Why Drawing Matters to Design in the Digital Age

Architect Michael Graves pens an opinion piece for The New York Times that explores the effect that computers are having on the architectural creative process. Does the decline in hand drawing result in a diminished ability for speculation?

Graves makes a forceful argument that the supposed "death of drawing" in architecture at the hands of the computer is a loss for the creative process. "Architecture cannot divorce itself from drawing," he argues, "no matter how impressive the technology gets. Drawings are not just end products: they are part of the thought process of architectural design."

Graves is willing to accept the role of computers in producing "definitive drawings," construction documents, and presentations. However, he sees the hand drawing as a irreplaceable tool in the first phases of architectural drawing: the "referential sketch," and the "preparatory study."    

Do his ruminations represent the musings of a luddite designer who's been practicing for nearly five decades, or do his experience observing the scope of the technological changes that have impacted the field give him a unique perspective from which to advise? 

Full Story: Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing

Comments

Comments

One of the Best Apps of 2012 - Hand Drawings of Architecture

One of the Best Apps of 2012 - Hand Drawings of Architectural Ideas
As someone who understands both sides of the issue - I can say definitely say that the ability to draw architecture / urban planning drawings and graphics is as much an advantage as it is a dying art. see some examples of architectural hand drawings vs. modern architectural graphics.

While younger architectural / urban designers and visualizers are required to know several 3D applications like SketchUp, Rhino, 3D Max as well as the old AutoCad (which is I feel a draftsman's program) - being able to draw an idea that's in your head, with your hand - is a powerful, human ability going back about 40,000 years ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lascaux ) that allows the drawer to 'see' more clearly and much faster than sitting down at a computer and creating a model or a PowerPoint show. One is instantaneous (if you know how) and the other is a prolonged process that gets lost in details when what's really often needed is the instant feedback that can only occur when you draw on paper. Often, good hand drawings just look better; imagine if Doonesbury were drawn with a mouse and software as opposed to the elegance of the artist's hand.

Sketches on paper are easily understood by anyone - and convey the essence of a design idea in a way that 3D programs have to fake with filters applied to a model. In SketchUp for example - I recently created the appearance of a sketch only after building a somewhat elaborate model by applying a filter to the image. Why is there a need to simplify the complexities of the 3D model? Because there is a need to understand the essence of the idea and not get lost in details which don't matter yet - and then get feedback quickly before too much time is wasted on the wrong ideas. For example, the short time it takes to sketch an urban infill project over a photo vs. the much longer amount of time building the same idea in SketchUp is ridiculous - if what you want right now is the big idea or even a compelling marketing image. If you're good at it - that sketch can be shown in ads, on websites or other broader communications.

Folks who pity the more seasoned designer hand-drawing an idea because they can do it in 3D Max miss the point; the hand drawing is a form of fast communication - not a primitive attempt at a 3D model. I've also seen younger designers in awe, mystified by the act of drawing an architectural sketch or rendering by hand as if it were a form of magic. (I'm 'only' 49 by the way, that's why I straddle the old and new ways of architectural communication.)

Isn't fast, good looking communication and fast problem solving what everybody insists on today?

As smartphone Apps are faster than getting on the web or into a software program to execute a task, so is hand drawing faster, more attractive and more effective than digital drawing on several fronts in architectural communications:

A quick, half hour hand drawing / Architectural, City Planning sketch by Richard Prescott.How long would it take to design/model this in SketchUp?

That's why a good ol' hand drawing of an architectural or city planning idea on yellow tracing paper (or "trash" as some of us still call it) is just as important as the final 3D renderings or the construction documents. I say that not as someone who can only draw by hand, but as somebody who uses a broad spectrum visual communications techniques for architecture and urban/city planning - old and new, whatever suits the need at the time. Photorealistic architectural and planning 3D models, diagrams, graphic design, Powerpoints, websites, internet marketing AND - architectural hand drawings; all have their place in effective communication of architectural/planning thought.

Why drawing matters to design in the digital age

Not sure I completely agree. Drawings done by hand in a one to one conversation on a design problem can be very beneficial. But hand drawings made to show others can be made fairly quickly and the perspective is accurate. I remember years ago in architecture school, a fellow student was an excellent artist, did a 3d hand drawn rendering of his project. Won praise from the professor, afterwards, we fellow students, upon closer examination determined it was all a pretty picture - the perspective view was so far off, it could never have been built to look like his drawing. I like the accuracy of digital drawing.

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