Michael Graves: In Defense of Drawing

  • 03 Sep 2012
  • by
  • Architecture News
© , Denver Central Library

In his Op-Ed for The New York Times, called “Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing,” American architecture legend Michael Graves laments the loss of in our computer-dependent age. While Graves realizes the usefulness of computer technology to present a final product, he maintains that the act of sketching (particularly those first, fleeting “referential sketches”) is vital to the process of design:

“Architecture cannot divorce itself from drawing, no matter how impressive the technology gets. Drawings are not just end products: they are part of the thought process of architectural design. Drawings express the interaction of our minds, eyes and hands. This last statement is absolutely crucial to the difference between those who draw to conceptualize architecture and those who use the computer.”

Do you think the art of drawing is actually lost? Is drawing vital to the work you do? Or has technology become so sophisticated that it has “rendered” sketching unnecessary?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Story via The New York Times

 

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "Michael Graves: In Defense of Drawing" 03 Sep 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 20 Apr 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=269529>

36 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    I think Michael Graves start this piece in a good place – drawing is undeniably a critical element of how designers and architects think. By the end, however, he falls into the trap we see all to frequently with the aging generation of starchitects – an unwillingness to acknowledge that the act of drawing could encompass anything more than the classical methodology of making marks on paper by hand.

    What is perhaps even more frustrating is that I know young aspiring architects who share a similar view of the practice and the field.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    >As I work with my computer-savvy students and staff today…
    Its not clear from the article if Graves has actually ever used a computer before

  3. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    Computers & software are mere tools to communicate & investigate the creative design & problem solving process that is Architecture. So are pencils, pens, markers, colored pencils, pastels, watercolors, etc, etc. That said, if you do not know how to draw & render by hand you are truly not a designer nor an Architect. The public & clients expect that from architectural professionals as a basic, natural skill & talent. You do not always have access to technology to communicate visually, Programming, design concepts, parti, charettes, etc in front of the public or clients. If you cannot draw, you cannot design…period.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down -3

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Computers & software are mere tools to communicate & investigate the creative design & problem solving process that is Architecture. So are pencils, pens, markers, colored pencils, pastels, watercolors, etc, etc. That said, if you do not know how to draw & render by hand you are truly not a designer nor an Architect. The public & clients expect that from architectural professionals as a basic, natural skill & talent. You do not always have access to technology to communicate visually, Programming, design concepts, parti, charettes, etc in front of the public or clients. If you cannot draw, you cannot design…period.
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  6. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Josh: Very inciteful. I’ve met few architects over 50 who know CAD, Revit, etc. There’s a possibility he’s reluctant to accept the new ways but I do believe in the overall premise of what he’s saying.

    Ralph: I think you are right. I’ve met many designers and pretty much all of the great ones draw as a means of investigation and to work out details. In an office where good architecture is produced a designer will create a stack of sketches probably an inch high every month or so. It’s the best way to communicate ideas within the office and work out variations on ideas and details. I don’t believe, though, that pastels, charcoal, colored pencils, watercolors, etc. are that necessary. A talented architect/artist can communicate anything just as effectively with a soft pencil or pen.

    Martin: Blind architect? Not even worth a response. This will never happen because architecture is a visual medium.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      Maybe it should happen. Architecture should be about the space that is contained, and the experience of that space whether sight is involved or not. By focusing on only one sense as our medium, we have denied it everything else that should be impacting our experience.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      Photography is a visual medium. Architecture is something completely else, do you not agree?

      A bad example: The geometry of the roofing for the Beijing Airport was designed mathematically. So you did not need any visual capability to design it. This can be done with any space or geometry.

      I think architecture is more a physical medium, or even a social medium. And architecture can be, it is certainly not in most cases, for every kind of person.

      Are you telling me you have never heard of architecture where smell, tactile sensibility or sound is important?

      There are blind architects by the way. It has happened.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I tend to agree that sketching is still vital to the work architects do. No matter what happens to bring it to its final product, it always begins with a sketch of some kind, whether on paper or a tablet or with the tools mentioned in Ralph’s comment. sketching and designing goes hand in hand.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I do thing drawings are important! I’m still doing a lot of sketches before projects, it’s different things, software and hands.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down -4

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down -2

    Since when is a mouse and keyboard sufficient enough to describe architectural ideas? And supposed 3d software which forces you to compose in each dimension separately? Computers are more expedient in “realizing” a design, but I have trouble seeing how they make better design tools. Yet.

  11. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    The People who thik about the hand drawing is lost or died is because they don’t have the drawing or conceptual skill in his architectural beheavior

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      I do not believe that anybody thinks that drawing is lost, dead or unnecessary, but I do not agree with that it is absolutely compulsory.

  12. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    Ahem… weren’t the gothic cathedrals created with nothing more than a few simple geometric diagrams etched in tablets that were freely interpreted and expanded upon by the master masons? I would hate to get so denominational about architecture that we have to worry about the creative process more than the final product.

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I think drawing is very important. But it depend if you are more productive with a software OR with a hand.

    For a first idea of the project : Every architect should draw what they want to do.

