9/03/2012

"Drawing, Drawing, Drawing and Architecture" continues…

Following my previous post "Drawing, Drawing, Drawing and Architecture", I would like to share with my readers this "opinion" which author is Michael Graves. The title: Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing.
In my view, his opinion is very interesting as it poses the question of, not the speculated death of drawing, but this shift, I myself noted. A new generation of architects rather using computer than paper, (or the tablet, to paraphrase Michael Graves). While this article cannot be coarsely summed up in few words, allow me for concentrating on one/two general points I found particularly critical to share. I however let his question "I'm personally fascinated not just by what architects choose to draw but also by what they choose not to draw", that articulates his essay, aside as a larger space to discuss is needed. And I admit to be fascinated by this question, too. An investigation is needed… though I do not know if this will fascinate anyone else than… my curiosity.

Related post:
ULGC | Drawing, Drawing, Drawing and Architecture | September 1, 2012


My fascination to the reason why architects draw or do not draw (or no longer draw) finds his first response with Michael Graves' relation to drawing:
For decades I have argued that architectural drawing can be divided into three types, which I call the "referential sketch," the "preparatory study" and the "definitive drawing." The definitive drawing, the final and most developed of the three, is almost universally produced on the computer nowadays, and that is appropriate. But what about the other two? What is their value in the creative process? what can they teach us? The referential sketch serves as a visual diary, a record of an architect's discovery. It can be as simple as a shorthand notation of a design concept or can describe details of a larger composition. It might not even be a drawing that relates to a building or any time in history. It's not likely to represent "reality," but rather to capture an idea. These sketches are thus inherently fragmentary and selective. When I draw something, I remember it. The drawing is a reminder of the idea that caused me to record it in the first place. That visceral connection, that thought process, cannot be replicated by a computer. 
The second type of drawing, the preparatory study, is typically part of a progression of drawings that elaborate a design. Like the referential sketch, it may not reflect a linear process. I personally like to draw on translucent yellow tracing paper, which allows me to layer one drawing on top of another, building on what I've drawn before and again, creating a personal, emotional connection with the work.
With both of these types of drawings, there is a certain joy in their creation, which comes from the interaction between the mind and the hand. Our physical and mental interactions with drawings are formative acts. In a handmade drawing, whether on paper, there are intonations, traces of intentions and speculation. This is not unlike the way a musician might intone a note or how a riff in jazz would be understood subliminally and put a smile on your face. [Michael Graves | Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing || The New York Times, September 1, 2012]

Edge of a city: Spiroid Sectors, Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, 1991 ı Architectural Drawing, watercolor on paper | © Steven Holl
Originally appeared on SFMoMA

Drawing, industrial designer, creative director and illustrator Craighton Berman said, is a medium for collaborators to work and talk through. An observation shared by Michael Graves:
Years ago I was sitting in a rather boring faculty meeting at Princeton. To pass the time, I pulled out my pad to start drawing a plan, probably of some building I was designing. An equally bored colleague was watching me, amused. i came to a point of indecision and passed the pad to him. He added a few lines and passed it back.
The game was on. Back and forth we went, drawing five lines each, then four and so on.
While we didn't speak, we were engaged in a dialogue over this plan and we understood each other perfectly. I suppose that we could have a debate like that with words, but it would have been entirely different. Our game was not about winners or losers, but about a shared language. We shared language. We had a genuine love for making this drawing. there was an insistence, by the act of drawing, that the composition would stay open, that the speculation would stay "wet" in the sense of a painting. Out plan was without scale and we could as easily have stay "wet" in the sense of a painting. Our plan was without scale and we could as easily have been drawing a domestic building as a portion of a city. It was the act of drawing that allowed us to speculate.
One general difference between drawing and computer-based design above all appears to be the fact that drawing allows for collaborating, sharing ideas, with others. Computer-based design seems to be too "autistic" for collaboration. Indeed, the relation can be summed up in this way: between the architect and its computer. Yet, this is certainly the way we communicate that has changed the architect's tools. My take is that computational design generates the three essential phases that Michael Graves developed above: referential sketch; preparatory sketch; and definitive sketch. 

Vision for Madrid Block, 2012 | © Zaha Hadid
Originally appeared on Architectural Review Tumblr


The difference is the support — computer — that leads to a shift in the architect's methods. Then, as mentioned in my previous post, the real-time perspective of the digital era leads to a new design methodology that is mainly based upon computer. See the affection of some of the new generation of architects for algorithmic interests, and you will understand their affection for computer from the referential sketch to the definitive sketch and beyond… Drawing is a language that cannot be limited to a support: paper, (now) tablet, computer… It appears that it does not evolve… at first glance. Put it simply, drawing just adapts to the current specific needs of the architect. Allow me for saying it more coarsely: now as computer is contaminating and shaping our society — from daily use to a deep shift in economic activities (to quote only but interesting example: I am thinking of the emergence of the web developer/journalist, namely the journalist who must combine journalism and knowledge in web development (html5, css3, javascript, python, and other ajax languages) at the very least) — into a new but uncertain society, this is not surprising that computer is becoming the dominant instrument in the (some of) new generation of architects' practice.

I warmly recommend the read of Michael Grave's excellent take: Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing. The article is available in the New York Times.

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