The role of the concept sketch

Illustrated by the house at 6 Wood Lane

by Mike Russum, Director, Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects

Much has been written about the benefits of hand drawing and our practice has over the years developed a particular way working through drawing. We use hand drawings in many different ways; to evolve projects conceptually and for presentation purposes to inform and delight our clients and other audiences. Some of our drawings are simply for ourselves as a device to reflect on our work and play with ideas.

The concept diagram is the starting point for developing our design approach.  We prepare analytical sketches investigating the parameters and the opportunities of each project. Critically these are not driven by aesthetic preconceptions about achieving an architectural style. The intention instead is to unearth objective clues that can lead to delivering optimal as well as interesting architecture.  Collectively we appraise and debate these initial ideas – a process that transcends into a magical carpet ride, with playful hand-drawn sketches emerging that help further refine the brief, set out strategic solutions and which often trump earlier proposals.

This process leads to a series of concept sketches / diagrams that distil our vision and objectives for the design.  Sometimes we pursue a single ‘ideal or pure’ direction or more commonly a hybrid solution which embraces a number of possibly competing ideas but also address the implications. A robust concept sketch becomes the touchstone for the design development – and it may even become a motif that informs the detailing of the constructed project.

Click to enlarge

This is illustrated in our most recently completed work – the award winning house at 6 Wood Lane. Here the concept sketches were developed initially from analytical investigations into:

  • Elevating living areas above sleeping areas to benefit from views and greater daylight
  • Accommodating off road parking space but reclaiming lost floor area above the cars
  • Optimising sun penetration into this house as well as the neighbours’ houses
  • Considering appropriate construction methods; both in situ and prefabricated

These led to sketches suggesting an orthogonal base to accommodate rectangular beds and the cantilevering elliptical form above for the open plan upper living element. This singular iconic form echoes the individuality of the existing villas that line the southern edge of Wood Lane.  Further sketches considered the cost and fabrication benefits of a traditional orthogonal ground retaining masonry base and the lightweight timber prefabricated barrel vaulted monocoque shell for the extraordinary elliptical living area element above.

These concepts were well established before the outline plans and elevations were developed and became the touchstone for the design development and detail enrichment thereafter.  Indeed the elliptical plan shape has informed many of the elements within the house including the dining and coffee table and an elliptical peep aperture in the boundary fence to the public footpath from the Underground station. A concept can thus vary in its scale throughout any given project giving it, we hope, a sense of cohesiveness , rigour and richness of detail.




This article forms part of our series on The Architecture Drawing Prize: an open drawing competition curated by Make, WAF and Sir John Soane’s Museum to highlight the importance of drawing in architecture. The article originally appeared in The Architectural Review.

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Make Models: An urban rail station

Client Confidential
Scale 1:100
Dimensions 300mm(l) x 50mm(w) x 200mm(h)
Time to make 3 days
Materials White ColorFabb PLA filament, clear ColorFabb XT filament
Model makers Paul Miles and modelshop work experience student Stephen Ward

Ready for transport

We were excited to take part recently in a competition to design an urban rail station in a global city. Whilst we unfortunately didn’t end up winning, we’d still love to share a bit about the model with you.

This 1:100 sectional model was constructed to show how the station’s two raised levels – the walkway and train platform – are positioned over a stretch of busy road. It also demonstrates how planting can be used along the perimeter of both levels, as well as the ground plane. The model, which was completed in three days, had to be small enough for hand luggage and robust enough to survive travelling to the other side of the world, where we presented it to our client.

A great sum of parts

To make the model travel-proof, we decided to 3D-print it, as 3D-printed items tend to be sturdier than acrylic parts. Rather than print it as a single piece though, we split the main body into about 20 smaller components, which meant we could orientate each item to be printed in a direction that would allow for the best surface finish.

We produced the parts overnight on our ten Ultimaker 2 Extended+ printers, using white ColorFabb PLA filament for the main body. The tessellated, gently undulating roof was printed with clear ColorFabb XT filament. The generally high ‘tolerance’, or ability to fit with other components, of 3D-printed parts means we were able to quickly assemble all of the components with minimal finishing needed.

