Although imagination and fantasy are virtually synonymous, fantasy includes an additional dimension of creativity, illusion, or hallucination. Thinkers throughout history, and especially during the Renaissance, have speculated about the mind 's ability to create. Creative inspiration may be credited to an expanded associative capacity of certain individuals or it may be attributed to magic or divine intervention. Another word, fancy, which has a similar meaning, describes a fantastic or whimsical nature or an impression or fantastic invention created by the mind. This investigation will shed light on the importance of creative imagination in the act of architectural sketching.
If fantasy constitutes envisioning the unknown, then the significance of an architectural sketch that epitomizes the unknown becomes evident. Although architectural sketches are used in many ways, one important aspect involves what they reveal about the yet unseen architecture. Rudolf and Margot Wittkower write in their book Born Under Saturn that in the history of the western world, only twice were artists elevated from craftsmen to inspired artists: in fourth-century Greece and in fifteenth-century Italy (1963). In this time of raised consciousness pertaining to artists in society, the divine inspiration they seemed to possess was not limited to specific media. The artist was likened, for example, to the poet who was felt to embody creative imagination, and all the arts were entwined in a concept of design (Gordon, 1975).
3 From a statement by Cesar Pelli when asked about his thinking while completing this sketch.
Fantasia may mean creative imagination, but this was not originally the case (Summers, 1981). When the word phantasia first appeared in western literature, it meant the appearance or the reflection of a thing, and was a metaphor of the mind as a mirror. With fantasy and imagination having similar meaning, the nearest Greek equivalent to imagination comes from ' "to be like" or "capable of being compared" ' (Bundy, 1927: 11). The reflection, then, is a copy or imitation, although the likeness need not be a replica. David Summers writes that phantasia and a higher reality are linked by divination, writing of the two sides of fantasy '.one that reflects the world of sense, and another, allied with memory, that presents the reflected image to the higher faculties of the soul.' He continues by saying that this ' image' has been in ' combinatory fantasy to make "what had never been seen"' (1981, 108).
It was the talent of the artist to make things that had never been seen before. The layman, in awe of the artist able to create totally bizarre illusions, gave the artist a reputation as a thaumatur-gist (Summers, 1981). The myth was perpetuated by the artists themselves and those who wrote about them. Giorgio Vasari, for example, in his book on the lives of Renaissance artists, plays on the quirks and chance beginnings which gave these artists mythical proportions, accentuating the artists' eccentric behavior, genius, madness, and melancholy.
Artists and architects were seen as having special abilities sanctioned by a supreme being. As an example, it was reported by Vasari that the artist Fra Angelico did not retouch his paintings after they were finished because God 's will was done through the artist 's hand (1946). Kris and Kurz provide another example from an eleventh-century Chinese painter who advised artists to look to a broken wall as inspiration for landscape painting. ' For them, he said, you can let your brush follow the play of your imagination, and the result will be heavenly and not human' (1979: 47). Though from different periods and different continents, these two views hold artists' inspiration to be divine. The artist was described as being possessed or as having 'poetic madness' (mania and techne) (Barasch, 1985).
The Renaissance viewed artists, along with poets, in the ' circle of inspired creators ' (Wittkower and Wittkower, 1963: 98). Their concept of the divino artista, or divine artist, had two meanings, which divided the artist from laymen. Wittkower states, ' [i]t was not only derived from Plato 's theory of poetical enthusiasm but also from the medieval idea of God the Father as artist: as architect of the universe ' (1963: 98). The artist, able to recognize divine beauty, was driven to divine madness and, consequently, these artists were forgiven eccentric behavior, distinctive of their creative imaginations.
There are many examples of writers of the Renaissance who expound on the connection between fantasy and madness. One is Dante Alighieri who was a writer with incredible visual qualities, he ' ..affirms more powerfully than anyone before him — both in theory and creative accomplishment — that fantasy was much greater than the sum of its parts.he speaks of fantasy (or imagination) as a force initiated by divine grace which, like the intellect it serves, is able to approach the threshold of the vision of light itself ' (Summers, 81: 119). Dante was unwilling to view imagination as images worked on by our minds, as a sole definition. He was alluding to an intuitive God-given talent that enters a realm beyond: of magic, divination or invenzione.
David Summers, in trying to demarcate the boundaries of fantasia as used by Michelangelo, writes ' ...fantasia is closest in meaning to invenzione' (1981: 103). A term used extensively in the Renaissance, invenzione, resembles the modern meaning to invent: to originate as a product of one 's own device, or to make up or fabricate. The word mvenzione is interesting in the way it became connected with the arts. ' Invention' originated as a technical term from rhetoric. It was primary in the five-part division of rhetoric, and consisted of ' .the finding out or selection of topics to be treated, or arguments to be used' (Gordon, 1975: 93). During the Renaissance period, it was used commonly in poetic theory, with a definition similar to that held in rhetoric; 'invention' now holds a creative connotation.
