Ancona   1   Alex Ancona Professor Malcolm Campbell English 1103 5 December 2012 Has Drawing Gone the Way

of the Dodo Bird? Technology’s Effects on the Use of Drawing in Architecture Architecture is something that surrounds us everywhere we go. From the grocery store and church, to school and work, the buildings that we move past and through all define architecture in their own ways. Some are poor designs, the product of cheapness and demand, while others are masterpieces and considerably, works of art. The wellknown buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright, dotting the American landscape, and others from a more modern age, like the skyscrapers of the great cities have something in common. They all underwent an excruciating and extremely tedious design process that begins in most cases with an idea in the form of a drawing. But today, instead of using pencil and paper, most architects are turning to the benefits of computers and the latest software to assist in the design of a building. These programs have their perks, like quickening design processes and allowing more elaborate forms (previously inconceivable and crazy shapes), but could they lead to the downfall of drawing in the practice of Architecture? With computers doing all the work, why use pencil and paper? Drawing, although somewhat old-fashioned, still is necessary and an indispensible tool because of its significant role in the process of architecture. What could a piece of paper and a pencil possibly be useful for? For as long as buildings have been in existence, drawing has been used to plan and develop their

Ancona   2   designs. From the simple diagram to the up close detail, drawings represent what we see and show information that otherwise might be invisible, offering insight into an architects inspiration and ideas. As an architecture student myself drawing is a way to visualize and view the effects of the design choices I have made. The value of doing drawings is that one can see the affects of a decision before going into production of a final design. Brock Read summarizes Robert D. Ott’s, dean of Catholic University of America’s School of Architecture, words in an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Hand modeling and even hand drawing, he argues, teach young architects valuable lessons: to think carefully about every planning decision, to design clean and functional buildings, and to appreciate the nuances of shadow and shape” (Read). Even from my own experiences, this couldn’t be more accurate; drawings are a way for me to work out a problem. It enables the architect to come up with as many or as few iterations of a project as they need in order to end with the best design possible. It is more than just pencil and paper; drawings are a way of thinking. According to practicing architect, Michael Graves in “Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing,” published in the New York Times, “Drawings are not just end products: they are part of the thought process of architectural design. Drawings express the interaction of our minds, eyes and hands” (Graves). The easiest way to see what I am thinking as a student is to draw. Just as writers jot down ideas and scribble outlines, architects draw to make note of ideas. Graves goes on further to define the three types of drawings he does, “the ‘referential sketch,’ the ‘preparatory study’ and the ‘definitive drawing’, “ each with their own purpose and uses” (Graves). Definitive drawings are the clean, crisp lines on fancy glossy paper you see hanging on the walls of studios or presented before a client. They are the ones that win

Ancona   3   over a panel of judges deciding who to hire or the drawings that document the plans for a historic building now demolished. The Definitive drawing is the most readable of all drawings, and usually includes the most detail. Most of us would refer to these as “blueprints.” However, a plan of a building is only one possibility. Definitive drawings can offer looks inside buildings, through sections, and illustrate the finished space in a rendered drawing. Because many architects wish to present the most beautiful work, definitive drawings “are almost universally produced on the computer nowadays” (Graves). It is my opinion as an architect student that the easiest way to convey a design to an audience is clarity. Computers offer clarity and consistency that sometimes hand drawings can’t, unless meticulously drafted. No matter which method of creation, surely an architect doesn’t just begin and end with a definitive drawing. Architecture is a process and with drawing at its core, it is no surprise that something else must come before. A referential sketch may be the beginning for a design, an idea seen elsewhere, a source of inspiration. It is these drawings that many architects return to later countless times for a place to start in the design process. Michael Graves says about this type of drawing, “The referential sketch serves as a visual diary, a record of an architect’s discovery…It’s not likely to represent ‘reality,’ but rather to capture an idea” (Graves). Even in my own studies of architecture here at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, referential sketches have their place. We draw the most important concept so that when finished with a design, and in comparison between the two, one can look and ask, did I do what the diagram shows? Referential sketches are used as guides to avoid unnecessary embellishments and design distractions. They protect against a