Final touches

Meanwhile, the balustrades and platform doors were laser-cut to achieve a finer level of detail. To give a sense of scale and animation, we printed cars and a train on our Formlabs Form 2 SLA 3D resin printer and sprayed them silver. Finally, we used a mix of different-sized white trees from the London-based model-making shop 4D Modelshop to illustrate the planting possibilities.

#makemodelmonday

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How drawing made architecture

By Jeremy Melvin, Curator at World Architecture Festival

Drawing is so important to architects because it is what distinguishes architecture, as Reyner Banham writes, from other perfectly respectable ways of making buildings.

It is axiomatic that architectural drawing took a decisive turn in the Renaissance. Less well known is the role of architectural drawing in Renaissance architectural historiography, which Guido Beltramini, director of the Centro Palladio in Vicenza, recently outlined in a discussion with the art historian MaryAnne Stevens and myself.

Guido explained that the first generation of scholarly Renaissance architectural historians, like Rudolf Wittkower, Anthony Blunt and James Ackerman (who died last year aged 97), were essentially art historians who became interested in architecture. Their prime interest was in buildings and the ideas they contained – triumphantly confirming that architecture could be on a par with painting and other artistic media. Think of Wittkower’s Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, which outgrew its initial publication in the scholarly Journal of the Warburg Institute and became, aided and abetted by Peter and Alison Smithson, a touchstone for the intellectual ambitions of the New Brutalism.

A study for the left half of the Disputa | Raphael.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The Conversion of the Proconsul | Raphael.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The next generation, including Joseph Connors and Howard Burns, explored new ground, as second generations do. They put drawings centre stage and in so doing caused a historiographical revolution. Buildings, Guido continued, are evidence of the ‘winners’, not just of architectural competitions but of politics and power. Drawings open up more private and forgotten territories, the realm of speculative ideas and individual fantasies, which may give deeper and wider insights into the architectural psyche.

This also raises the issue of what makes a specifically architectural drawing, as opposed to a drawing for any other purpose. Here the discussion turned to Raphael and his letter to Pope Leo X of 1519, which was a plea to preserve Rome’s ancient monuments in the face of papal urban ambitions. Raphael has a reputation as the most confident and serene delineator of the Renaissance – though Waldemar Januszczak detects a thread of ‘restlessness and experiment’ throughout his oeuvre in a Sunday Times review of the Ashmolean Museum exhibition of his drawings. In any event, Raphael is quite clear that ‘the way of drawing specific to the architect is different from that of the painter’.

Architectural drawings have to give accurate measurements and are principally plans, sections and elevations. Raphael allows that perspective helps architects to ‘better imagine the whole building furnished with its ornaments’, but is firm that ‘this type of drawing . . . is the preserve of the painter’. It took the next generation and in particular Palladio (who was 11 years old when Raphael wrote his letter), to free architectural drawings completely from perspective and depend entirely on orthogonal projections. The stage was set for the next 400 years of architectural drawing, and the flowering of the Beaux-Arts tradition.

Villa Saraceno, Agugliaro: plan and elevation | Andrea Palladio.

As that tradition has run its course, and new digital technologies challenge anew the conventions of architectural drawing, the next generation of architects will no doubt explore the relationship between buildings and ideas still further.

This article forms part of our series on The Architecture Drawing Prize: an open drawing competition curated by Make, WAF and Sir John Soane’s Museum to highlight the importance of drawing in architecture. The article originally appeared in The Architectural Review.

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Full-court press

 

Maker Stuart Blower describes the experience of designing a second-place competition entry for FC Barcelona’s Nou Palau Blaugrana and how we can apply it to world-class stadia everywhere.

 

A new arena for Barcelona

In 2016 Make came second in a global competition to design the Nou Palau Blaugrana, a new multi-purpose indoor arena for FC Barcelona, one of the world’s great sports clubs. Best known for its supreme footballing prowess, FCB also has European Championship-winning teams in basketball, handball and ice hockey, all of which currently play in the badly outdated Palau Blaugrana, the smaller sibling of the 100,000-plus-seat Camp Nou football stadium.