Invention is literally the finding of the subject of the poem. Invention is also equated with the fable or fiction of the poem.. .The 'invention' is the fable itself and the theme it carries. It is close to the words
'argument' and 'device' and should be taken with them. When the fable is stated as a narrative it is the 'argument', the plot-line; but argument can also mean the subject, the theme illustrated by the fable. 'Device' means plot-line, fable or narrative. 'Invention' is the most inclusive term. (Gordon, 1975: 82)
This explanation is interesting for architecture, since the invention suggests an architectural ' concept'. Invention as a form recalls disegno'.. .in Vasari 's sense: the lines which express the mental conception' (Gordon, 1975: 95). This is also reminiscent of Alberti 's thoughts on lineamenta (1988). The 'Idea' or design is ultimately important in the artistic process, since sketches facilitate concepts. 'Design, then, could mean the expression of the Idea, or conception, or invention; and it could even mean the Idea, or conception, or invention, itself; and could even be regarded, as Zuccari regarded it, as the sign, the stamp of God in man' (Gordon, 1975: 95—97).
The design, invenzione, and imagination are simultaneous notions and primary sources of human creativity. This approach was accepted from the time of Plato, through the Renaissance, and again by the Romantics. Alternately, German and British poets and philosophers disagreed and felt 'fancy' and ' imagination' could not be considered the same. One quality of imagination produces a synthesis of something new (a creative act), but not all acts of the imagination are creative. Often the imagination provides only a mental impression from memory, which may not involve anything new. On the other hand, creative acts can also happen through seemingly uncreative methods such as reasoning and intellectual gestation (Casey, 1976).
An unintentional creative act may approach the unexplainable and, consequently, be considered inspiration. The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'to inspire' as to breathe or blow into or upon. It also means to simulate creative activity in an act; to bring about or produce. ' Inspiration' thus denotes the ability to make something entirely new or to bring to life.
Leonardo da Vinci suggested that one good method of inspiration was to observe stains on rocks. He felt there were multiple images in those stains, which could provide stimulation for various compositions and scenes. Every child has experienced lying in the grass and finding animals in the shapes of clouds. Likewise, Hubert Damisch has devoted a whole book to the theory of clouds (1972). He uses examples from painting to discuss semiotic issues, and one concept that seems relevant when discussing fantasy comes from this study.
Damisch describes a practice in China of blowing powder through cotton to make images of clouds. It is possible to differentiate between sketchers versus blowers of clouds, in that the sketch is the line on the paper but the cloud — powder blown through cotton — has an incredible vagueness. Damisch likens the vagueness of the cloud to infinity and, consequently, the cloud, then, could be anything; it has endless possibilities. ' [A] similar thought in connection with another group of chance configurations — clouds: "The mind 's own power to shape now boldly wakes, as definite from indefinite it makes" ' (Kris & Kurz, 1979: 47). In play, clouds can be anything they are reminiscent of, or anything the mind can suppose; their infinite vagueness allows for pure possibility.
Fantasy and possibilizing can be accompanied by another aspect of creative inspiration. Andre Breton, a representative of the Surrealist Movement, writes about a game that views creativity in a different way. The game was called the Exquisite Corpse (Figure 3.14) and was played in a group, where each player in turn drew a sketch or partial image, turned over the edge of the paper and passed it to the next player (Waldberg, 1965). The resulting image was fantastical, comical and absurd in its incongruous combination. The accidental quality was vital to the strange juxtaposition of images. The Exquisite Corpse is not unlike the stains on rocks or cloud formations since they all entail a haphazard image. They are projections onto a vague image, which leads into a more specific (named) image. How the image is eventually perceived depends to a certain degree on the formation of projections onto that image and, similarly, it is an interpretation that allows the mind to comprehend the absurdity of the combination.
One last aspect of fantasy which relates to inspiration involves revelation and eureka. Revelation as a divine disclosure is very similar to inspiration. If a totally random thought occurs to the mind, and it is impossible to understand its origins, it might be easy to find divinity in its origin.
Of course, this differs over cultures, periods of history, and personal belief, but the point here is that of unexplained inspiration. The capacity for memory to be retained, and work suddenly with imagination, is exciting and quite unexplained. Thoughts need to overlap for some time in our bodies, as body memory or mneme, before an occurrence of ' eureka'. It is conceivable how this activity might work for architects. The associative overlapping can happen visually on paper, sometimes as hands subconsciously scribble. In a similar way, thinking continuously about the project will lead to the solution in the imagination.
