Last year, The Drawing Center presented an exhibition of drawings by architect Lebbus Woods. The exhibit centered on “transformation as a recurring theme” [#1] and fully acknowledged Woods’ experimental tendencies. Of his work, the curator writes “his timeless architecture is not in a particular style or in response to a singular moment in the field; rather, it offers an opportunity to consider how built forms impact the individual and the collective, and reflect contemporary political, social and ideological conditions, and how one person contributes to the development and mutation of the built world.” Exhibitions such as these remind us that drawings have the potential to express that opportunity and reflection. See architectural sketches, photos, and other documentation of designers’ approaches – in this case, responding to New York’s Landmarks Law – at the Museum of the City of New York.
For anyone who has noticed that physical sketching spurs breakthroughs in a creative problem solving, The Primacy of Drawing by practicing artist Deanna Petherbridge is a reaffirming read. In a 2012 interview with Resolve40, Petherbridge says that “any amount of playing around with found digital images, still or moving, only goes [so] far. Invention is still only generated by the abstract dynamics of simple lines,” asserting that drawing is an innate component of creative thinking. In other words, sketching is primal [#2]. From this New York Times op-ed, it seems that architect Michael Graves agreed. He writes that “drawing by hand stimulates the imagination and allows us to speculate about ideas, a good sign that we’re truly alive.” Check out these 378 sketches and drawings, collected by the Italian National Trust and transformed into an app by Moleskin, to experienced the multifaceted power of a drawing.
The Draftery identifies as a platform for discussion about architectural drawings. Its curated collections [#3] take various forms, but they all support one central mission: ”to provide a limited context and pointed commentary on the ways in which drawings engage the world through their making—to dispel the belief that drawing is dead.” Curated collections can be incredibly valuable; they can foster discussion, provide a framework for research, and simplify an otherwise overwhelming abundance of something. But the act of casually curating (or whatever other term might be more appropriate) can also lead to compulsive or otherwise troublesome behavior. We are left considering both the costs and the benefits of curation, although it’s difficult not to appreciate collections such as this one by Nikita Shah.
When Le Corbusier was twenty-four, he traveled through Europe and kept a “legendary travel diary” of “highly personal impressions and visual notations” that has since been reproduced as the book Journey to the East. Le Corbusier is said to have considered the act of architectural drawing as a means for becoming “passionately involved” with the object that is being drawn, but researchers from the University of Hertfordshire have recently asserted that there is more to it. Specifically, in their paper “The Value of Architectural Sketches,” they write that “[a]rchitectural sketching can also be a means of becoming involved with a community who values architectural sketches – be that the architectural practice or the academic research community.” The act of drawing connects us, not only with objects but also with people and places, especially when it’s done in the field [#4]. Consider one man’s process of experiencing New York City by sketch at the upcoming exhibition of the ‘All the Buildings in New York’ project, on July 28th.
photos: installation image from Lebbeus Woods, Architect at The Drawing Center, NY. April 17- June 15, 2014. Photography by Cathy Carver. / image by Betsy Dadd / image by The Draftery / image of Laurel Mundy’s Field Kit