Nou Palau Blaugrana

Building upon our experience designing the Copper Box – the popular handball arena for the London 2012 Olympics – as well as our masterplan for the new Tottenham Hotspur FC stadium, Make led a team to produce a design that sets a new industry standard for multi-purpose venues around the world.

The brief called for a 12,500-seat indoor sports and entertainment venue that could host a variety of sports and concerts year-round and provide additional training and performance facilities alongside the main arena. Working closely with MANICA Architecture from Kansas City and BCQ Arquitectura from Barcelona, we produced a bespoke solution that’s both state-of-the-art and cost-effective. The flexible design – a visually strong orthogonal form  – balances the key drivers of functionality, value for money and placemaking, creating a robust standalone identity for the Palau.

Copper Box

Tottenham Hotspur masterplan

The all-important bowl

The seating bowl is key to the success of a venue like this. It needs to offer spectators maximum comfort and provide an immersive, exhilarating visual and auditory experience. Since the atmosphere of a Barcelona basketball game can easily be as intense as that of the football matches next door, intimacy and flexibility were vital considerations in our design.

Together with David Manica and his team – brought on as technical designers for the bowl and its functional layout – we created a unique 270-degree configuration that meets the strictest federation requirements for basketball, handball, futsal and ice hockey. The horseshoe arrangement of suites and upper-deck seating ensures maximum seating and revenue generation for end-stage concerts, and creates a spectacular viewing experience from every seat in the house. All sightlines meet the minimum requirements of C=90mm throughout, though the compactness and intimacy of the design means many viewing angles actually exceed these requirements.

The orthogonal form offers excellent acoustics and state-of-the-art sound control for all modes of entertainment, from European Cup basketball games to classical concerts. We pushed the efficiency of the volume, using a flat-trussed roof structure to provide maximum acoustic quality and flexibility in lighting control. We also produced an upper and lower tier design, separated by a VIP level, which allows the upper tier to be easily curtained off. This enables the bowl to work for full and partially full events alike without losing that all-important atmosphere.

A major benefit of our orthogonal design is the reduced construction costs and programme, compared to more complex forms. It minimises wasted internal space, holds the facade as close to the bowl as possible and features four carefully tuned elevations as a result.

A focus on people and placemaking

The venue is designed as a good neighbour and has quality placemaking at its heart. The principal elevation responds directly to Espai Barça (the forthcoming remodelled Barça campus), marking the main entrance to the Palau and extending the public realm right up to the front door. Visitors are greeted by an animated facade that reflects activity inside and out, adding to the great sense of arrival.

Concourses blur the boundary between internal and external, with some concessions pulled outwards to get the bowl as tight as possible to the field of play, animating the exterior and providing additional revenue streams all year round.

Our design welcomes, energises, feeds and entertains spectators and players alike. It offers the best-possible environment for fans to support their team and display their allegiance, ensuring they’ll return time and again to this wholly community-owned club. A full venue is a successful venue and, therefore, a sustainable one.

FC Barcelona campus

Creating a successful sports arena

To be successful, venues like this need their own character – a unique feel, both internally and externally, that differentiates them from others and creates a sense of belonging among spectators. As designers, it’s up to us to study the habits and rituals fans engage in before, during and after a match. Where, when and how do they gather? What features can we provide to enable and enhance this? Paving the way for an unforgettable visitor experience was a key consideration for us. The Nou Palau needs to be its own building and brand, not simply a mini-Camp Nou.

Today’s spectator experience is so much more than a hot dog and soda (though that’s still on offer); it’s approaching a VIP offering. Getting close to the action now extends beyond simple glimpses of the athletes to include exclusive views of and even interaction with teams as they arrive and leave the pitch. Our Palau design introduces a ‘dine-and-view’ restaurant with table service, overlooking the field of play, as well as VIP suites with direct access to courtside seats. It’s all about providing a live experience that beats watching the match at home on TV. This is the future of sports matches and a crucial way to retain fans.