Ancona   4   “Frankenstein” product, the result of thoughtless additions without consultation of a drawing. When a drawing is done, it forces the artist to realize and actually see what they are looking at; they are recording and building information. The studio desks of many architects are probably not what would be expected. Other than ordered and organized, paper and sketches are the occupants, showing the chronology of drawing after drawing. They show a process that results in a “personal, emotional connection with the work,” (Graves) something that a computer just won’t do. Technology results in a design that is done more by the computer itself than the architect. Graves supports this in saying, “Buildings are no longer just designed visually and spatially; they are ‘computed’ via interconnected databases” (Graves). Architects have made it clear that technology has its benefits. It has spread into many of the firms across the country and is part of the education that many aspiring architects get. Besides we’ll take any assistance we can get in shortening the work from an all-nighter to a couple of hours. The first reason that Architects use programs is just that. It is quicker! Computers, with their automated steps and processes assist the architect in almost every imaginable way. It can rotate a piece of the design, cut a section, show a certain view—anything the Architect wants, the computer can do it. But does the shorter amount of time spent actually designing mean that the thought is less? Architect and Assistant Professor at the University of Miami, Jacob Brillhart, says in an article from Classicist, “The blind dependence on CAD and other software and other tools increases after architecture school as young designers continue to design things they do not understand. Working under severe time constraints, they make maximum use of the copy and paste commands, pulling details, elevations and wall sections from past projects

Ancona   5   and reassembling them” (Brillhart). If a student can simply copy and paste, then why take the time to design something new? A problem with this sort of work is that the result is not architecture, but rather a pieced together puzzle of past projects. Brillhart says further, “that the computer’s shortcuts unintentionally create a digital vacuum in terms of scale, diminish our understanding of designs, and weaken our editing process” (Brillhart). With a computer one can simply input a few keystrokes and the task is instantaneously done, a “drawing” is done without once looking at the consequences and results. He goes on to add, “When one draws, one understands and remembers; when one uses the right click command, one does neither” (Brillhart). Although  more  efficient  in  a  way,  programs   that  replace  drawing  take  away  part  of  the  architectural  design  process.   So  is  drawing  heading  the  way  of  the  Dodo  Bird?  Is  there  a  possibility  that  

computers  will  inevitably  replace  the  pencil  as  the  primary  tool  in  an  architect’s   office?  For  some  the  answer  seems  quite  obvious.    Quoted  in  “Planning  with  Pixels,   Not  Pencil,”  an  article  from  the  Chronicle  for  Higher  Education,  Paul  S.  Anderson  says   "The  discipline  could  be  in  the  midst  of  an  enormous  shift…I  don't  think  this  will   necessarily  happen,  but  I  could  certainly  anticipate,  20  years  from  now,  never  seeing   anyone  drawing  by  hand”  (Read).    With  additional  methods  in  design  technology   being  introduced  and  used  in  the  architectural  field  more  commonly  than  ever   before,  it’s  not  difficult  to  see  why  this  could  be  expected.  Brock  Read  says  in   “Planning  with  Pixels,  Not  Pencils”  that,  “Supporters  of  technology  in  collegiate   architecture  programs  argue  that  their  institutions  must  fight  to  stay  relevant  to  a   job  market  that  all  but  demands  technological  know-­‐how”  (Read).    Preparation  for   the  job  market  is  definitely  important,  but  is  it  worth  giving  up  a  skill  such  as  

Ancona   6   drawing?  Read  writes  on,  “They  also  worry  that  students  who  become  enraptured   with  computers  will  miss  lessons  that  can  be  taught  only  through  hand  drawing  and   model  building”  (Read).  The  idea  of  leaving  behind  the  primary  skill  in  which   architecture  is  based  is  a  scary  thought  to  some  professionals  as  well.  Michael   Graves  says,  “Architecture  cannot  divorce  itself  from  drawing,  no  matter  how   impressive  technology  gets”  (Graves).    But  this  doesn’t  mean  that  technology  cannot   have  its  place  in  the  field  with  drawings.  Jacob  Brillhart  supports  this  in  saying,   “Software  technologies,  when  used  to  supplement  or  expedite  processes  of  design,   are  invaluable.    The  computer  unquestionably  belongs  in  schools  and  architectural   offices.  However,  the  fundamentals  of  architectural  design  are  still  rooted  in  hand   drawing”  (Brillhart).    Hopefully  this  remains  true,  as  drawing  has  already  played  in   important  role  in  my  Architecture  education  as  well  as  being  a  rewarding   experience,  whether  in  design  or  observation.  Drawing  has  been  a  form  of   expression;  part  of  art  for  centuries  and  it  is  the  combination  of  this  age-­‐old  skill   with  the  technologies  of  today  that  makes  Architecture  the  interesting  and   intriguing  field  that  it  is.  It  is  a  balance  between  the  two  that  will  result  in  the  best   Architecture.        

Ancona   7   Works  Cited     Brillhart, Jacob. “Architectural Drawing in the Digital Age.” Classicist. 9. (2010): 114121. Print.   Graves, Michael. “Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing.” The New York Times 1 Sep. 2012. Web.   Read, Brock. “Planning With Pixels, Not Pencils.” Chronicle of Higher Education 50.12 (2003): A29. Web.