  14. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Sounds like another old man that doesn’t understand computers. I’d argue it’s made architectural drawings better and opened up for more possibilities than before with mixed media.

  15. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    I’m getting a bit tired of the tired old story of (old) architects confusing the disappearance of handdrawn rendering and technical drawing with the loss of sketching. The former is a undoubtly true, but I’ve never had any reason to assume the latter.

  16. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    Obviously, Mr Graves doesn’t use a lot his computer. he probably doesn’t care much about the way it’used either. Graphic tablets for instance, completely blur the distinction that he puts between hand drawing and computer drawing. And there are lots of ways to use these tools in architecture. Computer drawing are not restricted to the complex mathematical operations that are consequent to the skilled use of autocad or 3dsmax or Rhino or witchever one you use. The gesture in itself, in everyone of these program, is embedded in a drawing. In a very subtle, diverted way.

  17. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    These kinds of statements are annoying because they presuppose a single truth about architecture. Why does one distinguished gentleman try to define the way that the rest of us work? I think the important thing is to develop a rigor in the way that you work, and that we are able to communicate to many different types of people with our process.

  18. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    While hand sketching is still (and always will be) an invaluable tool in architecture, let’s not confuse computer-generated drawings with poor drawings. As with any medium, the success of the piece depends heavily on the skill level of the artist.

  19. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I sketch constantly. Sometimes with pen and paper, sometimes with a modeling program, sometimes with algorithms (i.e. grasshopper). I would never stop hand sketching. But Mr. Graves does not know what he is talking about.

  20. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    la posibilidad de plasmar ideas mediante la propia expresión artística y manual no puede nunca superar la que se hace con algo tan rígido, frio y estructurado como es la tecnologia.

  21. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    I think the bigger issue, that hasn’t even been touched on, is that too many young designers are letting the computer do the design, or think it will. They have the concept that by drawing a wall and floor &/or roof of a given thickness in Revit the computer will work out the details. Anyone who has ever sketched anything knows that doesn’t happen. Architecture doesn’t happen in a computer or on a napkin – it happens in minds of the team, yes even the Contractors.

  22. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    Undoubted Mr Graves has a great talent for illustration. His drawings are varied in technique and skilled. His architecture on the other hand while iconic and easily recognizable really deserves to be thrown in the trash bin of history and forgotten. Therefore his premise, drawing is a good and necessary skill for architects, i can only ask, why? Clearly it didn’t do much good for him.

  23. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    I am not sure how many commenters actually read the article. For those of you who feel that he is anti-technology, I refer to the following quotation:

    “In a handmade drawing, whether on an electronic tablet or on paper, there are intonations, traces of intentions and speculation. This is not unlike the way a musician might intone a note or how a riff in jazz would be understood subliminally and put a smile on your face.”

    He’s talking about the value of visual indeterminacy and shifting meaning; allowing the feedback loop between the intended line and the drawn line to create creative momentum. I would suggest ignoring the hyperbolic title and actually getting into the meat; there are interesting and valuable ideas there.

  24. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I think that too often we see an festish-ization of line or hand-drawing among architects from the pre-digital generation. I believe that drawings, both digital and analog, are communication tools. Furthermore, ones runs the risk of validating a drawing simply because it is drawn by hand. The truth of the matter is that there are good hand drawings and bad hand drawings. Similarly, there are good computer-generated drawings, and bad ones. What defines the success of a drawing is not the medium through which it is executed, but instead its content, rigor, and effectiveness in communicating design intent.

  25. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Problem with 3D is it takes an enormous amount of time to produce. I have worked in 3D for 10 years as a designer for cruiseships, and I actually have a very good talent for sketching.

    I was sick of the tight deadlines, computer crashes, painful “mouse hand” feeling in your right hand for clicking one million times on the left mouse button. I decided to only use the 3D for perspective setups and started to trace off marker sketches with a lightbox instead, and my life is much better now. I can get there faster & have a life as well.

    3D is stiff and perfect with no charm & vitality, and is actually mostly needed for engineering & animation. To communicate ideas, computers will never beat the human hand in connection with its brain.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      I totally disagree, but I think it is a question of personal preference, and individual technique. I find modeling in some software very fast and efficient, I safe many hours not doing any drafting by hand at all. But I have being doing alot of trial and error during the last five years (still a student). But I only use the software that suits my taste of workflow, otherwise I get crippled. ArchiCAD and Revit totally suck in my opinion, there is no space for being creative. I only use basic solid modeling with boolean operations and parametric geometry, mainly in Microstation + Generative Components / Rhino + Grasshopper and some Sketchup. However I do hand drawings to, mainly for thinking, I would love to do everything directly in the computer, but my teachers would not allow it.

  26. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Hey! We just discovered you gave us a shout-out! Thanks for the miotenn, John. We very much appreciate it.We’ll be spending the next few days discovering many of the other groovy artists on your list. That’s some pretty nice company to be in.Cheers and best of the holidays to yah!

  27. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Maybe it should happen. Architecture should be about the space that is contained, and the experience of that space whether sight is involved or not. By focusing on only one sense as our medium, we have denied it everything else that should be impacting our experience.
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