We should also be aware of how new technologies are enhancing the spectator experience at multi-entertainment venues. With smart devices, spectators can instantly upgrade their seats, change viewing angles, watch replays, order food and drink, and listen to referee commentary and TV analysis. These offerings will only continue to improve in the future.

And then there’s the athletes’ experience, which is integral to a sports venue’s success. Players need state-of-the-art training and warm-up facilities and a secure, well-organised environment that supports pre-game preparation. The offer should be premium but relaxed. Ideally, venues should inspire the home team to win and intimidate the away team.

A legacy that lives on

Creating a legacy venue depends on a number of factors, the most important of which is financial sustainability. That means being open every day of the year, whether there’s an event or not, and offering more than just sports and concerts – essentially, being a leisure destination in its own right. Just look at The O2 in London, which alongside its sporting and music arena has a cinema, a bowling alley, clubs, restaurants and bars, and is busy year-round.

Flexibility is a key part of being financially sustainable. Make’s design for the Copper Box, for instance, placed maximum emphasis on the post-Games legacy. The venue’s ability to host multiple events – from sports to concerts to conferences – enables the arena to maintain a profitable life years later. This layering of uses is inherent in our Nou Palau design, which includes outward-facing retail units with external access around the building that benefit from Barcelona’s Mediterranean climate, support the venue during events, animate the public realm at other times and provide those valuable additional revenue streams. The design also features a community football pitch on the flat roof that can accommodate major sponsorship opportunities.

Inside the Copper Box

We’ve got our game face on

While we didn’t win this high-profile competition, the experience has been unbeatable and stands us in great stead for our next sports venue design. We firmly believe our design is as good as any other around the globe recently built, offering a world-class entertainment experience, the very best in placemaking and a magnificent new home for FC Barcelona.

Article extracted from Make Annual 13.

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Ken Shuttleworth on drawing

How did you get into drawing early on?

Drawing has always been a way for me to express myself. I can’t remember not drawing. My dad encouraged it early on and when I started school, I was always enormously proud if my drawings were pinned up on the classroom walls. In my spare time, at the age of six or seven, I drew houses. We didn’t have a television, so this kept me busy and I developed a bulging portfolio of dream houses and crazy fantasy structures. Illustrated reading, jigsaws and maps also fascinated me, which I guess gives an insight into to how my mind works. I would often use pictures to explain my own thought processes; I still do.

How important was drawing to your education at university?

My ability to draw gave me confidence. As with many other architects – Norman Foster, Birkin Haward, Bryan Avery, Robert Adam – drawing was, for me, a way into architecture. I could draw really quickly, a useful tool when trying to justify an idea then and there. John Lee who taught me at Leicester Polytechnic, as it was then, noted my aptitude with my Rotrings (greatly admired German technical drawing pens) and started calling me “Ken the Pen”. The name stuck.

How do you draw now?

I still sketch a lot with pens and pencils, but I also increasingly use an iPad. Sometimes I scan my drawings and continue working on them with ‘digital brushstrokes’ software, which I learned about through David Hockney’s work. I also like to paint abstracts in acrylics.

Image © Ken Shuttleworth

How do you think digital tools have changed drawing as a way to design buildings?

New generations of architects are using their computers to sketch buildings. This is a much slower and more precise process than drawing by hand and the computer creates what is essentially a fixed drawing. It’s no longer an exploratory sketch, and we don’t see it as one. This can make an early iteration of a building more definitive than it perhaps should be. Then again, 3D models allow you to have multiple points of view of any particular design. It’s so much faster to visualise the whole with a digital drawing or even a 3D print.

But it’s also valuable to have to draw a section through a building – this doesn’t happen often enough anymore – because it makes you think it through differently. All tools have to be used with a lot of discretion and intelligence. Right now I am excited by the potential of VR (virtual reality). My clients are too. As an industry I think we need to invest more in this to really reap its benefits.

What do you look for in architects applying to Make in terms of draughtsmanship?

We like to see pencil drawings as well as drawings in other media. We really want to see the range of what someone can do. This also applies to the subject matter; of course we need to see drawings of buildings, but it shows creativity and inspiration if there’re other subjects included. Once we received an application that included pressed flowers which was a good way of communicating awareness and originality.

