How To Be A Thesis-Topper: Plan Ahead Of Boxing Day!
Architects Ranit Maiti and Subhrajit Gunakar Mitra of Square Design Consultancy, Kolkata offer tips for final year students - and share their views on a roller-coaster ride called "studying architecture"! With tongues firmly in cheek, they offer a hilarious take on the final year thesis, the judgment day of the jury and the much-dreaded viva voce!
It's December and the slim days of winter bringing in a dash of chill in an otherwise hot and sultry part of the country generally makes us happy. It's time for picnics, parties and pubs. It's time to bring out the jackets and the fancy outfits that had remained so disdainfully incarcerated in the farthest corner of the closets. It’s time for so much stuff to do that it makes us happy, sometimes just the mere thought of it. Well, not for all, at least not too many final year students of architecture. Like or not, care or not, the big fat final Judgment Day sits quietly with a "No hurry, take it or fake it but I'm here" kind of a look.
Thesis Day much like Death is an eventuality. And like all martyrs (with due respect and no pun intended) we must glorify and embrace it. But we mustn't let it grow on us! Who wants to think of death when you are watching Katrina in Bang Bang?? (Umm well if you do, it's probably because of the storyline or simply heart break but here we are referring to death by dysentery). So chill out! Take a deep breath, go and watch Exodus! Christian Bale is awesome! (And although many of you wouldn't admit, it is a far easier movie to understand than Interstellar)
So, back to the thesis… Put simply; every thesis comes in two flavors - the idea type and the project type. Whichever type yours fits into; don't make the mistakes your predecessors did. So, put on your thinking cap and get ready to demystify the thesis bug. Let's start off with a few tips on getting started on the thesis!
Tip # 1: Be nice to juniors - They are a great help. Rope in the most attractive junior (just don't fall for them yourself, at least for now). They are your greatest assets. They don't work. They won't work. That's not their job. They bring people who work. Commitment always pays. Industrious ones are better than the flamboyant and talented ones. So look after them well; but don’t be partial or cheap and keep your parents away from them!
Tip # 2: Seek Out your Seniors - They have at least passed. If you are able to bear with their unnecessary criticism and uncalled-for sarcasm, use their knowledge. An ex-flame or a grateful senior is like a good suspension system. Takes away the jolts but can't run very fast! Request their help on specific issues.
Tip # 3: Use Romance Effectively - It is time to get some dividends. Get your sweetheart to work for you. Lovers are like second class levers; with a little effort you can extract loads of work. In this way you can combine your routine dating hours into billable ones by doing both at the same time!
Thesis presentation is really about the twenty-odd minutes you get to present your case before the jurors and often, we find ourselves accusing our classmates of merely talking their way through and flooring the jury despite not having a good thesis or not working hard enough! But really, whose fault is it, if some students have a gift of the gab and others don’t? So sit back a while and think. Imagine you are a jury member and you are seeing 70 plus presentations of over-enthusiastic students; over a couple of days. So the simpler and more graphical your presentation – the easier it will be for the jury to understand! Added with a well-prepared speech summarizing your case studies and design concepts, you have a seamless and succinct presentation! This will give you an advantage than grueling over reams of A0 and expecting the worn-out minds of the jury members to understand your design. This is the Jury - for Godssake!!! It is important to translate your year's work in just 10 - 15 sheets; so a couple of summary sheets to explain the design process will not harm you. Here are a few Rules of the Game!
Rule # 1: Learn All You Need to Learn about Presentation – It’s all about self-marketing! Presentation is an art of deception. It isn't so much about showing what you have done but also about hiding what you have not. The first few lines of any presentation set the tone for the entire show. Someone with a good sketching or rendering skills generally gets away with idea type thesis. These are centered on strong concepts, sketchy forms; with little or no idea about how to execute it physically and no idea about its structure (forget the cost or technology)! It's ok. They are high risk-takers banking heavily on their talent alone. For people having good organization skills and meticulous about detailing, the project type is a safe bet. These could be low in terms of ideas but make it up with high volume, neat presentation and quality drawing sheets. These are the Jury's blue eyed boys and chicks, they don’t tax their brains much but please them with their superior presentation skills. So good marks, more or less, are ensured. The flip side is they are not Megan Fox! But everyone’s playing the game, and all’s fair in love and war. It's like lawn tennis and you have the serve. If you do a dolly bird you will be consumed. So it's important to choose each word carefully and speak confidently. It's also the most vulnerable time when the jury scourges the sheets while you babble gibberish. So highlight the most essential parts of your design. Speak with your hands. It loosens you up. Once the butterflies stop fluttering in your stomach, you will do better.
Rule # 2: KISS - Please do not kiss the jury. They won't like that. Certainly not there! Or at that time! KISS here means: Keep It Short and Simple. (your presentation; that is). And there’s no harm in mugging up the introductory lines and practicing your voice quality and pitch – till you get it just right!
Rule # 3: Use Simple Language and Speak Slowly - No one is testing your vocabulary here, so ease out and use simple, lucid language. DO NOT USE TERMS THAT YOU DON'T KNOW THE MEANING OF. Also, remember: fluency is not about how fast you speak. It's about how well you do. So take it slow and steady. Language was invented to make people communicate with each other! We don’t have a prize for speed in architectural presentation, so chill – or join some racing sport instead.
Rule #4: Don’t Cheat - Let’s keep the moral aspect aside for the time-being and think rationally. Cheating or copying other's work is not a very smart option. You will get caught, either by the eyes of experienced jury – who, let’s admit - is smarter than you assume! Or if they can’t, your friends will make sure that they do. Remember Google opens more or less the same way in every browser and you are not Larry Page.
Rule # 5: Never Ever Start with a Site Plan - Drawing must be understood as a medium of explaining the design, not the design itself. So explain the process of designing through a series of sketches showing the evolution of the concept! Highlight your reasons and factors for choosing the final concept – for the proposed design project. Then help the jury understand how you arrived at THE PLAN. The thesis is not about where your toilet blocks are, if anyone points that out, it means they have nothing else to see! (Again, it does not mean the plan should not have a toilet block!)