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The Final Project Grade

Inside. 2011. Work on paper. Lithography 52 x 52 cm. Author: Óscar Valero

The grade on the final project is not always a benchmark for architectural quality. Nor does it necessarily enable one to assess the student’s capabilities as an architect.  The requirements have become perverted, the evaluation criteria vary, and people have learned to put forward graphics to beguile the glances that determine the grade.

Final projects cater to a type of evaluation that, both in form and substance, is superficial and fails to respect the work presented.

Knowing that the University’s requirements determine the profession’s profile, there is a danger that the final phase of one’s studies will become training for selling staged sets and building contrivances instead of technical experts with a basis to make sound decisions, people who can discern, design and build.

Grades are just another indicator of the problems associated with evaluation, i.e. prevailing subjectivity, a lack of an opportunity to present and explain, reply and defend, the worrying variability of criteria depending on the composition of the panel, the incomprehensible and unnecessary public scorn from students with higher grades, the correction process whose dynamics resemble those of competitions, the comparisons — as horrendous as they are significant — between from different schools of projects earning the same grade…not to mention more gruesome issues like the percentage of failing grades, directors who sacrifice months and years of their students to maintain the prestigious “average grade”, or the worth of the grade once the student has earned the degree.

There are many cases of students who, while aware that their efforts will not be fully appreciated, are unable to take the exercise lightly and work on their projects in earnest, discreetly, with a great commitment and responsibility and armed with well founded decisions, based on studies and calculations that would make any panel willing to lend them due time and attention proud. Many other projects earn no more than a six, as it makes no sense to invest the time and energy in something with barely a pay-off.

Meanwhile, the files with exercises earning outstanding grades– which can be consulted in certain libraries in the schools in Madrid – contain final projects whose value and content vary greatly. Unfortunately, many are as fantastic as they are unintelligible, unsubstantial or superficial. Others are brilliant, impeccable, revealing. But what is most important: they were all done by students who understood and accepted the rules of the game and put in hours and hours of work, whether or not they believed in the system.

The student body is producing what is perceived as an act of survival, which to a great extent remunerates what is most superficial. Today, form overrides substance, suggestion overrides evidence and, beguiled by appearance, we fail to see the essence.

Such a mammoth effort, with all of its related complexity, entails a personal process that is both emotional and professional. It is hard to evaluate, but highly valuable. Once the final project is turned in, each student knows their grade. The grade given by others in no more than another event, part of a Kafkaesque circuslike process which should be taken for what it is.

Text translated by Beth Gelb
Arquitecta desde 2004, ha desarrollado su trabajo como profesional independiente en urbanismo y arquitectura. En 2007 centró su actividad en Ayuda Humanitaria, donde ha trabajado con diferentes organizaciones tanto en desarrollo como en emergencia. Es máster en Proyecto Avanzado de Arquitectura y Ciudad, y se ha especializado en Agua, Saneamiento e Higiene en Cooperación Internacional y Emergencias y en Desarrollo de Asentamientos humanos en el Tercer Mundo. Durante estos años ha compaginado su actividad profesional con la docencia y la investigación. Actualmente imparte clases en máster y cursos de posgrado en diferentes universidades. Ha llevado a cabo diferentes investigaciones sobre asentamientos humanos y campos de refugiados, y escribe su tesis sobre Diseño y Construción de Centros de Ébola. Desde 2004 dirige el Taller CuatroESCALONES junto a Óscar Valero, especializado en el proceso de proyecto. En 2011 funda n´UNDO, junto a Alejandro del Castillo, lo que supone un posicionamiento en la manera de hacer arquitectura.

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