The Nature Of Sketches

The ' look' of a sketch is not as important as the role it plays in the design process. Architects have at some times used sketches extensively and, in other periods, employed different modes of representation. Greek architects designed using words and precedent, and consequently sketches are not mentioned. Details were described by the use of Paradeigma (Coulton, 1977: 55—58). Medieval builders used full-scale templates and models but relied mostly on plans. Renaissance architects used section perspective drawings along with plans and elevations. Many sketches by Alberti, Michelangelo, and Leonardo are preserved and reflect their interest in orthographic projections. Likewise, students of the Ecole des Beaux Arts used plan, section and elevation. When conceiving a project they produced a drawing called an Equisse (Hewitt, 1985: 2).

Modern architects clearly use sketches to a great degree. Le Corbusier, for example, sketched in many notebooks and referred back to them often (Le Corbusier, 1981). Architects today use sketches extensively, even to publish and exhibit their conceptual images, and architects such as Frank Gehry and Aldo Rossi have exceptionally thoughtful sketches (Smith, 2005).

The drawing in architecture is a look to the past, present and the future as much as it is a mode for understanding. Filarete, the Renaissance architect, writes that drawings are extremely valuable in representing what a building will be:

It is impossible to explain clearly this business of building if it is not seen in a drawing. It is even difficult to understand it in a drawing. Anyone who does not understand drawing cannot understand it well, for it is more difficult to understand a drawing than it is to draw...For this [reason] let no one value drawing lightly. There is nothing made by the hand that does not partake of drawing in one way or another. Anyone who wishes to know it as it should be [known] can only do it by great exertion of the intellect. (Filarete, 1965: 70)

Drawing is a general term, whereas sketching is a specific technique within the category of drawing. Both can take the form of action or object, verb or noun, as they each imply movement. These words can also be analogies for other actions not involving a specific mark on paper. ' To draw on' , 'to draw it up ' and 'back to the drawing board' are phrases in the vernacular that do not necessarily mean actual rendering. A quick skit by a comedian is deemed a 'sketch' although it does not involve the mark of a pencil. A dictionary 's definitions of 'draw' reveal some intriguing concepts:

Draw — 1. 6. 16. To cause to come, move, or go (from or to someplace, position or condition); to lead, bring, take, convey, put.42. To cause a flow of (blood, matter, 'humors') to a particular part.48. To deduce, infer.59. 66. To make a demand or draft upon (a person, his memory, imagination, etc.) for resources or supplies of any kind. (Oxford English Dictionary)

This definition allows a comprehensive dimension of the word draw and provides the ability to see meanings inherent in the word. Often, looking to definitions provides a new interpretation by which unusual connotations may appear. For example, the first definition of draw refers to action: to cause (anything) to move toward oneself by the application of force or to pull. The implication is that drawing is an intentional action, a movement towards a goal. The next definition — to contract, cause to shrink; to pull out of shape or out of place, to distort — emphasizes the notion of distortion that evokes the exaggeration and transformation of caricature and the grotesque.

Action also figures in the definition 'to cause to come' or 'to lead'; the 'leading' sense of the word draw has connotations for architecture. Drawing may lead to architecture, or the architect can 'lead' the building through drawing. The movement of the line can also 'lead' the architect 's eye and thus the mind. Another definition expresses the meaning of draw as 'to cause to flow'. This may be echoed in the beginning sketches of an architectural design process. The quick sketches and analogies, and the coordination of eye, hand, and brain are the thought processes which may encourage architecture 'to flow' forth.

The ability of drawings to help architects 'deduce or infer' is also distinctive of their capacity to assist in making design conclusions. A later definition suggests the drawing's capability to act as architectural representation because the drawing makes a demand upon a person's memory or mental image-making capacities. To draw on resources compels the 'drawing' to pull out the assets of the architect.

A more obscure definition — to trace (a line or figure) by drawing a pencil, pen, or the like, across a surface; to cut (a furrow) by drawing a ploughshare through the soil, and to determine or define the limit between two things or groups — suggests ' draw' as the movement across a surface where the connotation of the object (as the line) is implied. Subsequently, the drawing of a ploughshare through the soil might suggest that the scar on the land is a drawing. This large-scale drawing allows a fresh consideration of what a drawing is, its techniques and media. This is reminiscent of Alberti 's use of the word Lineamenta, which translated by Joseph Rykwert means ' lines', or 'linear characteristics ' (Alberti, 1988: 7, 422—423). This 'trough line ' has linear characteristics and questions how a line can be a demarcation. It is possible to wonder whether a three-dimensional ditch can be a line and how theories of representation might translate such a concept.

Authors writing about art and basic design stress that drawing involves line. At the most basic level David Lauer describes a line as ' a mark made by a pointed tool ' (Lauer, 1979: 151). Drawing involves making marks with a pointed tool, and those marks are initiated by movement and a force. In reverse, eyes follow a line, and with that action the 'line 's potential to suggest motion is basic ' (Lauer, 1979: 151). A line or mark made with the bodily action of hands has the ability to cause reflective action as it attracts the human eye to follow it. This cognitive action spurs new associative thoughts, as the line evokes emotional associations (Lauer, 1979).

