This summer, I’m quite fortunate to be able to travel around Europe and Asia for quite a bit. It’s something that I’ve been craving for a while: a good trip to see buildings and experience places – not a typical MIT Studio trip, which often is inundated with work and presentation sessions. Before heading out on my summer trip, I decided to take with me two sketchbooks and a few drawing arsenal: mostly broken pencils, and pens. My goal this summer is to, at least, sketch one thing a day.
As I’m traveling, I recalled two famous architects, who themselves love to sketch: Carlo Scarpa and Alvaro Siza. Scarpa’s sketches are, to me, still unbelievably intricate: layers over layers, and papers over papers — re-drawing over and over, around and on the top of previous sketches. I often think that this really depicts Scarpa’s interest in his architectural oeuvre: textured walls, collaged composition, and with the idea of weathering in mind.
I once read that Siza does one sketch a day before he goes to bed. I remember seeing one sketch he made of himself resting on the bed, with the stretched legs drawn. Unlike Scarpa’s, Siza’s sketches are typically drawn with pen. Yes, these are two architects, who chose for themselves two different tools: pencils and pens. The pens tend to give you more defined lines, and hence, perhaps Siza’s geometrical white block architecture.
For me, I’m really interested in capturing different things that camera might not do for me. I’ve been to places where it’s just to dark or the space is too small unless you have a wide-angle lens and your device can work with really low f-number. While camera helps with storing visual information, sketches can unlock things unseen, such as proportion, and spatial sequence. Low tech, perhaps, but it’s indeed satisfying to look back at your sketchbook after a while. So, wherever you might be, make sure you keep a small sketchbook and fill this with anything you like. Don’t worry with how you’re doing it – everyone has a different way of using a sketchbook. You can draw over one thing again and again in the same way Scarpa does it, or it could be very precise, like Siza.
I prefer pencil over pen, and sometimes I like to rotate my sketchbook 90 degrees often, to switch between landscape and portrait, but any method and tools works, really. The point is that you never know if you’ll just stumble across new ways of representation that will help you finding out and sharpening your true design personalities.