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Notes from the TASA/TASB Jury A 2006 architect juror explains the process and offers some suggestions by Lee Burch, AIA
Each year the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards (TASA/TASB) sponsors a jury competition to select projects for its Exhibit of School Architecture. For an architect such as me to be invited to participate on the jury, the event offers an opportunity to see what’s new, to see how the design of schools facilities has progressed, and to check up on the competition. The staffs of TASA and TASB are extremely efficient in putting together the program, making the jury experience as painless and enjoyable as possible. A couple of weeks before the jury members meets, CDs and documentation are shipped to each juror. Reviewing the entries requires a substantial time commitment to do the job thoroughly. Jurors are asked to review each entry with an eye toward the five categories for evaluation—value, process of planning, design, educational appropriateness, and innovation. For those submitting projects, I have some suggestions. First, realize that your project is one of many, so be succinct and keep it simple. Remember that just because PowerPoint allows you to add animation and exploding graphics, jurors become numb to the digital pyrotechnics after a while. Also, ditch the black background and enlarge the font size. As for the accompanying descriptive text, architects often write like they design. Text can be unnecessarily complex, similar to the addition of some
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soaring, eye-catching feature meant to obscure otherwise undistinguished design. Such phrases as “innovative,” “cutting edge,” and others abounded in the descriptions, and in a few instances those modifiers were appropriate. But it eventually becomes obvious when things are stretched a bit. The group that gathered last August in Austin consisted of two architects, two school administrators, and two school board members. Jury members come from around the state and each brings a very different frame of reference. It’s always interesting to see what kinds of things reveal themselves during the process. The architects, I think, graded a bit more broadly than the other jurors. Our scores ranged across the spectrum, from “minimal” to “outstanding,” while the others’ default response seemed to be “above average.” But they apparently didn’t worry about their design ethic; they just knew what they liked and readily realized when they were impressed by a school building. This jury process resulted in deserved recognition for some very good planning, design, and construction efforts. As designers, we can always learn something from studying the creation of spaces and places. We learn from each other and we borrow from each other to make good buildings for our clients. Lee Burch, AIA, leads the education practice division of Parsons-3D/I in Houston. The following six projects were recognized as exemplary in three or more (including the design category) of the six criteria in the 2006 Exhibit of School Architecture cosponsored by Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards. Access a complete list of entries at www.tasa.tasb.org/documents/2006_Arch_Awards_FINAL.pdf.
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Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other...