If you are an architect or architecture student, and have always been worried about your poor sketching skills, this post is about you, and me.

I have always wondered “What kind of sketching architecture students shall be taught?” Again, it is debatable and subjective, what ‘good sketching’ means. For many, it may be good looking sketch, but for some it may be few lines that explain the idea. The idea that is going to take some shape in future. Architects deal with ideas and concepts. They talk spaces and connections. The ideas which have to exist in reality, which is not so true about fine arts sketching.

I think, architectural sketching is way different from ‘fine-arts’ sketching. And, that is the reason it shall not be taught in the same way as it is taught to fine-arts students.

Look at the following sketch by Frank Gehry, published in the book; Gehry Draws by MIT Press

Architectural Sketching

I am sure, except Gehry nobody else would be able to make out what the sketch means, unless Gehry sat and explained it himself. I have tried showing this sketch to many students and have asked them “What do they see in this sketch?” And of course I receive all sorts of answers ranging from “shoes” to “Bath tub”.

One can go on and on with examples, but it is necessary to quote one example of a final year student of architecture who came to me to have my views on his dissertation. When he started explaining his idea, to denote spaces what he drew was ‘ovals” and to denote connections he perfectly used “straight lines”. If I show this to some third person, the person would call it a pair of “spectacles”. How would you as a teacher react to this?

Essentially architecture students have to deal with three type of sketches:

1. Sketches by observation: The ability to draw the sketch of a building, product or any object by looking at it.

2. Memory Drawing: The ability to draw from memory. The subject has been seen / viewed / experienced in past.

3. Visualisation: This is most important and more and more effort in my view shall be put in this area. The ability of drawing something which is going to exist in future, something which has been conceived in designer’s mind or sketching of an idea which till now did not exist.

In architecture schools (atleast in India), I think, more stress is being given to observation drawing. I do not deny the essence of it, rather to be able to draw one must start with observation drawing. What I don’t agree to is the process of learning sketching stopping there itself. Eventually more and more emphasis shall be given to memory drawing and drawing by visualization, as architects have to spend their lives sketching something that doesn’t exist.

I have thought of a simple exercise for second year students, where students do not only try to draw and sketch their ideas but also learn to control proportions of different objects in same space.

Exercise 1: Draw a view of a room which contains: a study table, a chair besides it, a book shelf, a window, pen stand, laptop /computer, ceiling fan and a two seat-er sofa.

OR, the submission of first three designs shall only be in the form of sketches and no computer generated or scale drawings.

What do you think? Let me know.

[This is draft post, changes would be made to content, language and formatting but the subject will remain same.]