Now that the NASA part is more or less explained, I wanted to share a few things that I found interesting about architecture education in general. The first thing that I realized (like all the typical college kids with the typical college mentality) was that the marking system was a bit different. Since most of our submissions were drawings, there was no objective way that we could compare our sheets/submissions with one another. Also, we had absolutely no idea what the professors were looking at when they corrected these. It was more than a little frustrating because about 99 percent of the class was asked to redo submissions at least twice. It wasn't for lack of asking them what they wanted. The faculty was always telling us what they wanted, but none of them ever told us what it would take to get decent marks. The whole class was averaging about 4/10 in all the submissions done so far. The only exception I guess was Theory of Structures. That was one subject where 2+2 always and unequivocally equaled 4. Otherwise, it was all subjective. Each faculty had their own way of assessing work. So, no matter how hard someone tried, there was no way of actually knowing how much they'd get. Later on, priority shifted from trying to score more marks to just trying to pass.
For most people in my class, getting less than 90 percent in any form of submission was a new experience. After all, most of my classmates were from the top ranks of the Common Entrance Exam (CET). They had scored more than 90 percent in their Boards, and I guess had a habit of being the top wherever they were. For them to go from averaging 90 percent to 40 to 50 percent was probably the worst thing that had ever happened to them. Many people started to question their own abilities (many even opted to drop out before it got any more "embarrassing"). I wasn't any different. Until that time, I had always excelled at drawing. But this was a whole different ball game. I could barely manage to keep my head above the water here.
The ones that came to my rescue were my seniors. Since I waited back after college for practice, I started asking them about the marking scheme and where I was lacking. At first they just laughed and said "welcome to architecture," the same dialogue some of the professors used on us when we asked them what to do. But after some time (and observation) later, I started to see what it was that the faculty was looking for. Many others also became aware, and by the end of the first semester, many of us had started scoring a little more than a 5. Sometimes, if we were lucky and the faculty obliging, we even came close to a 7.
Now, how did this change come about? I had observed the whole situation very closely because I had a feeling that it was something very important. I knew that there was something changing in me, and that if I could figure out how our marks started going up, I could figure out what that change was. But it wasn't really easy figuring it out. We just assumed that maybe we had gotten better at drawing after all the redos that we got. Maybe it was the faculty's plan all along to make us practice. That was partly true, but we were missing a crucial change that had taken place within all of us. After trying to think about it and going back over the observations for the entire course of the year, I put it on the back burner (or I could say I forgot about it and just accepted that it was all because of the practice).
It was nearly a year later when I was talking to one of my senior friends when it hit me! It wasn't even a very deep discussion. We were just casually discussing how much we had improved over the year, when I realized that I had just stumbled upon that missing link. The reason why we had started to improve was not only because of the amount of practice that we had done, but it was because we had started to observe and incorporate slight details from the drawings that we were exposed to. We had subconsciously started to pick up on the "nuances" of making an architectural drawing!
It's easy enough to make a list of all the things that you need to do to evolve from a simple drawing to an architectural one, but to implement that list one needs to spend time just observing good sheets. The more we interacted with our seniors, the more we visited the library, the better our drawings became. I realized that just by being with other architects and architecture students, my 'vision' had started to evolve. As an example, here's a very interesting experience I had when I went to my grandmother's place in the holidays. Now, I have literally grown up in that house. I have played hide-and-seek there, so there was no way that I could have ever imagined that that house could show me anything new. And yet, there I was, standing dumbstruck in the doorway for about five minutes. Without meaning to, I had just analyzed the whole door right down to the joints and materials that had gone into the construction. I suddenly realized that that door was probably worth more than my laptop. This wasn't the end. I went through the whole house as if it was the first time I was seeing it for what it was. My grandmother couldn't really understand what had gotten into me all of a sudden and chose to ignore me for the time being.
It was probably because I was trying to look for it for so long and from such a short distance that this realization of 'vision' eluded me. The moment I took a breather and took a few steps back, I started to grasp it. This same vision helped all of us to change our drawings and do better. When I look back at my first-year drawings and see them now, I can totally understand why the faculty gave us those marks. But to the 'untrained' eye, there is really no difference.
There a very famous architect that once said, "God is in the details." Well, I can 'see' that now…