To spectators, the architecture jury critics might mean deities if they don't know they are not. In fact, some students know this but it is a best kept secret so they can stand back and watch the divine comedy folding out on the first rows of their presentation. Not all students take criticism personally although it is hard not to.
Most architecture schools are the continuation of the traditional model, design studios taught by people who are, if you say so, spatial experts. In general, architecture education is defined by how to draw and produce space. Most people in the world can say something about buildings. Naturally, architects use a unique vocabulary to control and develop their craft.
I was asked if I would write a piece on architectural juries. After thinking about it for a few hours I came up with this idea of subjectively stereotyping the people who sit in front of the presentations and say 'wise' things about student projects. I hope this will help the audience and the students to put a person behind the face in the first row.
I belong to more than one of these groups, but not too many.
Career architecture professors
The core jury. Often with no real concrete architectural experience (okay.., maybe a gallery installation or own house) but after reviewing thousands of projects over the years, they can recognize the project type and say long flawless sentences as if they are coming from a pre recorded tape. Usually picking on the obvious and elaborating their point in a seemingly intellectual but insignificant way. I wish they would be brief since you know the rest after first few words. A lot of talk, dissatisfaction and cruelty if they are mean ones. If you are a graduating student, this is the last time they will have power over you. So, they use it.
Professor's architect friends or old classmates
This is a very common type, however, when the student project is praised, usually it is the professor/friend being praised.
It can be a good jury condition if you like your professor and have a good project s/he approves of. You will at least know the strong points of your work and hardly ever be concerned about being totally trashed.
Someone with a hiring position in academia
Show time... They own the session. When they are present, everybody comments in extra lengths. They say the final word with authority and go away after couple of presentations leaving the remaining jury much less interested.
A writer in architecture
Watch and demand for these people.. They are imaginative, engaging, colorful and will help you love your project and see it the way it is and go from there. Usually trained in architecture and writing nor neither. These types can be real good critics with point of view and honesty. They won't eat the students alive but be honest and point out to weaknesses as well as strengths. Great sense of humor and story telling. Sometimes their lack of building science is not so interesting. If their writing is boring so are their comments.
Well known architects
Depends on what they are known for, they can be very wise and helpful. But, they will also be pressured by the popular demand that they have to say outrageous things and mention other famous architects and idols. They'll dominate the conversations until the young buck comes out and refutes their speak. They can never be corrected, regardless of the point made, young one will be laughed at.
Critics who would invite your professors to other juries in other schools
Another one of those stay in the discourse sub groups. You will hear intelligent 'sounding' conversations that has nothing to do with the student's work.
Good looking young hipster architect with interesting connections to Brooklyn press or something
They will want to engage in academic jargon because,
a- They are right out of school (usually ivy)
b- Know all the trendy names and want everyone in the room to know that.
Nerdy types, more they talk more you get to know how limited their architectural view is. Remember, just recently they were students and they want to show you some affection. But, watch out for the types who had it really hard and want to take it out on you. They get disinterested immediately if the conversation goes outside of their specific world.
Professor's old teacher or someone in the faculty with good emeritus standing
Back to reality types with wise advise. If they don't say anything about your project, know that they don't want to break your heart. Remember, they have seen it all. You might think they can't relate to your technology and all robotics type of stuff but they might be the guys who designed and built the space station or were students of Buckminster Fuller. Respect in full and never assume anything naive just because they are wearing Sears clothing.
A wealthy person or figurehead your professor like to schmooze with
Good luck. It is either 'jackpot great critic' or 'wtf..'
A politician, developer or real estate owner your professor like to schmooze with
They will love everything you made and compliment but basically they are there to add an 'interesting' engagement to their busy schedule. Usually well trimmed, preppy, tall, male figures with nice shirt over bluejeans and tasseled shoes in that casual corporate life style. Very Los Angeles, California.. About the wanna be public sculpture thing you put in the project, they will say, “is very beautiful, engaging and a wonderful way to give back to public.”
People who are there because your professor has no other inspirational contacts left in this world
Third tier jury. Usually job captain in a boutique firm or graduate of the same school. Have interesting things to say in an uninteresting way. They are good for red lining your project if you ask them but re-do it the way their firm does.
Obligatory people who teach in the same institution
Happens a lot in state universities. “Hey, it is the finals week! Everybody has to attend.” Usually good, in a sense, they know the students well and, if they care to do so, have more substantial things to say about the student. Very parental.
Professionals your professor worked for in the past
Sometimes the stereo sound problem.
Professionals who are practicing architects doing interesting work out there but don't teach much
Some of the best critics. They are a must in every student's well being.
They are basically there to think maybe there is going to be an interesting discussion in the projects relating to their expertise but usually disappointed with the 'surface' treatment. They are also there to support your professor who want to impress/schmooze them in exchange for getting involved with an architecture school which is an interesting thing for somebody who works for an economic think tank, for example..
They will design the student's project, change the direction of the model etc.. they interact with drawings, plans, sections in a very excited way. Some of them are great but some others' lack of knowledge of how the things are done is really unbearable since they are usually not very good theory people either.
People who are just good critics
These people can be from anywhere. Usually respond to the content or the lack of it in the reviews. They have a way of saying just enough and sit back and enjoy the rest.
Super hot people
These are the people students want to dress like..
Usually in furs, babes and dudes. Carefully vitrified idolettes of chosen few.. With a rich student audience. I mean, architecture is a club, yes or no? They rule the high planes of jargonometrics.. These people rarely seen outside of the safety zone of like-minded circles and hi end operations. Nobody knows them outside of the architecture school.
Whole front row of celebrity architects, leading designers, theoriticians, husbands, wives and thieves
You will be entertained and that picture your friend took will be the picture of the best sex you ever had. It usually happens in nouveau riche avant-garde schools. A win win networking if you want to 'free' serve their agenda.
So many theories. What's yours? Screw these types if they don't make you understand. Remember good theoreticians and theories are the ones you already know of.
Okay sub types:
Often good sub types:
The ones who see some value in the project or construct one.
Unless your final presentation went really well and you want to quote the jury's comments in your job application portfolio, all these words, heated debates, excellent points, project corrections, design tips et al, mean very little. You are done with school.
Imagine, a student with the worst project comes up to you ten years after you criticized his mediocre performance arts space and reminds you who he is and tells you now he has thirty people working for him and he is the winner of a Chamber of Commerce award in Someville. You kind of look and think, I guess I was kind of wrong, or was I?
That happened to me...