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The jury

Posted on: Mar 27, 2013

One very interesting and potentially life-altering change that takes place when you enter architecture is the way the "tests" are conducted. In addition to the regular papers that we are supposed to write, there is another system called the "jury." The subject of design (be it basic, architecture, landscape) can't exactly be graded by using the same system as correcting papers. A design needs to be explained. For an architecture student, the design itself is not the be all and end all. There is a more important aspect to it. What the faculty is actually after is the whole story behind the design. No matter how good or flashy you actually make something. The most important part in an architectural institute is the underlying story. There are about 60 people in a batch. And each of them thinks in different ways. Finally, you have 60 different ideas and designs. It's not an easy task at all to grade something so varied. Keeping in mind that all 60 ideas can be potential solutions.

During the studio lectures, the faculty sits with each individual student and "discusses" their designs. They guide the students without actually interfering in the individual's thinking/designing process themselves. And at the end of it, they call in a panel of judges from outside to grade this work. What the jury is actually interested in though is the 'process.' How the students have come up with the idea. That is the most important part of the grading. Obviously the design itself needs to be good and functional. But in the end, what the person actually thought about while designing, the path he walked on, the countless inspirations that got him to that final destination are what matters the most. Hence, we need to make panels depicting this journey (summarizing it of course) and the design it produced.

The reason a jury is life-altering is because most of us never really present our work in front of our friends, let alone external jurors, internal faculty and the entire class. It takes a lot of getting used to, but I can say that everyone eventually loses any inhibitions about public speaking. A jury is something that you can't avoid. It's impossible to actually circumvent it in any way and hope to pass. So basically, everyone NEEDS to get over their inhibitions. The first year is for just that. The juries are more of a coaching exercise for the people to advertise themselves. There are a few of us who find public speaking easy, but that's not the end of it. It's also about presenting something in a way that is easy to understand. I have never really shied from speaking in public, but during my juries, I began to realize that I spoke very slowly. Not to mention I also lost track of what I was saying and messed up the order of the narrative very easily. But I had it a bit easy. There were some who couldn't communicate in English if their lives depended on it. By now, all of us are capable of putting forth our ideas. And the juries have played a major part in this transformation.

The jury itself is a very lively day. Everyone comes to college dressed up to make a good first impression. Most people are putting the finishing touches on their work. Some are frantically completing models. Others are going through their own work and trying to prepare for any questions that the jury might ask. Mostly, no one has actually slept due to the work and everyone is looking forward to just getting this over with.

The first person to actually give the jury is the sacrifice. They ask him/her all the possible questions they can, go through his work in detail, check everything meticulously and finally critique (crit for short) his work extensively. This person is generally grilled for about an hour. The sacrifice. Then, they start picking up the pace. They realize that they can't exactly spend so much time on every single person as they'll have to stay overnight if it happens. As midday approaches, everyone starts becoming more irritable. Hunger, it seems, can do that to a person. The people who have to give the jury before lunch are the unluckiest. They generally get grilled a lot, but they still get off easier than the first person. The ones right after lunch are probably the luckiest.

Once the jury ends, there is a pep talk for the entire class where they discuss some of the common mistakes and deficiencies in the sheets. This doesn't exactly last long, as it's been a tedious day for everyone and people are just itching to crash into their respective beds. Once the faculty is gone, everyone unceremoniously gathers their belongings and leaves for home.

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