Why Drawing Matters


For the month of May 2018 I was lucky enough to stay at the American Academy in Rome while researching a Bramante project, which turned into a Michelangelo project and will eventually become a model for a US project. Every day, all day, I walked Rome (except when driving through Tuscany or visiting the Architecture Biennale in Venice) stopping in churches, restaurants, bars, markets and the odd shop or monument. 

It rained a lot in Rome this May, so I stopped in even more spots than I might otherwise, often sitting in churches for longer than I might otherwise. I got a chance to slow down, look more carefully and draw. 

A consultant who worked with us on the transition to Revit (3D parametric software) introduced the change of approach to this: 
We used to create flat drawings as an abstraction of intended reality, a set of flat instructions to make a 3D result.
Revit is like building the building piece by piece, and the drawings are the result of the virtual building, not a precursor to the final reality. 

Sketching is much the same when compared to, say, photography. Drawing is a way to build the 3D. The underlying structure of the drawn object/space/detail is inevitably revealed in the creation of a drawing. And because it is an eye-to-hand activity it simultaneously engages both in a 'smart drawing' result. Drawings, like parametric software, contains much more information about the subject than photography, and with a different objective. 

Photography and sketching render space in 2D, but the immediacy of photography is specific to a point in space, light, color, time, and the limitations of digital rendering of reality. As 'faithful' as it is it is still a lie. It represents a uniquely irreducible image that can never be made again. A snowflake. A way of fixing a point in time and space.
A drawing is, at its best, an idea about the subject. Hierarchical, focussed and more like an argument than a moment in time. Drawings are timeless, photography is all about time. Drawings take time, while photographs are time.

Drawing takes time, and time is the ultimate luxury.

Here are a few of the drawings I made while waiting out the rain...