How do you support drawing at your practice and how should the profession support it?

We have life drawing classes at Make. They are a great way to encourage our architects to use drawing as a problem solving tool. When I can’t find a solution to a problem, I often start to draw, it helps to clear the mind and to focus. I think a lot of architects do this and it should be celebrated.

The Architecture Drawing Prize is a fantastic way to promote drawing in the profession and reflect on it as a form of presentation and in the context of masters like Soane, too. I think the profession overall should embrace drawing as a way of telling its story. It is about the process of designing rather than the final building. In the world of CGIs this often gets forgotten but can be far more interesting. Digital drawing and VR sketching will be amazing tools for the profession too, no one thing should outweigh another though, each has different uses, each has different benefits, all should be embraced.

Image © Ken Shuttleworth

How would you sum up the role of drawing for you as an architect?

Drawing has always been a part of my life and I basically see it as a way to explore. It’s about curiosity. I worked with Norman Foster for some thirty years. At his practice, drawing was a fundamental part of how we thought about buildings. It was equally as important to me as I set up Make and planned our future. I sketched on theatre programmes and napkins. I still do!

And clients always respond well to sketching. I draw a lot with clients in meetings, translating our discussions pictorially. It’s not as easy for people to type up the minutes but a picture paints a thousand words.

This interview forms part of our series on The Architecture Drawing Prize: an open drawing competition curated by Make, WAF and Sir John Soane’s Museum to highlight the importance of drawing in architecture. 

You can follow Ken on Twitter or Instagram.

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Make Models: FC Barcelona

Client FC Barcelona
Scale 1:200
Dimensions 700mm(l) x 500mm(w) x 300mm(h)
Time to make 1 week
Materials Clear filament and white selective laser sintering (SLS)
Model makers Paul Miles and Petre Craciun from Make, and Digits2Widgets

The project
In 2016 Make came second in a hotly contested international competition to design the Nou Palau Blaugrana stadium for FC Barcelona. In partnership with Baena Casamor Arquitectes BCQ and MANICA Architecture, we designed a 12,500-seat sports and entertainment destination as part of a wider masterplan.

The model
The model was built as part of our pitch for the project. Split down the middle, the sectional model comprises a white 3D-printed SLS element to show the exterior, and a clear 3D-printed filament section to show the orthogonal stadium, seating and interior.

The floorplates were laser-cut, and the tiered seating was 3D-printed with clear filament to show the viewer what’s going on inside the stadium.

Changeable plates show the different uses of the space in the proposed arena, from hosting basketball and hockey matches to putting on rock concerts.

Removable plate

Each level of the model interlocks around the columns and cores, bringing stability to the structure, and the model sits on a black acrylic base.

Eyes on the prize
We’re immensely proud to have delivered a world-class venue design for a world-class club. The stadium sets new industry standards for arenas around the world; it’s a compact, flexible, functional and highly efficient design that fits within the wider scheme and is rooted in the history of FC Barcelona.

#makemodelmonday

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Hotels by Make

 

 

Make’s Katy Ghahremani, who led the design of the award-winning Temple House in Chengdu for Swire’s House Collective, explains our approach to hotel design.

 

In a world where people are travelling more and more for both business and leisure, global travellers are looking for comfortable and authentic hotel experiences. At Make we have a deep understanding of what it takes to create them.

The hotelier’s vision

The best hotels have a strong, visionary hotelier behind them. We believe in listening to and understanding that vision so we can create buildings and spaces that deliver a holistic guest experience. We work with hoteliers to deliver a seamless concept that incorporates everything from a guest’s initial digital interaction on the hotel’s website through to their physical arrival, stay and, finally, to check-out.

The future is about service design, which buildings are only a part of. As lead designer, we like to be ‘conductors’ of an ‘orchestra’ that includes lighting and landscape designers as well as library and music providers. In each of our hotel projects, we strive to provide an overarching concept for guests to enjoy, one that considers all possible ways to improve people’s stay.

