In the debate about how architects - both present and future - represent our ideas, it is easy to find a lot of articles supporting both sides. One can read as many arguments as they want and find valid points supporting both hand-drawing and computer production. One could argue that there is nothing prettier than a well done hand-rendering of a project. Another could say that, although hand-drawing is something that catches the eye, it is not practical at all, takes longer than doing it on the computer and does not allow architects to easily modify it.
There is however another facet that does not come up as frequently as it maybe should: how does this discussion affect students? I believe we lie in a cross-fire, between the idea of what architects do and what they actually do.
Most people I have spoken to agree that it is important, if not imperative, for us all to know how to translate our thoughts into something understandable, without needing any help from computers. But a discordance emerges when discussing if architecture representation should be regulated in school or not. I had the opportunity to start my studies in California, where I believe there are some of the best architecture schools not only in the US but also in the world. There, I learned how to precisely hand-draw plans, elevations, sections, perspectives, and details (all one needs to know to prepare a design), but I quickly moved to digital programs, allowing me to design faster and more precisely, but most importantly freeing up time for me to better think of concepts, conduct research - to design better. And through the years I kept thinking that is the way I would draw from then on.
It came as a big surprised when, during an exchange program to what is considered the best architecture school in Brazil, I faced my first project review. I was stunned when I saw the other boards, all done by hand, where one could see the effort students had put in. When it was time for my project review, one of the first words out of my professors mouth were: “did you do it in Revit?” followed by a diminishing head shake. The questions that followed were all related to the way I chose to represent my ideas, most of them criticizing the lack of certain details which were actually there and only perceived by them after I explained and showed it. Asking around later, I discovered that none of the great minds that were mentoring us through the course uses a computer to design.
After what was a certain shock for me, where worse projects received more positive comments because of the method of representation, I gathered with my peers to discuss our thoughts on the day's big question: should students really spend a lot of time hand-drawing project boards instead of spending more time generating concepts to design better?
The architects who reviewed our work are all “big shots” in the scene and all were part of big firms, where someone else would probably develop the representation of their ideas. Not to question the knowledge of great architects, who without a doubt are doing great work out there - but should they, the people we take as role models and/or admire, be the ones who teach us how to present ideas when in fact they don’t do it themselves?
Enzo Tessitore is a student at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA, currently studying at the University of Sao Paulo (FAU-USP).