Architecture and criticism: how we learn to reflect on our work

Constructive criticism is a large part of what makes our work improve and become what we might call great work. It helps us to reflect on our work when we are constructively criticised on the things that we produce or even our ideas, particularly in architecture.

This takes place in our tutorials at UEL, but more so in what we architecture students call "Crits". Crits are verbal presentations that display and communicate our ideas and development in front of peers and other tutors or experts in architecture.

This is unique because as students we are required through our portfolios to create a narrative, a story of the journey our projects emerge from.

Like most individuals, presenting seems like such a daunting experience, let alone having to receive constructive criticism straight after giving a presentation.

I used to think, and I still do think, it can be a nerve-wracking experience to present out work, and tests us in ways that one-to-one tutorials simply don't. It is through these presentations that both the audience and the student learn something from.

Some over thinkers like myself build it up to be a nerve-racking experience. There's a fear that what you say won't match up to your visual presentation or vice versa.

One thing I have come to realise is that the fear stems from the human idea of acceptance. We want our ideas to be understood and accepted into the mould of a checklist – the status quo of what it means to be a creative, to essentially "fit in". We are all so different, in our dialects, expressions and skills set, it is unfair for all of us to mould into the expectations of other people. Instead we should present ourselves.

The crits – with all the pressure that surrounds it - is a way of helping you sew together the fabric of your narrative in whatever shape or form it takes in your work.

As students, we strive so much to make our portfolio and the work we produce great, but aren’t we missing the point if we are trying to please the people around us – even the experts? By nature we are people pleasers but I think we need to take another approach.

We are all so different which is what makes each crit so interesting and we learn far more from each other. We need to stop trying to please people, but challenge ourselves because that is where we inspire one another in creating what is meaningful to us, even if it seems irrelevant to everybody else.

When we look and engage with opportunities to receive different perspectives – whether they seem interesting or not, right or wrong, we must look at it as an experience for feedback. It is the chance to be sculpted, to define your edges, to crumble at the mere heat of the pressure or to simply change the needle of your thread, because the hole is simply too small to handle your great ideas.

Feedback is a catalyst for change – one that gives us permission to be better versions of ourselves trickling into our work.

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