Delivering authenticity

Guests want to stay in hotels that reflect a sense of place and are integrated into their local community. Our hotel designs are mindful of their location and take inspiration from their context – be it country, city, neighbourhood or the building itself. The best hotels have public areas used by locals as well as guests, as this offers a glimpse of local life and sense of community. Hotel guests don’t want to stay on ‘cruise liners’ anymore, isolated from the area where their hotel is located. With the rise of Airbnb and its hospitality focus, hotels must work harder than ever to deliver a personal, friendly and authentic experience.

Embedding guest service

Designing back-of-house areas that allow hotel staff to deliver the best service is imperative. The easy flow of goods in and waste out is just as important as how guests themselves move through the building. The same goes for the journey of hot food – how it travels from the kitchens to the restaurant tables and hotel rooms – and the staff areas, as a happy staff leads to a better level of service, which in turn produces a better guest experience.

Thankfully, being thoughtful about this kind of design doesn’t necessarily mean being more costly, just more creative.

Prioritising wellbeing

At a basic level, the most important function of a hotel is to provide a safe and comfortable place for people to sleep. And yet so often rooms are not designed with sleep in mind. Whether it’s due to confusing light switches or noise coming from the corridors, sleep deprivation is all too common.

Our ambition is to design great rooms that encourage peace and calm, and allow guests to sleep, relax and work in comfort. This means thinking about the smallest details, such as allowing for privacy in the sleeping area when the hotel room’s door is opened and locating light switches and charging sockets by the bed. It’s these details, whether seen or unseen, that result in a memorable stay.

Article extracted from Make Annual 13. Visit our website to find out more about The Temple House project.

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Make calls for a cultural shift in industry’s approach to fire safety

 

 

 

By Ken Shuttleworth

 

It has been a month since the Grenfell Tower fire – an event that we as a country will never forget and that we in the property industry should never forget. It is rare, in this country at least, that our industry could play a central role in a tragedy of this magnitude and horrifying to think that our sector could be held partly to blame.

Although we cannot jump to any conclusions before the inquiry has taken place, the property industry as a whole has an enormous and immediate responsibility to take stock of its role in fire safety. If this isn’t a line in the sand to do so, then I don’t know what is.

For those interested, I would refer you to some excellent writing on BD Online, by both journalists and commentators, that picks apart some of the regulations on, and specifications of, the materials used at Grenfell and examines their appropriateness, and looks at wider issues related to building regulations.

Clearly, there is no panacea that could prevent this happening again – it goes far beyond one issue. As such, we need an all-encompassing, wholesale review of fire safety, from strategy to materials to regulatory compliance, spanning the entire design procurement, build and maintenance stages. Nothing can be taken for granted.

We also need to aim above and beyond the regulations. We should be pushing for the highest possible standards at all times, just like we do with energy use via sustainability assessment methods.

As an industry, we can start the change now.

The UK can learn a lot from other countries. In Mumbai, a modern, high-rise residential scheme is required to integrate a fire break floor at every 70m and incorporate an open deck space on every seventh floor.

In Hong Kong, intermediate refuge floors must be provided for anything higher than 40 storeys, and all residential towers must have two means of escape. The favoured solution is scissor-stairs, which need to be naturally ventilated.

In Australia all buildings above 25m in height are required to be fully sprinklered and have two means of escape. The use of external sprinklers or drenchers is also required in buildings with adjacent boundaries that fall within a specific set distance.

I feel it is important to add that I am a firm believer in the need for high-rise housing. It is a necessary part of our towns and cities, increasingly so as we look to make the most of the limited land and resources we have. I speak out against a loss of confidence in tall buildings as a result of the Grenfell disaster. With the right standards and measures in place, they have proven a safe and effective way to address urban density.

It is, however, imperative that safety is not compromised, whether building a high-rise from scratch or adapting it for reuse. We need to ensure the highest possible standards of safety are demanded in every aspect of tall building design and construction.

The inquiry will lead to changes across the board when it comes to fire safety – from the materials used to the fire detection and evacuation strategies employed in buildings of multiple occupancy and high-rise buildings. But this could take up to two years, if not longer, and I am sceptical of whether it will go far enough in unpicking the layers and effecting the wholesale change that is needed.

