As it is December, and as Tamara posted below, both SUDes classes had final crits 5-6th December and our exhibition (partially set up by me) is now open until at least the end of January. For all of you who’ve had architectural education before, you’ll be familiar with crits, but for those who aren’t they are an experience unlike any other course.
For the Urban Dynamics crit, students presented over two days to a critic panel that contained the lead tutor, course assistant, and in our case eight different guest critics, all of whom we had met in previous courses or during the semester. The semester already contained a very high number of critiques and presentations, and the majority of the class were unhappy with the amount. Some critics are fairly important people, for example Harrison Fraker from UC Berkeley, Martin Arfalk from Mandaworks and Jenny Osuldsen from Snøhetta. They should each bring something different to the discussion. The presenting student has 7-8 minutes to explain their work, followed by up to 12 minutes of discussion, though this often overruns. Everyone has to have six A1 presentation boards filled with the required/appropriate drawings, images and diagrams and at least two physical models. As the design site in China was huge and the majority weren’t so close to being finished, there’s always a lot to discuss so the critics end up focusing on discussing just one or two things. Some major project issues therefore may not be mentioned.
Another difference is that comments are usually less harsh/aggressive. Here, positive and gently constructive comments are given, which for internationals used to another system can be quite jarring. I am one of these people. The expectation is that you mine the correct information from subtle hints within what the critics and tutors say, i.e. “I think this is very good; did you think of [insert thing you’ve never thought of or heard of]” really means “I do not like how you’ve done it and you must change the entire thing to the suggestion,” which is how it would usually be experienced in most places. For example, something I and others had confidently understood as positive praise the whole semester turned out to be constant hinting that it should be adjusted.
It means that the learning atmosphere appears more chill and relaxed, but under the surface contributes to stress usually more visible elsewhere. I ended up along with much of the class working on my project a lot after the crit (see Tamara’s post). Don’t get me wrong, the Swedish way of architectural study is still less intense than anywhere else I’ve heard of. I worked less evenings in studio than I ever did in my undergraduate degree and the work itself is no more difficult – it’s simply time-consuming (the bigger the site, the longer it takes) and therefore artificially giant in volume. Despite this, social time ended up pretty much eliminated from my life during the second half of the semester.
The good thing is that we are eased in. The site for Sustainable Urban Recycling (semester 1) is relatively small, and each semester the site increases in size, distance from studios, and complexity. By the time third semester comes around you are used to how everything works. The staff also work very hard to listen to the concerns of students and usually try their best to accommodate our needs or requests. I’m very very glad the semester is over, but disappointed in the result of the semester’s work, as perhaps are many of my classmates. I will update again soon finally with a photo gallery from our trip to China in October. Have a great holiday season!