Back to School at 40-something – The All-Nighter!

Round Robin

This week is mostly a blur. The thing I’ve been trying not to do all term, the thing I’ve been planning against, taking steps to avoid, hit me – not once, but twice! This thing, of course, is the dreaded “all-nighter”.

You work straight through the night into the early hours of the morning and when dawn breaks and the birds start chirping, your heart sinks as you realize you have to greet the new day with no sleep. It’s ridiculous really – the physical and mental punishment – but when you’ve got to meet a deadline, there’s no other choice.

The first all-nighter was Sunday into Monday as I was preparing a public presentation of my theatre design project. The school invites 30 architects, professors and artists from the community to a round-robin evaluation of the students’ work-in-progress. For 15 minutes you have the opportunity to present and discuss, one-on-one, your ideas and show your work (sketches, plans, sections, elevations, models…). There is no grading component to the exercise; it’s strictly about feedback. Consequently, the more product you have, the better the discussion, the more helpful the criticism. I found the round-robin method of evaluation particularly helpful, especially when compared to our usual in-class critiques, which because of the number of students is often lighter than one would like. I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was said, but found it to be an amazing way of exposing the creative mind to many different points of view in a short period of time. Well worth the lack of sleep.

The second incident occurred Thursday into Friday and the assignment was, writing a history essay on the role and emergence of the architect. The building I chose was Florence’s Il Duomo (Cathedral) by Renaissance genius, Filippo Brunelleschi. I knew about this from the very beginning of the term and I was on top of it. My subject was selected, my research pulled together, no problems here – or so I thought. BUT, the workload imposed by my other courses was so intense that I couldn’t get to actually writing the essay until a few days before the deadline. It meant a tight turnaround with the amount of reading that was required, but achievable. The problem arose when I decided, at the professor’s encouragement, to take a more critical approach; one that would generate original thought. An essay on historical facts and architectural analyses is relatively straightforward. An essay exploring new ways to think about these facts and analyses is not. Of course, trying to be brilliant when you’re up all night, literally nodding off with your fingers on the keyboard and then coming back to consciousness with a shock, is not ideal! Needless to say it took much longer than anticipated, resulting in another all-nighter. Class was at 9 a.m. I printed the document minutes before, slapped some water on my face and ran to school, completed assignment in hand. Deadline successfully met.

I’m noticing that with every all-nighter I seem to be making a physical and mental adjustment. As undesirable as 24 hours with no sleep may be, my tolerance seems to increase with each event. It’s not my intention to continue working through the night, but it is encouraging and even comforting to realize that if I have to, I can.

This week meet a couple of classmates from Newfoundland:

Justin Kennedy, 25
Paradise, Newfoundland
About: built like a tank, with the sense of humour to match, but don’t judge this book by its cover – that would be a huge mistake! that architectural intuition runs deep.

Mark Whalen, 34
St. John’s, Newfoundland
About: a general contractor who wanted more, well on his way to achieving his goal; strong technically and creatively; a genuine charmer, well liked by all.

Oh, and not to propagate the stereotype but yes, both can drink! A lot!


by Réjean G. Beaudin