Archive for February, 2011

Fetishized Hand Drawings

Feb 10 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I had a review today for a townhouse design. We only had a weekend to throw the design together, plus two days to meet the presentation requirements. So, thankfully, the review was fairly laid back, and it went well, but something that came up during my presentation piqued my interest.

On my board, I had plans, sections, some diagrams, and a hand-drawn perspective of the street front, which I had done hastily before the review. The hand-drawn perspective got more attention then it should have, considering it’s quality and actual importance. The guest critic really seemed to like the fact that I’d represented my ideas by hand, and encouraged me to continue doing so. She said she’d like it if I drew my entire entry sequence out, frame by frame, by hand.

After the review, I had a discussion with a classmate who used to be a licensed architect in a foreign country. She said that her professor had turned the discussion of her project from a valid criticism of concept into a series of compliments about her hand-drawn renderings. To be fair, my classmate is very, very good at making hand-drawings, but even still…

There seems to be something about hand-drawings and sketches that critics respond positively to. As my guest crit said:

“A hand drawing is a direct representation of your idea. Its shows an idea exactly the way you imagine it. When you use the computer, you start by imagining something. Then you generally create your idea in it’s entirety and then need to negotiate with the computer to have it shown to you the way you’d originally imagined, its less direct this way.”

To me, it seems like my generation of architects relies almost entirely on computers to communicate ideas, neglecting things like presentation ability and sketching. I think this is why hand drawings are so fetishized. With such a strong focus on tools like Rhino, Revit, Illustrato, and Photoshop, hand drawings are almost a novelty. A student using Revit can spit out a fairly generic rendering (showing light streaming through windows onto a flight of stairs, for example) in less time, and with far less training, then an artist with pen and markers. But Morris’s classic handicraft mentality comes into play, and the hand drawing exerts a subversive psychological influence, appearing more valuable to the “distinguished” eye.

I forget the author (it may have been David Leatherbarrow in Architecture Oriented Otherwise) who said that sketches appeal to us because their rough unfinished nature allows us to implant our own ideas of what is possible into them. A finished work communicates its own, full nature, and although it can be beautiful, it is limited in that it is fully realized. Imagine the difference between Michelangelo’s David as it exist now, and the chunk of marble, just beginning to take shape, that it used to be. That is the speculative conceptual difference between a hand sketch and a computer rendering.

The whole thing is fairly interesting, and makes me want to continue improving my hand-drawn visual communication abilities.

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