The Importance of the Crit Panel
Unlike the other years, from year one to four, the Crit Panel in the Design Thesis Year is used differently. The biggest challenge for the studio coordinator is to form crit panels that could do the following:
- Challenge the students to a higher level of competency
- Give sound and constructive feedback and guidance so that the students could make decisions
The studio masters’ roles are basically as a ‘studio master’ guiding the students towards preparing and getting ready for the Crit Panel Session or Interim Crit Sessions, and secondly, as a ‘moderator’ in the different crit panels to ensure that points 1 and 2 above are done by the moderator and critics. The third role is to ensure the standards are achieved at the end of the semester when evaluating the students’ work.
The Crit Panel is the most important component in the process of design. The design thesis is challenged at this part of the process, usually three to four times in a semester, so missing or not concentrating for a Crit Panel Session or Interim Crit Session is the same as ‘shooting your own foot’. At Universiti Malaya’s school of architecture, our programme is interspersed every two weeks with studio pin-ups where groups of students get to present their work in a crit panel setting.
That’s why the most important strategy for a student is not to bore the crit panelist to bits by talking too much and waffling about, but to be crisp and precise in the presentation, make explicit the intention and making sure that the crit panelist get to do points 1 and 2 above.
Obviously the desk crit is important, but at this level students are expected to be able to work independently and have a certain approach and method to design. The studio masters are not expected to ‘teach’ the students how to design. We acknowledged that some students are not so fantastic in designing, so we may part our ‘methodologies’ or give some ideas on how to go about it when a student is stuck. So, what do the studio masters and coordinator do then, you may ask? Back to the paragraph above where I outlined the three basic roles. The studio masters additionally be involved in studio pin-ups sessions where they play the role of crit panelists in preparation for the students to anticipate the invited crit panelists.
Having said all these, students are invited to comment on this method and suggest ways to improve. Like I said before, 5th year students’ Design Thesis Year is when the students ‘showcase’ their abilities and is not the time when students are picking up design skills that we expected they had done in year one to four. That’s the way we had design our studio curriculum, hence 5th year is the design thesis year and a testimonial year for the Part 2 graduate. In the future, we are making sure that the learning will be done in the lower years in order to achieve a higher level of competencies in the fifth year. So, it will continue to be like this in the following years. We cannot afford to drop standards.