things out for you on tracing. The questions you ask depend on where you are in your project or what kinds of things you could be having difficulty with or even if you have some unique ideas you want to discuss.
After your tutorial, it can be easy to forget your notes and carry on with how you’re working. If you disagree with the kind of feedback you got, you can either speak to another tutor or peer, or try and contact your tutor later on. If you feel you’ve had a really terrible tutorial or crit, and all the feedback suggested to you was negative, try not to get yourself down. Dimitra tells us about her experience.
In my opinion, the truth is that you usually end up turning a bad crit into something more personal. You think that they judge you as a person and not actually your work. Think about it. Is it possible to satisfy every single person? I mean, in general. But in the architectural world more specifically, each professor has his/her own taste, their own personal experiences and so it’s pretty normal for them to like or focus on different things at your project.
Just try to be nice when you hear things you may not like at all, and later on when you’re at home, resting from that overnight preparation, think about the points they may be right, or what you may have done better to be more content with your outcome.
If I had the chance to give myself some tips when I first started architecture school, they would sound like this:
- Try not to concentrate on your grades or how much your project has developed, but the learning process of the crit. The bigger picture.
- Not everyone’s right. Not you, sometimes not even your tutors.
- Maybe they are not in a good mood today, it’s not your fault.
- Try and be prepared. While working on the project, try and give a presentation to yourself to listen out loud and see if there are any missing points or errors.
- Last but not least, a bad crit is not the end of the world. You probably won’t remember a word of it in a month, a year and so on.
As I said, you should be able to turn bad criticism into productive knowledge during your architectural journey. But I happen to know that’s not always something very easy to do. I reflect on a series of tutorials where me and my colleague always got very sad about out tutor’s words and didn’t defend our project at all.
In fact, we tried to re-design our project based solely on our tutor’s words. So, the night before our final crit we couldn’t even find the words to explain our project or present our work properly. Because it wasn’t actually our project. In the end, we decided not to present our project and to not pass the design module.
That was my experience of how bad tutorial after bad tutorial after bad tutorial actually ruined our project. Or to be honest, our perspective of the ‘bad’ tutorial ruined our project and our semester. And I hope it can be a good example for all of you, as it was for us to not let feedback get you down or diminish your own creative process.
Taking in the feedback is very important. It’s all good and well to keep progressing with your work but if you don’t listen to any feedback, chances are you will be getting the same feedback every time. Sometimes, your tutors will want you to work on that one thing they mentioned last time even if you have new work to show them.
Then, you won’t really be doing any progress and any you do might go to waste. Then, the best thing to do is go over your notes and read over them one or twice more. Even if you barely have any notes, it’s still worth looking over your notes. Then, either re-write them or make a list. Here at :scale we love lists.
A list of tasks to do before your next tutorial or crit is great for managing your time, for getting a clear perspective on exactly what you need to do to further your work. It’s very easy to get ‘stuck’ almost like having a writer’s block but for architecture. You can do this in your sketchbook, or on a separate piece of paper to stick up in front of you, or you could use online note-taking tools such as Evernote or Google Keep. Whichever works for you is best.
After going over your notes, writing a list, and taking in the feedback, there could be a chance you are still confused or unsure of what to do next. In this case, you can ask peers for help or try and work on one part of your work and ask for feedback via e-mail or in person. You could also e-mail them to share your next steps. This keeps it fresh in your mind as well as theirs. You also have to remember they have more than one person to oversee so it can be tricky to keep track of.
Eventually, you will also realise that this entire process is repeated all over again after your next tutorial or crit. Being organised just means you can keep on track with your work and not worry about meeting small deadlines and actually work on your project and the things you are passionate about.
To summarise, the best things you can do for a tutorial or crit is:
- Prepare before your crit
- Take notes, or have someone take them for you
- Take in the feedback you receive
- Go over your notes, and rewrite them
- Write a list to manage your time
- Ask for more feedback later on
We hope this post helps you figure out what to do after a tutorial or crit, and helps you be more organised. If you have any tips yourself feel free to share them in the comments below, or just share some of the things you do to help.