Digital Sketches

Architects, architectural educators, and students have recently been utilizing digital means to question l ikeness and expand upon definitions of sketches as ' outlines', or as ' preliminary or preparatory' to something else. If a sketch has temporal qualities, then it is possible to ask whether digital manipulations can be considered sketches. Once used primarily for presentation renderings and construction documents, drawings constructed digitally contain several elements that could unite them under the label of 'sketches'.

Many programs for the computer allow quick manipulation of form. This software encourages the basic shapes of a future building to be constructed in a few minutes. The fact that these digital musings are in a machine, and easily changed, means that their comparison to sketches becomes more evident. In most cases, these applications permit simple form generation that can be refined and reworked at a later time. The fact that they procreate with a click of the hand means they do not require the pondering of a rendering. The ability to ' pull' a corner of a plane into a three-dimensional form makes building solids easy, but this process often limits the images on the screen to be simple platonic shapes. Thus, these simple forms may replicate the sketches' characteristic of being an 'outline'. In most cases, these simple forms, often wire frame, are the beginnings for further manipulation and elaboration causing them to act as preliminary to a completed design. They also do not need to, at this early stage, replicate the completed building in its entirety. The loose and irresponsible connections that defy gravity or construction conventions are sufficient for conceptualization. Their beauty lies in their ability to be easily deformed and dissected.

This digital image (Figure 6.2) demonstrates qualities of a sketch. Mark Foster Gage and Marc Clemenceau Bailly opened their firm Gage/Clemenceau Architects in 2002. Based in New York City, their work has included residential renovations, small buildings, and competitions. They are

FIGURE 6.2 Mark Foster Gage; Wallpaper.

both educators and see their office as a laboratory of investigation. The philosophy of their practice embraces continual experimentation with shapes and new technologies.

This study, entitled Wallpaper, is a preliminary sketch for a library addition in Stockholm, Sweden. These architects were exploring a series of floor plates resembling leaves on a stalk, cantilevered, and unlike traditional stacked floors. The petal-like floors appear organic, with light oval extensions. The translucency of the technique adds to their airy lightness. The construction of the shapes gives them dimension rather than resembling floors. For Gage and Bailly, these images suggest a conceptual beginning with more affinity to a sketch than a floor plan. Experimenting with overlapping form does not question the connections or construction techniques but instead presents provocative suggestions about the future of architectural shape. As a preliminary rendering for the library addition in Stockholm, the leaves and stalks now take three-dimensional form. Strewn across the page, the shapes are devoid of context and suggest many possibilities to their makers.

A second sketch from Gage/Clemenceau Architects (Figure 6.3) appears to propose an architectural space. Called the VERY LARGE INTERIOR apocalypse, this white shiny future-esque space considers scale and structure. The fluid forms wind and flow resembling molded plastic. Using digital means to explore the potentialities of new materials, this sketch evokes a future at the same time as it defines a plausible construction. The computer, with little concern for gravity and structural integrity, may subscribe to a strategy rather than a reality. The open form defines spaces that drift into a darkened background. Gage implies that this perspective is a quick sketch to visualize the quality of the interior space. It evokes more emotion and associative imagination than information about enclosure.

In another example from Gage/Clemenceau Architects, Figure 6.4 describes the open-ended qualities that make some of these digital images comparable to sketches. Once formed, allusions and associations can suggest various functions to the architects who create them. Designers often draw abstractly hoping to receive inspiration, or direction, from the images that emerge from the

FIGURE 6.3 Mark Foster Gage; VERY LARGE INTERIOR apocalypse.

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