Filarete writes about what mathematicians knew in the Renaissance: that a line consisted of dots placed consecutively in space (Filarete, 1965). The connection of dots marks time, as do the associative and active qualities of line, so that line and also drawing itself evoke allusions to memory. This seems especially possible when thinking of one aspect of the word l ine: that of lineage. The motion of line and drawings leads to a form of drawing which is the sketch.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a sketch is a brief description or outline ' to give the essential facts or points of, without going into details ' . It can also be a two-dimensional or three-dimensional action documenting primary features of something or ' as preliminary or preparatory to further development ' . For the sake of this book it will be assumed that the word sketch means a two-dimensional mark. The sketches may or may not be quick in terms of time, or necessarily lacking in detail. The sketch for an architect may be a mode to discover a concept at the beginning of a project, but it can be used in all stages of the design process and even as an observational recording long after the building is constructed. Werner Oechslin writes about a historical definition of the sketch:

In 1681, Baldinucci wrote in his Vocabulario Toscano dell 'Arte del Disegno:

'Sketch /sketches: what the painters call those extremely light strokes of the brush or pencil which they use to outline their concepts without elaborating them to any greater detail; that is what they call sketching'.. .the Italians call them Squizzi, from squizzare, meaning to run out and pour out forcefully.

(Oechslin, 1982, 101-103)

'To run out' suggests motion, a distinctive quality of sketches. Certainly 'to run out' and 'pour out forcefully' suggest the sketch 's speed, but it is not necessary that the sketch be completed quickly. 'Quickness' is inherent in a sketch, but the quickness is not only a matter of time.

Much of the ' motion' of a sketch comes from the physical action of the body. Holding ' the pointed tool ' and making it move is vital to an aspect of drawing. In touching the drawing, the tool becomes an extension of the body and reflects the human body. The psychologist and philosopher James Gibson writes about human contact with a drawing: ' the movement of the tool over the surface is both felt and seen' (Gibson, 1979: 275). The ' gesture' of this intimate participation with a sketch gives it meaning and individuality. The control of hand on drawing tool yields not a consistent line but one that is varied, thick or thin. It is this gesture which may provide a case against the use of computers as a replacement for hand sketches. In many stages of design the quality of the mark is important, since individual line produces association in the architect 's mind.

Gesture is a body movement that expresses or symbolizes a thought; this body motion can be extended to sketches through the hand. Gesture is also a technique of drawing in fine art, which is to sketch quickly to illustrate the mass and position of a figure. To add another dimension to 'gesture', along with ' gestation' it has the same etymological root which according to the Oxford English Dictionary means to bear, carry or act. As with drawing, sketching depends upon movement, and inherent in this movement is visual perception.

This expressive sketch by Steven Holl (Figure 1.3) illustrates thoughtful use of a sketchbook. Steven Holl and Associates is a New York City based firm doing projects such as the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City Missouri, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki and Simmons Hall, residential housing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Having been honored with numerous American Institute of Architects Honor Awards, Holl' s architecture is concerned with the ethereal and textural qualities of cladding. Surface acts as skin as it is luminous or modeled. The pair of sketches for a pair of 'live work lofts' face each other in a sketchbook. Here, Holl could reference the plan and the three-dimensional form at the same time.

The left side shows a plan that has been annotated with instructions concerning materials, dimensions, and structure. This sketch contains visual notes for decision-making. In the center of the sketch is a service core for the building, showing organization and circulation. The exterior

FIGURE 1.3 Steven Holl; Cactus Towers, Live Work Lofts.

walls show poché thickness and reveal reminders about materials such as 'steel plate' and 'insulation'. The sketch provides definitive information concerning dimension and steel columns, but it also conveys uncertainty. A note on the bottom left corner explains ' possible division' and to complement this thought visually, the interior walls have been drawn with dotted lines. The dotted lines may have been drawn perforated to express their temporality or to question the decision as to where to place them.

The colorful sketch to the right is less concerned with materiality, instead showing the walls one line thick. Whether intentionally designing the towers to resemble cacti with jutting floors, or realizing the likeness later, Holl has created a playful cartoon-like expression of the lofts. He did not need to present a precise or detailed rendering because the impression was clear from his brief sketch. Using watercolor, he was able to easily differentiate floors and walls to make the image appear three-dimensional, showing interior as well as exterior space. The imprecise edges add texture and energy to the sketch. Notes on the sketch on the right help to remember views while illustrating the lake. Holl 's use of media suggests a sense of time as he worked between the two drawings. The ground has been rendered with a green medium, and additional wording shows on the left with the same green. It is possible that after he viewed the size and proportions of the towers, he then added the note to the plan: '21 floors total'.

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