I remember reading once that, in architecture, you are never really finished, you just decide to be done. This begs the question, if you never really finish anything, how can you ever be “finished” with a project? And furthermore what does it mean to be “finished”? Is it checking off deliverables for review, is it a state of satisfaction (or exhaustion) with a project, or is it something else?
If you were to ask around the architecture school, chances are, you would find that everyone has a slightly different process, what we like to call workflow, which gets them to final review. However, we often overlook the fact that work doesn’t stop at review. In fact one of the most important workflow steps is putting together a portfolio. Perhaps this is a bold claim to make considering the amount of time spent designing, and redesigning, a project in the first place. But, in a field as subjective as architecture, employment often requires a carefully crafted portfolio that shows off your abilities; and isn’t the ultimate goal of architecture school to be employed?
My brief experience in portfolio making occurred in my first semester of college when our final project was to create a portfolio documenting all the work we had done for our studio. I spent hours editing pictures, scanning drawings, and choosing the right pieces for my spreads before turning it in…I then consequently forgot about it until over a year later when I was applying for internships and slowly panicking because I had no compiled documentation to show what I had done since that point. I became curious as to what other people my age were doing in terms of documenting their project histories and figured now was the best time to learn.
Luckily for our generation, or maybe unluckily depending on who you talk to, technology has allowed us to go beyond the confines of a paper portfolio, and to delve into the world of websites and digital media, adding another level of complexity that didn’t exist 20 years ago. The beauty of an online portfolio is that “you can put pretty much anything online because [employers] can scroll through and choose what they want to look at, you aren’t limited to just putting up the best of the best like you would at review,” said second-year Jordan Richardson when describing her philosophy. A portfolio creates a second chance for all the work that didn’t make it to review, it brings dead drawing back to life, and memorializes all the ghosts that a project used to be.
Others create a formula for what will be shown in their portfolio, and fix up drawings accordingly. I think we have all been guilty at some point or another for not dealing with the feedback we get at final review, because the last thing anyone really wants to do is re-open files so that we can edit our drawings. But if this is in fact our one chance to really make our hard work count, why shouldn’t we put in a little extra effort? Another second-year Ethan Thornburg shared his process saying that “I clean up my renders so that they are consistent, and if I’ve learned a new skill by the end of the semester I go back and apply it to drawings from earlier on.” No one is going to know at what point in the project you made a certain drawing, you get to write your own story with your portfolio, and sometimes stories change and it’s okay to re-write and re-interpret them.
If to be finished means to be completed, then I guess we really are perpetually in a state of unfinished-ness, because are stories aren’t over, we just keep adding new chapters.