As an industry, though, we can start the change now. Let’s make this the line in the sand for a fundamental change in the way we promote best practice in terms of fire safety, and let’s eliminate the culture of mere compliance or box-ticking with regards to building regulations.

The tragedy of Grenfell is so seared into our collective consciousness that I imagine it will become one of those “Where were you when?” events. But more than that, it has to be, “Where are we now?” “What did we learn from it?” “How have things changed since?” This is a chance to redeem something important out of something immeasurably tragic.

Originally posted on EG 19.07.2017

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When drawing becomes architecture

By Owen Hopkins, Senior Curator of Exhibitions and Education at Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane’s (1753–1837) biographer, Gillian Darley, describes the great neoclassical Regency architect as the ‘accidental Romantic’, as visionary as the poet William Blake or painter J.M.W. Turner. The comparison has a pictorial connotation that brings to mind the detailed and imaginative drawings that informed both Soane’s pioneering thinking and his teaching. A skilled and prolific draughtsman in his own right, he also engaged master watercolourist J.M. Gandy to help visualise his distinctive architectural vision.

Design for the Royal Gallery in the House of Lords, by J.M. Gandy.

Architectural composition to show the comparative characteristics of thirteen selected styles of architecture, by J.M. Gandy.

For Soane, drawing was fundamental to architecture – as it has been for countless architects before and since. Thinking about the nature of that relationship, we might say that it is actually through drawing that architecture – both on the level of the individual building and as a discourse – has been conceived for much of its history. Unlike the instinctual fashioning of a rudimentary shelter that constituted the first buildings, architecture is fundamentally an intellectual pursuit, with a process in which drawing plays a pivotal role. Visualising a design in a drawing requires decisions to be made: how a building should be planned, what its elevations will look like, how will it be constructed and many others besides. Once these design decisions are committed to paper or to the screen, they become communicable – whether to builder, client, public or other architects. And it is through this act of communication that a building becomes architecture, when it is brought into relation to a shared culture of ideas.

Presentation drawing of the Bank as a cutaway axonometric, by J.M. Gandy, 1830.

Imaginary view of the Rotunda and the Four Per Cent Office in ruins 30 Study for drawing 29, by J.M. Gandy.

This idea takes us back to Sir John Soane’s Museum – a place that above all is about architecture’s place in culture over time. Walking through the museum is to revel in the way that the myriad objects Soane assembled and then carefully arranged throughout its spaces communicate both individually and as a collective, with the meaning located not just in single objects but also in the relationships between them. Immersed in the museum, we are never far from architectural drawings, whether those on display or tucked away in drawers and cabinets. Soane was an avid collector of drawings, amassing a collection of over 30,000, including major holdings from the office of Robert Adam, William Chambers, George Dance the Younger, Wren, Hawksmoor and many others. The presence of architectural drawings throughout the museum – ranging from the highly technical to virtuoso pieces of art – reminds us that while our individual experience of the museum – indeed of any building – is a personal one, architecture itself rests on shared knowledge, expertise and history.

Designs for a Triumphal Bridge, by J.M. Gandy.

The centrality of drawing to the practice of architecture and the dissemination of architectural ideas, which Soane understood and held great store by in his own time, has inspired us to help create The Architecture Drawing Prize with Make and WAF. We hope that the Prize will inspire architects today to understand drawing both as a way to reveal and represent their ideas.

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The Architecture Drawing Prize

We are delighted to launch an architecture drawing section to the Make blog. This coincides with Make’s collaboration with Sir John Soane’s Museum and the World Architecture Festival on the newly conceived Architecture Drawing Prize.

Here we will publish articles by experts on draughtsmanship focusing on the role of drawing in the profession. We hope this will highlight the continuing importance of hand-drawing as a conceptual tool for architects as well as shed light on how digital presentation techniques can be used for better communicating approaches to design.

Credits (clockwise from top left):
London in 2145, Ken Shuttleworth (2015)
The Butterfly House, Laurie Chetwood (2003)
The Great Pyramid of Giza and St Paul’s Cathedral, Sir John Soane (c.1806-15)

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