by Maggie Flickinger
Going on now and running through Saturday, Yale School of Architecture is holding an intriguing symposium titled, “Is Drawing Dead?” While the architectural profession was established with hand drawing as a foundation for communicating design ideas, today many architects rarely put pen to paper. In the face of rapid progression and adoption of digital drafting, modeling, and rendering tools, hand crafted mapping of space, volume, and scale has been relegated to a romantic anachronism – or at worst, obsolete. Yet, as rumblings of a post-digital age foment, a return to the hand’s value is spreading: as slow food gains traction, why not slow architecture?
At our studio, trays of jumbled colored pencils and a veritable riot of Prismacolors lie beside our computer keyboards and mouses. Sheets of trace paper crumple and layer, building a tangible memory of design evolution. Microns, Maylines, charcoal, Sharpies, Sign Pens, and even the humble #2: these are tools of our trade. In a studio that encourages drawing, it remains an indefatigable tool for quick communication, conveyance of emotion, and evocation of experience. One reason for this is that drawing is simply common. Each and every person in the world, regardless of training, knows the capability of picking up a pencil and making an idea known. When an architect presents ideas in hand drawings, the communication tool is commonly held: inherently relatable, approachable, and understandable to all. When an architect presents ideas in digital renderings, that common ground is lost. The tool itself is precious, and at times intimidating.
As we move through a design, we inevitably transition to the digital realm and see value there for technical drawings and interprofessional communication. Prior to that, the value of the hand lies across the spectrum of process.
Below, each studio member shares one of their hand drawings, along with musings on why hand drawing is – assuredly and decidedly – not dead.