This paper investigates the architectural design jury under COVID-19 in a university in the UAE. It discusses how the conventional jury system for architectural design graduation projects was realigned between March 2020 and December 2021 – the period when the university under study like other educational institutions had to adapt to the new condition of social distancing and remote learning. The paper explores changes to the traditional form, practices, and roles of the jury and the implication to architectural design education. The research was conducted through reflection on the authors’ experience, surveys of senior students’ views, and literature review. The paper found that the jury practice underwent many changes from eliminating student presentations altogether to replacing all conventional in-person presentations with online presentations to using simultaneously online and “hybrid” juries in reviewing different projects to returning to in-person presentations with non-conventional tools. The four approaches reflected different levels of confidence in and experience with available technologies, as well as how deeply rooted the jury system was. The latest mode of the jury – the in-person jury – somewhat echoed the conventional system. The earliest mode – the no-presentation jury – highlighted the problem of the jury’s emphasis on assessment as opposed to learning. The hybrid mode had a good potential to improve the jury system, but its potential was not fully achieved. While the completely in-person and online juries and juries that eliminated student presentations, at least in theory, provided students with equitable opportunities, the mode that involved some students in hybrid and others in online juries did not. At the end, none of the four jury modes matched the traditional on-campus jury and its conventional tools for technologies were yet to be fully utilized to update, not merely recreate, the old jury system.
Majd Musa is an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. She holds a PhD in architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. Her research interest is contemporary architecture and urbanism with a focus on globalizing Middle Eastern cities, as well as architectural education. She is the author of Amman: Gulf Capital, Identity, and Contemporary Megaprojects (London and New York: Routledge, 2017 and 2018). She is also the co-author (with Mohammad al-Asad) of Exploring the Built Environment (Amman: Center for the Study of the Built Environment and Darat al-Funun-The Khalid Shoman Foundation, 2007) and co-editor (with Mohammad al-Asad) of Architectural Criticism and Journalism (Turin: Umberto Allemandi and Geneva: The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, 2007). She is a member of the Architecture Division of Jordan Engineers Association, Jordan, an International Associate of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), USA, a Member of the American Planning Association (APA), USA, and a Member of the Society of Architectural Historians, USA.
Raneem Taha is a freelance researcher with a research interest in architectural education and urbanism. She received her BSc degree in Architectural Engineering with the highest honors from the University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, in the spring of 2021. Her most recent work dealt with the use of architecture to revitalize public parks in the UAE and reclaim public space in line with the country’s 2030 goals. She was an active member of the University of Sharjah’s Sharjah Architectural Students Association, serving as the head of PR and press and initiating, developing, and running the first website to document the association’s activities for community and global outreach. In 2020, she represented the University of Sharjah in the tenth session of the World Urban Forum held in Abu Dhabi, UAE.