Sunday, July 02, 2006

Just not that into you....

So, as I may have mentioned, the rapport between you and your studio professors can have a great deal of influence on your studio experience. After all, week in and week out, you sit down with them, only to subject yourself to their evaluations of your work, your creativity, your talent. It’s like having hyper-critical parents, except you paid for the experience.

So, you can imagine, that the tête-à-têtes you have with your studio professors can be somewhat nerve-racking. At least, they usually start out that way, when you are unfamiliar with them, their attitudes, their teaching styles, their personalities. I always found the first few weeks awkward, walking that fine line between making a good first impression and becoming that obnoxious ass-kisser. So I usually played to my strengths, worked a lot, and made sure to have a lot to look at when studio days rolled around. And, for the most part, it worked…though I can’t say I would ever be considered a personal favorite amongst many of my professors. I was a good student…but I never really made it to the intimate level that some of my classmates achieved. It was always a, well, not so secret envy I had, when I would see professors inviting classmates to architecture events, introducing them to other professionals, or just hanging out with them for a drink at a bar.

After a while, from the weekly interaction, things usually chill out. You get use to each other, loosen up a bit, and hopefully, find common ground that helps both the development of your studio work as well as the maturity of your interactions. Desk crits become less formal, and you often finding yourself talking as much about your project as other, more abstract ideas. And, what was first a stressful 10 minutes of one-directional conversation can become marathon meetings that could easily not end.

It is also when you, let’s say, get comfortable with your professor, and them with you, that things can become a bit, well, interesting.

Of all the desk crits I’ve had, one still sticks out. And I wasn’t even the center of the attention.

It was closing in on the later half of the spring semester. A heat wave had hit us with record-breaking temperatures and unrelenting humidity. And our studios were not of the air-conditioned variety. On a day like this, even with every window open and a couple of fans blowing, it was close to unbearable.

It was my turn. As my professor settled in beside me, a couple of the guys had decided enough was enough, and stripped off their tops. There were a couple of laughs, a few teasing cat-calls, but the distraction was soon forgotten. At least, I thought it was.

I began discussing the latest series of drawings I had made, making sure to elaborate on the rationale I had made. I outlined the steps, showed some sketches, walked my professor though the revisions I had made. But, each time I posed a question, it was acknowledged with little more than a grunt, a short “yeah” or “alright”. Thinking I had made some serious mistakes, I began to get nervous, speak more rapidly, show drawings I had originally left to the side. And still, nothing.

I finally looked up from my work, looked over at my professor. And I followed his eyes across the room towards one of my classmates, drafting away in shirtless glory. And, I realized, nothing I said had been heard. For a good ten minutes, I had rattled away ideas, questions, concerns while showing drawing after drawing. Apparently none of it could match the visual delight of my classmate’s bare torso.

Later, after our professor was gone, I decided I should get in at least one dig. After all, the way I saw it, because of him, I didn’t get a desk crit that day. So, as we began to pack up for the afternoon, I called over to him.

“Hey…so can I ask you for a favor?”


“Do you think that, while I’m having a crit, you could keep your shirt on?”


“Well, let’s just say that, during the entire ten minutes I was speaking with our professor, he never actually looked at my work.”

At that point, there were still several of us in studio. And everyone around busted out in laughter, a couple taking a few digs of their own. I wasn’t the only one who had noticed. My poor classmate, not knowing what to say, turned a bright shade of red, stuttered a few times before finally saying that he didn’t know what we were talking about.

But, for the rest of the semester, he kept his shirt on during studio time, no matter how hot it was.


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