Tag Archives: presentation

Decoding the Review – mid Spring 2013

This review went pretty well for most. Of course I have the usual to say: some aren’t working as hard as they should be. But that is always the case (both that I will always want more, and that some will always not produce to their capability). Being able to focus like this is a luxury.

One big theme from the two days is that the “big view” was missing from most presentations. A single comprehensive view of the project in the site was needed. This can take many forms: physical model, digital model, hand-drawn perspectives or axonometrics. Anything that gives a sense of the totality of the project. The nature of the artifact is dependent upon the nature of each student’s investigation. It was difficult to read from the drawings presented, the overall form of the intervention into the site. There were some nice drawings, some were fantastic, but ultimately frustrating because it was difficult to assemble the project in our heads. This is why physical models still get so much attention in reviews – they are the easiest representation to understand the complexity of relationships.

The other theme has to be about the narrative of the project. Sometimes this is luck. The projects with the better confluence of ideas got the better reviews. They were easier to engage because there was a symmetry of the parts. When your project is sited on a former landfill turned into a vast public park, and you combine these elements into buildings built of trash and recycled materials, combined with a landscape that thinks of the changing seasons, this is a strong narrative. What makes it especially so is that it combines the narrative aspect, with the performance aspect. Thus the idea of the materials becomes a challenge for the building enclosure.


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Decoding the Review – Fall 2012 final

I was rather appalled that all students were not there for there for their colleagues reviews. This is unacceptable. Do I really have to take role, and grade on attendance at reviews? This is disrespectful to your peers, disrespectful to the jury (who, for the most part, came in and stayed for the full time – which is more than can be said for many of the students), and disrespectful to me.

At mid-term, most students used a digital presentation format. The narratives were generally to-the-point, and flowed well. This format was universally eschewed in the final, for whatever reason. Is it only because I did not demand it? I sometimes feel that there is no learning happening, that skills developed drop so easily away. I did require students to pin-up their semester’s work, but I asked that they only describe the pertinent information and their most recent scheme. This, too, in many cases, was ignored. For some reason, many of you reverted to the lowest form of presentation: “first I did this, then I did this, then I did this…”

There is a book called The Checklist Manifesto. The contemporary world is a very complicated place, and the author posits that the simple devise of the checklist is a way to manage complex and complicated situations. I dread the thought that a checklist must be issued to students, but perhaps I am just denying the reality – that comprehensive design is highly complicated, with many interdependent parts, and 11 NAAB student performance criteria.


1. Limit your presentation to 5 minutes.

2. Run through your presentation ahead of time to make sure it runs in that amount of time.

3. All arguments need to be supported by diagrams, drawings, models, etc.

4. Do a digital presentation, but have copies of the drawings on the wall as well.

This was a rough review for some. Unfortunately, often the bad review stems not from what was done, but what was said (it doesn’t help when the work isn’t all there either, though).

Following the review, a big question needs to be asked again: what do you want to achieve this year? How can your project support your vision of architecture? (Often this is asked in relation to your career, I think this is thinking too small – think in more global terms about where architecture needs to go, and how your project supports that vision.)

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Decoding the Review – mid-Fall 2012

A number of themes emerged during the review. Designing for climate change was one – a lot of buildings on the water’s edge. There were a significant number of projects that were using existing buildings as the site. With existing buildings it is really important to faithfully understand the fabric of that building. If you don’t have some love and respect for the existing building, you might as well wipe it out and start with your own building.

As for the decoding…

A lot of “air time” was devoted to site analysis. Site analysis is an essential part of the process, but unless it has pushed you towards a deeper understanding of your proposed scheme, it doesn’t warrant a great deal of discussion.

Often the schemes were a myriad variations on a single idea. It is important to refine your ideas, and to try many versions to do so. This is what is in evidence in the earlier post on the 35 Schemes. But at the outset, it is more important to try wildly different ideas, even if they seem silly at first. Don’t be seduced by first ideas. They may turn out to be correct, but you still need to challenge your assumptions.

I have long asked my students to talk to their drawings. I love the abstract beauty of first year investigations, and of work like Raimund Abraham and Walter Pichler and Friedensreich Hundertwasser, where the drawing is everything. This is much the way I was trained. But sometimes it is clearer to use words, especially for yourself to help to better understand your intention.

A lot of self-editing was in evidence. A good deal of work has been done so far this semester, but it was not all of it was on the wall. This kind of a review is one in which that history should be shared – good, bad, or indifferent. Everything need not be buttoned-up tight. In my section in particular, I encouraged the use of a digital presentation. This is buttoned-up, but that is more an issue of telling the story efficiently. In the digital presentation you should and must edit. Organize your wall to highlight your latest thinking, but include the rest. You need not talk about every evolution of your thinking, just what the main ideas are.

Relative to the self-editing, is the design of the presentation. Though the intent on this presentation was kind of to bare all, you still need to guide the discussion through what importance you place on various artifacts. If you have a single rendering that is 24×36, while most of the rest of your presentation is 11×17, it might be assumed that that image carries a lot of weight in what you thinking about.

Finally, sometimes you have to commit yourself completely to developing an idea, and devote time and energy to describing it, even if you are unsure of it, even if it might get shot down. There is nothing lost. Each time through you understand the problem a little better. Each time you discover something new, both positive and negative.

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My work as a student

Some of my students have asked to see my work as a student. This was my graduate thesis.

It was a waste water treatment facility that uses biological engineering to treat the waste – what are since called living machines. It was based on John and Nancy Todd’s work with Ocean Arks. The site is in LA, next to the LA river, and sits atop the I-5 freeway just south of Los Feliz Boulevard.

Somewhere I have the original sketch that defined the partie, which I recall was done sometime in October.  These drawings are 48×18 each, and the large site plan is 36×60. The final model scale was 1″=32′, and the site plan was perhaps 1″=50′. So this project was at a pretty massive scale.

Research and site analysis was conducted concurrent with the design work. Final presentations were at the end of January, so we had the entire month after classes ended to complete the work without feedback.

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