The drawing is important for me

Although it is often forced to
replace the building.
But we never make a drawing
for its own sake.
It is much more a “building” of
an idea on paper. The first,
emotional confrontation with
the psychic spaces of the
project.

Wolf D. Prix
1968/69

Role models

When I was studying architecture I was fascinated by the art of Leonardo, especially how he did the shadows. Instead of painting the surface he drew thin lines in different angles so that you could see the density. I was also fascinated by the graphics of Walter Pichler, imagining that one can walk through the Mediterranean cities; I loved the montages of the future architecture of Raimund Abraham. And what I leaned from them was:

Drawing is thinking

When you draw you think. When you draw a building you have to imagine the building’s existence, and by fixing it on the paper you walk through its spaces. You imagine and define it structures, the materials and you even can fantasize about the emotional impact. All the things that make a building a building are outlined in this moment.
Nowadays I only draw suns, clouds, birds and flying houses, I mean ‘anti gravity’ houses.

The start & the end

When I started drawing, I only used pencils. The very last drawing I intentionally drew with my pencil was a draft of a tattoo on my right shoulder. This was 15 years ago, and since then I only use pens, ballpoint pens and felt-tip pencils. Pencil drawing definitely belongs to the past for me, because now I am building.

O.N.

Oscar Niemeyer for example, he still likes to draw. He likes to explain his buildings through big drawings on a board, which are more diagrams than carefully done drawings, I would say. He explained to me six buildings he was doing and he gave me the six drawings as a gift.

Pornography vs. open systems

There are no drawings anymore in the architectural presentation, only computer renderings. Colourful slick renderings are published which I would like to call architectural pornographies because they promise more than they can deliver in reality. Of course we use all available computer programs to define the concepts of the future houses because, to be honest, for example when drawing dynamic forces, it’s impossible to draw a building which gets its form from the wind. But if you only use a program, then your system (in thinking and doing) becomes a closed one. And closed systems are authoritarian systems, and I want to go for open systems – systems which create the possibility for self-determination. And if you want to get open systems you have to use three tools: drawing, model and the computer.

Entwerfen

The German word for designing is “entwerfen”. And the German language is very precise in this case. It describes the very complex and unconscious procedure through which things come into the sunlight of reality.

I would like to give an example: a house somewhere in California. We talked a lot with the client, but were never thinking about architectural solutions in terms of spaces, in terms of rooms or organization. We were always talking about the feeling that a house should evoke. And one day, I remember exactly the table where I was sitting, that day I had a feeling as if I was standing in the house, and in order not to be led too straight by the drawings, by the graphics of the drawings, I closed my eyes and used my hand and the pencil as a seismograph for the notation of this feeling. From there on it was easy to use the lines as power lines to create a model. “Lines of forces” means thinking in structural, organizational terms, on one hand, adding to the X-Y lines the Z line. So we always said that our drawings show ground plan, section, detail and view at the same time. On the other hand we never thought about constraints. I still think in this moment, if you get rid of the constraints then you can liberate the space. I would like to compare this procedure with the moment when a whale jumps from the water and literally flies. The whale is not a fish, it`s a mammal living in the water. In this moment the whale swaps the paradigms air and water: 30 tons can fly.

Groundbreaking

The moment of breaking the ground is a very crucial moment for me because that’s the moment when an imagined building becomes a real building.

It’s alright

The three words for evaluating architecture in the near future (the digital world stays only in our short-term memory and will therefore soon be over) will be authenticity, intimacy and intensity. Maybe I will grab a pencil again.