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Autumn as an Architect

A Picture of Bethany

Autumn is an exciting time at university – Halloween is a huge deal with people taking dressing up to a whole new level, and there are plenty of free fireworks displays to attend to celebrate Bonfire Night!

In the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape autumn brings around design hand-ins which means only one thing – time for the dreaded ‘crit’. Our tutors say that it’s a ‘critique’ not a ‘criticism’, but when your design isn’t received well, at first, it’s hard not to take it personally.


It’s not all bad! If you have prepared correctly for a crit things can go much better than the horror stories may suggest.

Knowing the format of a crit is important. It starts with a 5 minute verbal presentation where you get to explain your development process from site visit to final design. There are then 15 minutes of questions from tutors which is where you show the extent to which you understand your design and how much you have thought about it.

Always think about what you are going to say before you get in to the crit – the clearer you are the less questions the tutor may have and the more persuasive you sound. A good way to present is by answering 5 simple questions:

  1. Who – who are you?
  2. Where – where is your site?
  3. What – what is the brief? What are your clients expectations?
  4. Why – why have you chosen the concepts that you have?
  5. How – how have you worked these into a design?


Ideally your presentation boards will mimic this narrative, so that you present the story of your design process rather than just final drawings. Starting with site analysis, and some quick sketches of the surroundings can be a good way to give tutors who may not be familiar with the project a clear idea of the site you are designing for. Quick diagrams can be helpful to address key themes that you have chosen, and precedents (examples) can show the architectural language (style) that you want to use. Final drawings should take up most of the space on your boards and be accompanied by more ‘experiential’ interior work that gives an idea of what the inhabited space might be like.

It is REALLY IMPORTANT to be well rested, so try to avoid doing an all nighter on the final day! (Avoid all nighters at every point of the year!! If you manage your time you won’t need to do any!) This will give you the best chance of doing well in a crit because you can think clearly so answer questions well.

Finally, relax! A crit is meant to be helpful and constructive, and it isn’t the end of the world if it goes wrong – you really do learn the most from your mistakes!

And once you’ve finished your crit, get outside and enjoy the fresh air – you’ve most probably been cooped up inside the studios for the last two weeks so go and have some fun! You deserve it!

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