The earliest known architectural drawing is a clay tablet illustrating the ground plan of the Palace of Nur Adad in Larsa (modern-day Iraq) circa 1,850 BC. It establishes that for centuries architects have drawn their ideas by hand using various mediums to illustrate their designs.
With the advent of the digital age, this practice has become less common now. Applications such as SketchUp, CAD, and REVIT allow designers to quickly visualize their concepts in 3D with incredible detail and accuracy. These programs have slowly lessened the need for hand drawing and the skill is slowly being lost.
Recently, however, programs such as Trace by Morpholio that allow users to “draw” using a stylus on an Ipad are bridging the two worlds. Trace allows the user to create original drawings on a sketch pad or to “trace” over existing images that can be loaded into the program, emulating a common practice of an architectural designer but within a digital medium.
Principal Charles Gane who practices hand sketching on a daily basis offers his thoughts on the need to preserve the art form.
Q. Why do you sketch?
A. Hand sketching is the quickest way to get the idea out of the head and on to paper, beats computers hands down.
Q. What is the goal of the sketch?
A. The goal is to bring reality to the idea and/or resolve a problem. I find a solution to a problem can evolve over a time period, by constant sketching over the germ of an idea, you can see the solution take form.
Q. What materials do you use?
A. Just a black Pilot Fineliner pen, trace or vellum and white-out.
Q. Where did you learn to sketch or was it something that came naturally to you?
A. Started as a kid drawing mechanical objects and machines but really got interested in it after learning about how perspective drawings worked, using vanishing points.
Q. Do you think sketching is becoming a lost art form due to CAD and REVIT?
A. Definitely, kids these days do not sketch enough, they rely on computer programs
Q. Do you show clients your sketches? If so how are they received? Do you sketch ideas in front of them?
A. Clients love hand sketches because they are loose and show the project in a partially realized form, and the client knows that it’s easier to revise a sketch than a CAD drawing, and sometimes I will sketch the new ideas at a meeting.
Q. Do all of your sketches get converted into CAD or are they good enough to provide the necessary information to trades?
A. Sketches done to scale on graph paper can be used directly by the site, they are faster to do and show just the right amount of information.
Q. What is the most important thing about sketching?
A. Like a musician needs to jam on his instrument when they are composing, the architect needs to sketch to create.