Megacrits are inter-school events at which architecture students and tutors share and critique each other’s work. This guide is a step-by-step recipe book for hosting a fantastic Megacrit distilling two years of experimental inter-school events created in partnership with multiple architecture schools
A Megacrit is a day-long inter-school event designed to expose students and tutors to a broad spectrum of work being produced beyond their own university. Students from different schools are brought together according to their particular research topics to engage in dialogues that transcend institutional boundaries.
Megacrits can be hosted by anyone – you may be a student, tutor, member of faculty staff or an organisation like the Architecture Foundation interested in supporting emerging practitioners and engaging in research topics being explored within architecture schools.
This document will walk you through the basics of how to make your own Megacrit. The guide is intended to be a starting point, not a set of instructions. Hosts can follow the guide, or rip it up and start again! The only stipulation is that the events are designed to be useful for students.
As a Megacrit host, you’ll be responsible for:
1. Inviting guests
2. Providing space
3. Planning the day
4. Chairing the event
A typical Megacrit involves groups from around three architecture schools coming together for a day of sharing and critiquing each other’s work.
Students, tutors and guests to see a wide range of work from different schools. To make this possible, mix up students and tutors from different schools, and re-group them into three separate crit spaces.
Depending on what kind of crit you’re organising, you’ll probably start by putting together a guest list consisting of students, tutors and guest critics.
You could invite units or individual students, who might be selected by identifying a common research topic, approach or area of questioning.
The Architecture Schools Database, which contains information about design and research units across the UK, is a great enabler of inter-school dialogue and a useful tool for identifying units with similar interests.
Once you’ve decided what your theme is, and who you want to invite, the next question is how many. We recommend three units of up to twelve students each, taking into consideration having enough research topics to facilitate an interesting discussion while still staying focussed; the logistics of organising and hosting multiple crit groups; the impact that a large number of students presenting has on how much time each person gets for feedback from peers and guest reviewers.
You can invite students through their tutors or heads of school to quickly find people with projects relating to the theme of the Megacrit. Tutors can also act as guest reviewers, giving them a chance to engage with work beyond their own institution.
Guest critics offer a useful outside perspective on your chosen Megacrit theme. As you’ll have multiple schools participating, they may be able to suggest guests that you wouldn’t have otherwise known about. Remember, the more diverse the experiences of the panel, the wider the spectrum of feedback for students to benefit from.
Have one person from each invited institution who is your main point of contact. This is usually a unit tutor, who will give you valuable advice about how to make the day as useful as possible for participants, as well as being able to quickly disseminate information such as the Megacrit info pack.
Participants will need to know the following on receiving your invite to participate in a Megacrit:
– Description of event and outline of intention
– Megacrit theme
– Date, time and location
– How many students you’re inviting
– Who else is participating
Ask that when they reply, they confirm attendance, let you know how many students will be participating, and send you a version of their brief that they are happy to share publicly.
As host, you’ll need to arrange venues for the crits to take place in, making sure each one has:
– Enough floor space for everyone in the group to comfortably spend the day there
– Wall space for at least two students to pin up at once allowing crits to flow smoothly without long switch over gaps between presentations
– Screens or projectors for digital presentations
You might also consider things like how close together you want the crit rooms to be. Can participants move between rooms to watch different presentations? Is there a space big enough for everyone to come together at the beginning and end of the day? Is there somewhere in the building where participants can have lunch?
Planning the day
Megacrits can be delivered with no budget, but require careful planning. Before the event you should prepare a few things to ensure the day runs smoothly and everyone knows what to expect.
Megacrit Info Pack
A info pack should contain all of the information your participants need to know before the event. You should aim to send this to all students, tutors and guests at least a week in advance and include:
– Participants, theme and venue
– Guidelines for your Megacrit
– The schedule for the day
– Crit timetable and panels
– Contact details
Depending on the venue, you may need to make special arrangements for a large group of guests to be there for the day. You may decide to have someone greeting people at the door as they arrive and pointing them in the right direction.
There are several points in the day where guests may want refreshments – at the introductions, tea breaks, lunch and the summary discussion at the end of the day. It’s up to you how you do this. It could be a case of letting them know where the nearest cafe or shop is, or you might have a budget to provide drinks and/or food. An easy way to keep everyone happy is to have tea, coffee and biscuits available, and allow guests to make their own lunch arrangements.
On the day of the Megacrit you might have a small team helping you to set up and ensure everything runs smoothly. It can help to have a checklist to hand, outlining who is responsible for what and allowing people to check off tasks as they’re completed. Example Checklist:
Before the Megacrit
▢ Room checks: check digital tech working, enough chairs, walls clear
▢ Set up refreshments
▢ Print schedule to hand out to guests
▢ Ensure copy of guest list is at reception
▢ Brief group Chairs, give out crit timetable
▢ Meet photographer (if documenting)
During the Megacrit
▢ Welcome participants, introductions
▢ Show all groups to crit spaces
▢ Ensure crits are running to time
▢ Show guests where they can find refreshments
▢ Convene all participants for post-crit discussion
▢ Post-crit pint!
Megacrits often appoint one overall chairperson, which will probably be the organiser, as well as a student chair for each crit group. The responsibilities of the main chair are to lead a welcome and introductions, oversee the event as a whole and lead a summary discussion.
Group Student Chairs
Student chairs play a vital role in ensuring the event runs smoothly and setting a precedent for student participation in discussions. The responsibilities of the student chairs are showing crit groups to their spaces, making introductions within the group, starting crits off of time, timekeeping throughout the day and ensuring good participation from students, tutors and guests.
We encourage you to document your Megacrit so that others can use it as a precedent. You could assign a photographer for the day, make a short film, create a printed booklet that captures the discussions on the day or another strategy.
These three case studies contain the timetables, groupings, tutors, students and layouts from three successful but very varied Megacrits which took place in around London.
Prefer a PDF?
If you prefer, this guide is also available as a PDF to download.
Get in touch if you have any questions. Write to Phineas Harper on email@example.com.