Drawing on Life

Drawing on Life 1: The Die Was Cast

Drawing on Life

I have been in the “architect’s studio” for 56 years.

As a 15-year-old kid in Pittsburgh, I was fortunate enough to intern, with little to offer, in a four-person architecture firm on the north side of the city. Bus transfers and summer reading books like Catcher in the Rye took me out of my neighborhood to the other side of the city.

It was the generosity of architects Stan Zbikowski and George Yeckel that allowed me to drop into the world of design before I was old enough to drive. Overpaid at $1.15/hour, I learned to draft, poché, letter, LeRoy, run prints, and organize the office library.

Drawing on Life

Just the opportunity to peruse architectural journals like Progressive Architecture, Architectural Record, and Arts and Architecture, to name a few, and be around what seemed like glorious architectural drawings and renderings, opened my young eyes to a world of creativity, design language, and the breadth of design possibilities happening in the 1960s.

I was hooked and the die was cast. I would be an architect.

Swinging back to today, at 71 years old I am still in love with the world of design. I have lived a life looking at the world around me through a particular design lens. This blog is the first in a series of “a project” that I am calling Drawing on Life. It is a framework for me to link my past experiences to my personal lessons learned, and illustrate how those life experiences have manifested in the design projects that I take on. Drawing on Life will also delve into the ecologic behind living systems, something I have been tinkering with and attempting to apply for years under the guise of “eco-morphic principles.”

My plan is to begin this project as a sequence of blogs, written in coffee shops and my 25-year old son’s former bedroom which I have transformed into a writing nest. These blogs may evolve into a book, a film, lectures, who knows. It is just something I feel a call to pursue, even when my doubting voice wants to derail my efforts with “Who do you think cares? What have you done to warrant such an impulse?” And on and on!

I refuse to give into that voice of doubt. I am going to share these simple experiences of life and design and I hope they are beneficial and allow someone to draw inspirations and applications from their life as well. Life is all we’ve got!

As the blogsphere is by nature an interactive medium, I am inviting reactions and conversation as I put this project out there. We have opened up the “Leave a Reply” section below so you can comment, question, express, and share.

I know this reaches back to another time and place, but the intent is to put forth the value of life experience and living patterns that are available to all of us as we build our lives, our body of work, and the future we will collectively create. In this way I hope to, like George and Stan, be generous with the lessons learned over the course of this half century of literally living architecture.

Drawing on Life
A hint of what’s to come in Drawing on Life
  • Old urbanism/New urbanism
  • Falling for Fallingwater
  • Kent State 1970 and a search for a design ethic
  • Sunflower…falling in love with solar architecture
  • Altar boy and the search for a divine connection
  • Learning from Scandinavia
  • Giving a gift on/to the other side of the planet
  • It’s ultimately all about love
  • Head, heart and hands
11 replies
  1. Kari Palazzari
    Kari Palazzari says:

    David, I am so excited and curious to learn from your path. I heard Oliver Sachs describe his astonishment that the more personal and intimate the story, the more universal it resonates. Yay for the impulse to reflect and the courage to share!

  2. Carle
    Carle says:

    I am really looking forward to learning more about you through this blog. Seriously I never knew about this young internship. Always thought you wanted to be an illustrator or cartoonist, both of which you would have been successful I am sure. Thankfully you followed that early passion and your natural talent and eye for beauty into architecture. And now you are using you gift of storytelling to take us on the journey. Love it. Thank you.

  3. Dusky
    Dusky says:

    What a ride it has been!
    As your elder (now 81) be advised I will be testing you for your veracity on ancient history. Luckily, we can both claim to be old enough to be considered “histerical experts” and challenge one another ;^) Note the archaic emoji but much more authentic given the inability to draw (or scribble) on the Reply slate provided. And what is life without drawing?
    I support you completely and encourage you to throw in a few choice Z-isms from time to time. I’m looking forward to this and “bravo'” for your excellent start!

  4. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    Great to see your history and looking forward to more nuggets into your life.
    Thanks for your mentor ship and showing us where you got it from.
    Internship at 15 and paid at that.
    Send more soon.

  5. Tom McIlwain
    Tom McIlwain says:

    This is fortuitous! I’ve been thinking of you for a month. Betsy & I stopped in Columbus, Indiana on our drive East from Masonville. You would love it. It’s a city of architecture & design, which was transformed by an industrial leader /philanthropist from Cummins Diesel, & includes works by Eero Saarinun & many others:
    On your next trip east, consider a stop.


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