Yesterday was our mid-semester crit for studio and things didn’t go too well for me. I can’t recall anything positive said about my design, and rightly so as what I presented was fairly rubbish. Typically I do a play-by-play recount leading up to reviews but for this one I wanted to focus on something in particular. Recently there has been an increase in articles and discussions surrounding mental health issues in architecture school, and as a current student I wanted to chime in.

If you read this blog you’d know I put a post about Bjarke Ingels in response to my tutor’s comments about my attitude, or more-so lack of. It’s something I’ve been struggling this semester in terms of my enthusiasm, excitement and overall approach. I can’t even seem to find a reason why, and if someone asks me along the lines of “Why do you feel this way?” I struggle to respond with anything but “Ummm I don’t know“. That isn’t a response to protect myself from their judgement, I literally can not work out why I am flat this semester.

Peter Raisbeck put out a post today, Symptoms and cures of pre-design crit anxiety, and I kind of wish he posted this a week or two ago. A lot of what he wrote about I experienced leading up to yesterday’s crit in some form. In fact I probably tick about 4 out 7 of his symptoms. What happened with yesterday’s crit was I went into it already defeated. I had timing issues, printing issues, no enthusiasm and I constantly told others when asked that it wasn’t going to go well.

I reverted to this thinking and response as a defence mechanism, where if I could tell myself everything wrong with it I feel the effects of the guest critic’s wrath. In other words, I told myself that my design was shit and that it is going to go to shit, so when the tutors say it’s shit it wouldn’t affect me. For the record, this isn’t my typical lead-up to crits, I am usually pretty positive. Stressed, but positive.

We had to be in the room by 12:00pm for a 12:30 start, with everything we were going to present. This was to include physical models, a booklet and posters. I ran out of time and wasn’t able to make the models, and there were issues with the booklet and getting it cut down to size. As for the posters, I changed my design a few days prior and this resulted a pretty empty design which translated to the poster. Heading into this I knew I was underprepared.

I ended up presenting second last, which I didn’t think too much about at the time but I believe it didn’t help me. By presenting towards the end I started noticing more how much better other student’s work was, in regards to concept, or drawings, or presentation, and so-on and so-fourth. When comparing to my own work it became quite clear how weak my concept and design was, and how poorly my output was. If you’re reading this Mr Raisbeck, this is why I needed your article sooner!

Typically in the past I would often go for walks in the days leading up to crits as a way to destress and do a lot of thinking. This would also include thinking about what I’m going to say in my presentation, and even thinking of questions I may get asked and answers to respond with.  This time around my walking was minimal, and any thinking was mostly about the negative comments I would receive. What this resulted in was me poorly presenting my project. I didn’t know what I was saying, jumping around the place (not literally) and it was probably the quickest presentation of the group (because I didn’t know what else to say). When you present this poorly, it doesn’t make the critics job easier.

It’s safe to say heading into this crit my mental health wasn’t very strong. A comment my tutor gave at the review was “You need to become obsessed between now and final crit” and it was that comment that really stood out. The reason for that is in the past I’ve been obsessed with my projects, I’ve been excited and I’ve motivated. I went for a walk this evening to think about the crit and what was said, and where I go from here. I basically came to the conclusion that I need to work it out. Not work it out as in trying to figure out how I’m feeling flat and unexcited, but literally work out the issue, by doing work. I need to just focus all my energy on putting hard work into the project.