Architects Draw

A swift sketch, the architect’s drawing, is still the most direct and spontaneous expression of one’s relation to a particular construction. The degree of its vagueness, often due to the swiftness of sketching, broadens the associative field of the viewer. In a certain sense he takes part in the designing process.

We could argue that an overcomplete drawing can not be good, because vagueness conveys more than overly structured certainty. The other way round, any analogy of this concept applied to an architectural construction would cause grave consequences and tragic outcomes. From this way of seeing things, we can draw the conclusion that the associative process of a sketch is an indicator per se. In this way, a sketch can put forward its claim to autonomy and becomes, a collector’s item.

Many architects, obsessed with the contemporary dispassionate approach, proclaim that a sketch, a spontaneous drawing, already has something old-fashioned or coy about it, some self-pity, especially in those cases when no realisation follows. It is therefore just an exercise for dreamers or flagellants. This thesis draws on the view that in our telematic and digital lifestyle the reality of an image different from that produced by the sketch has been established. The specific flavour of drawing, they say, is no more effective.

A sketch has always been an integrative part of planning. Through a scribbled exploration on paper, we would enter the object on tiptoe. However, today we can attain this Hamletian procedure through multicoloured virtual artefacts and renderings by a much more affirmative and dazzling variety of the image. The real object is accordingly comprehended by a much more precise construction than the drawing could ever be. What was earlier represented by the real construction, the top of the mountain, the final happy ending, is nowadays mostly reversed. In its appearance and tactile experience, the completed building is hardly able to fulfil the promise made by the previous virtual image and it is frequently humiliated by it.

The awareness of this reversal in the planning process brings us again to the power of vagueness, of indicated references, the holy chance, simply to the possibilities of sketching. Can the desired reality still be achieved without the agency of or in parallel to the virtual transfer picture through the complex perceptional layers of drawing, while here, as previously said, a chance, a slip of the pencil on paper may lead to new meanings and notions? In the sketching process, the drawing becomes a stigma and initiation, where through self-questioning, the vivacity of search and doubt, diagonally intersected ideograms could also be developed – both project-related and visionary. It is in this exorcising process that a sketch shows its specific charm of the simultaneous absence and presence of the realistic object.

Figures and spaces are continuously created and discarded until ultimately generally valid decisions are amalgamated. As a consequence, the sketch, regarding its code, carries both personal and, to a high degree, collective emblematics. Sketch and construction are two faces of the same coin, they can not be separated, but they may be juxtaposed and can punish each other.

However, a sketch or a drawing has it relatively easy. From its immaterial platform, it only enables a shift of its notions into the material world. It is a spiritual image of the real, a substitute which is created on paper by thinking aloud. Similarly to musical notation it creates a pre-image of that which it actually wants to present. It can not substitute for matter and space. It becomes evidence of the relationship between the spiritual and material appearance. Thus the architectural sketch remains a graphic discourse on a surface and its empirical proposition only a diagram of the physical construction. However, precisely in this oscillation and in this borderline movement we find the specific poetics of the drawing. An additional charm lies in decoding it and establishing whether it is a piece of the construction puzzle, a part of a forestalled realisation, a general vision or only an aestheticised excuse for the architect. A good drawing can never be clear, it refuses the unambiguousness of the ultimate answer. The most difficult thing with drawing is to know when it is time to stop.

/ Published first in: Oris, IDEJAS, OUTLINE of ideas = Ideen Umrissen. (ex. cat.) Zagreb, 2005. 2nd. Ed./