Wednesday, November 25, 2009


This post is a little difficult for me to write, and I have good reasons to not post it. Yesterday I had my final review for my thesis project. What this basically means is that this was the last presentation I will ever make as an undergraduate architecture student, and (as long as I don't go insane and decide to get a master's--shoot me first if I do), it was the last one ever. We have been working on the same project down to the smallest details for the last 3 1/2 months, so you can imagine how much time, effort and stress this required. My teacher had me present first because she thought mine was the strongest one in the class. I was fine with it because I was last at midterms and only had one tired jury member.

Not so with the final. There were supposed to be three jurers there. Instead, surprise, there were six. I finished presenting and one of the guest jurers began his critique. He had not one good thing to say about the project, only a long list of everything wrong! This got the other jurers going and it was half an hour of bashing, redesigning my project and basically crushing me into the ground. I honestly did not know what to say to most of it, I only stood up there hoping that it would be over soon. Tough crowd!

This was bad, but wouldn't have been half as bad if they had reacted that way to everyone's project. Then we could have all complained equally about the tough jury. They were a little hard on the next few (although I do recall some compliments for theirs), but after that they got much nicer. They started saying how great people's layouts were (which I spent hours on myself), or how great people's concepts were and that if they just made a couple of small changes it could be a great project. Did I get anything like that? No. I was first, there was no one else to compare with. I know that they usually don't mention your layout unless it stinks, they won't say anything about your color choices unless they are lousy, they won't mention your perspectives unless they are unreadable or at a weird angle, and they don't comment on your path of circulation, space planning, parking, etc. unless it doesn't work. I feel like since everything was there on my presentation they just had to find something wrong, and boy did they! At least they didn't say that it wasn't thesis quality, like a couple of people got, but frankly, they deserved it.

I understand that going first is the introduction to the project and that they are still settling in to what it's all about. They are also settling in as a jury (they are there for 7 hours afterall). But this was one of the harshest crits I have ever gotten, and I don't feel that it was deserved. I can take criticism, that is part of architecture. But this was just too much! I can't think of one positive thing that they told me. I would have taken anything. "I like your renderings, but everything else is crap" would have been better than what I got. And by the way, my renderings were the best I've ever done, and I think the best in the class. Whatever.

I didn't realize how much it had affected me until our luch break when I went to the bathroom and just broke down. It was just really hard to hear so many horrible things about something that I have put my heart and soul into for so long. And shortly after my presentation my teacher approached me and asked why I didn't defend myself more. That made me feel even more crappy. Which by the way, I have had professors defend students to a jury before, epecially since they understand the project more than anyone else. Not her. Thanks.

I know that if I had not gone first, the jury would have understood what the project was all about and would have seen good things in my presentation. I found out later that the jury members were talking at lunch and said that mine was the best project in the class. Nice. The rest of the class must have really sucked since they couldn't find anything good in mine. If I ever sit on a jury I will make it a point to find something positive before I talk about what I think should be changed, even if it is the worst thing in the world. The fact that someone made it to the final and pinned something up is enough to be congratulated.

I still feel bad about it, but I know I'll get over it. It doesn't matter in the long run. My teacher is grading me and still thinks mine was the strongest in the class. I hate to graduate on such a sour note, especially when I have had so many good reviews in the past. This one was just not easy. If I felt like I deserved it then it would still suck, but not like this. I guess I needed to write this lest you think my architecture career has been only about praise, glory and bus shelters. It hasn't. Disappointment is a part of life, and that's okay. But ouch, that sucked!


Lisa said...

I'm so sorry! What a bunch of stinky jerks. I have no doubt that your project was the best one, and your teacher probably knew that the first one up would get ripped on, and she knew your project was strong anyway so she fed you to the lions. I'm glad your teacher is the one grading it anyway. Those pictures you posted are amazing! You did a great job.

Mary Evans said...

What an ordeal! I'm sorry you had to go through it, but, at least you know that you're finished.

Your comments make it clear that you, at least, know how people are to be treated. I know you didn't learn it just this week. Too bad everyone is not as generous as you.

In the end, your works speaks for itself. Your teacher knows that and, I'm sure the jury does, too; they just won't admit it.

A couple of weeks ago we heard Pinchas Zukerman speak before he conducted the symphony. In response to question about critics, he said he never listens to them. "What the %&#@ do critics know?" he asked.

We are very proud of all you've achieved and for your perseverance.

We love you,
Dad and Mom.

HeatherIsHere said...

I'm sorry to hear that, Laura. I hope your good experiences won't be drowned out by this one. You have my vote. I think you rock. You and your renderings.

Also, to continue in my annoying predictions, I predict that you will go for your masters. Oh yeah.

PS Remember your brother? I saw him playing in the Symphony with the MoTab last week. See? Evanses just are plain awesome, its in your blood.

Alan Daniels Family said...

If those are your renderings, I think they are beautiful! Sincerely.

Steve Frahm said...

Congratulations! Not only did you do the best work, you withstood the harshest criticism. All the best receive the harshest criticism (Frank Lloyd Wright had much opposition).

One day I'll be telling my grandson Atticus, "Yep, I knew the famous Laura Daniels that you are reading about in your textbook."

I'm prouder than ever to be your friend.

jkimball said...


I hope it is OK I found your blog from Heather's. I am sooo sorry to hear about your ordeal!! I am so impressed and amazed that you went back to school. I keep thinking about it but don't have the guts. I need to try and be more like you.

Jen Jones Kimball