OPEN JURY: Understanding the role of the portfolio Review

by Brandon Whitwell-Mak, AA First Year
2 November 2012 AA Rear Presentation Space, London   Returning from the first year Venice trip on Wednesday, Thursday was spent waiting patiently in the queue spanning the west side of Bedford square for Zaha Hadid lecture tickets and viewing the impressive exhibition of student work displayed for the 2012 open week. I spent Friday listening, learning and as always at the AA, being inspired, by students presenting their ideas in front of an open audience which included, the director of the school, guest jurors from undergraduate units and masters programmes, students and visitors.   As a new member of the AA, my first two months studying architecture have been intense and challenging but also exciting and fun. Our ideas are explored in great depth in order to develop them into real and useable concepts. I found the open jury interesting and inspiring because of the different ideas and methods on display of how to communicate a year of innovative work.   The emphasis on the portfolio and presentation of ideas at this experimental school of architecture was evident in Zsuzsa Peter’s Foundation portfolio in which her detailed ideas were articulated and presented very clearly to the audience through her carefully planned photography and movie. Additionally, I was especially impressed by the detail of the computer modeling Conrad Koslowsky produced for his Dip 11, 4th year portfolio and his physical model which aided his design process and communicated his concept. Contrastingly, Juliet Haysom’s Inter 1, 2nd Year portfolio appealed to me because of her detailed hand drawing and rendering which communicated her ideas as clearly as a computer and physical model.
Furthermore, I respected the jurors’ feedback as it was critical yet constructive and related to each individual and their body of work on a personal basis. This was very interesting as the students were presenting their previous year’s work, and therefore I realised the cumulative aspect of our studies, in that there is a continuous progression of ideas and concepts, which will influence our future work.   Another interesting aspect of the AA portfolio is that the format of the portfolio is dependent on the unit and how the individual wants to portray their ideas. I struggled with this idea initially, however, after watching Antoine Vaxelaire’s Dip 9, 4th Year project and Stefan Jovanovic ‘s First Year portfolio, I understood that we really can choose any portfolio format that best suits our project to communicate our ideas. An interesting feature of the portfolios is that much of the thinking process is documented to show the development of the final product and the construction of models; including not just successes but also failures. In this way, the AA student is taught to assess and analyse the work they are producing – teaching them the skill of being self-critical.   The open jury was very interesting in highlighting the episodic nature of architecture that we learn through experiencing and experimenting with our ideas. Through watching students present their diverse portfolios and communicate their ideas my understanding of the role of the portfolio within architecture became much clearer.
Open Portfolios discussion in the Rear Presentation Space Photo credit: Valerie Bennett   For more information: Open Week Events List