This discussion now turns to the wonderful sketches of Sir Norman Foster. An architect with an incredible ability to envision the tall building in context of major cities, his work always
undertakes the opportunities for a technological approach. His work, once viewed as 'High Tech ' , is sensitive to innovative structure and materiality. Extremely diverse, his projects include the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank, the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge and the New German Parliament (Reichstag) in Berlin. Foster has received many awards from the Royal Institute of British Architects including the Gold Medal. He was awarded the Pritzker Prize in Architecture in 1999 and has received the Premier Architecture Award from the Royal Academy in London, as well as a Knighthood from the Queen of England.
This sketch (Figure 3.15) is a study for the dome of the historic Reichstag. Recognizing humans can imagine ' whatever and however we would like ' , this sketch explores the form and circulation structure of the dome. Not a sketch concerned with first inspiration, this sketch employs drawing to imagine a difficult form, particularly complex because at the time of the drawing it did not exist. The ramps that flow through the circular space are difficult to visualize. Foster employed words to assist with this difficult task. By diagramming and explaining the flow of pedestrian traffic on the spiral ramps, he was thinking through the three-dimensional problem on a two-dimensional surface. Using spontaneity and controlledness, Foster was pondering the circulation patterns. Depending on the visual for inspiration, he was also limiting his focus. Thinking primarily of the opportunities at hand, he presented the information on one page, not straying from the topic. Opening up the range of possibilities, he has diagrammed the space with simple lines and arrows. Note how the several small sketches encircle the perspective view. The three-dimensional view (even with the context of clouds) tests the ' look' of the final product and the diagrams test the function. In a manner of indeterminacy, the perspective does not completely explain the dome; it remains sufficiently vague to project possible refinement. If a sketch that reveals the future is a fantasy, Foster's sketch articulates a vision of what can be.
A sketch page (Figure 3.16) by Robert Venturi, of the firm Venturi Scott Brown Architects in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, concludes this chapter with the idea of the imagination as a function of memory as an inspiration for fantasy. This image is a beautifully precise preliminary sketch for the Gordon Wu Hall at Princeton University. On the left side of the page are two façades,
FIGURE 3.16 Robert Venturi; Gordon Wu Hall.
and on the right are variations, possibilities for the design of a detail. Sketched with bold lines from a felt marker, Venturi has articulated historic references onto the façade of the building. The large pediment and exaggerated arches evoke an imaginative use of past to present the future in new form. The clear and definitive lines show Venturi 's confidence with the genre and the medium.
The fact that such a precise sketch communicated the historic language in a few lines begins to suggest a caricature. As with a caricature, the sketch finds the most pertinent and salient features to demonstrate intent. The arched features to the right demonstrate a search for form, as if he was using his imagination to explore alternatives to a particular visual identity. The briefness of the sketch shows best in the columns on the elevation — a small circle and a loop. On the column to the right, the loop was left incomplete. It was unnecessary to finish the column as the impression could be evaluated as it is. Also, the quickness necessary to view the entirety for evaluation may have precluded the importance of the finished column. With one stroke the street and adjacent storefronts were placed. The beauty of this sketch is Venturi 's ability to refine historic detail to its essence. As imagination can also be defined as an act of recombination, this building incorporates layers of memory, placing elements in new juxtaposition.
Fantasy has a long history in relation to art and inspiration, starting with the argument of rhetoric and its close associate, invenzione. The inspiration of the creative person, being so difficult to understand, took on divine proportions. The innate talent for making fantastical images seems to be intuitive and displays skills which add to creative abilities. Although architects use their imaginations to fantasize about that which is unknown, fantasy seems to be something more. The action of sketching seems to facilitate the powers of fantasy to help view new combinations and bring mental impressions forward from memory. The following expresses the exquisite relationship between sketches and fantasy:
These drawings should be seen not as the expression of an idea existing in the artist's mind, but rather as a set of initial marks and touches of the crayon, which might freely be developed as ornament, or figures, or articulating members, so that in progressive superimposed drafts, the concetto was worked toward a final resolution of elements, according to the artist's fantasia. (Summers, 1981: 125)
Memory, imagination and fantasy drive the activity of sketching. These complex mental faculties are the mind 's image-making functions. When sketching, the architect is constructing images whose use depends on anticipation and intentionality. The making of these images stems from memories of past experiences. Reorganized, the images translate experiences into a new form. The sketch becomes the dialogue and also the facilitator of these processes which, because of human touch, is an extension of the thinking faculty for architects.
Was this article helpful?