Michael J. Malone, AIA
Studio Director, The Michael Malone Studio
WKMC Architects, Inc., Dallas
Last year at the 2008 TSA Convention in Fort Worth, I presented a program that addressed a question that had been nagging at me for several years, What Happened to Drawing? Specifically, I wanted to initiate a discussion regarding the role of hand drawing, both sketching and drafting, in our profession and whether or not it was still relevant to what we do as architects in the creation and documentation of our work. More importantly, I wanted to know if it was becoming something quaint and precious that was going the way of negative photography, record stores, and newspapers…something that we’d all tell our children and grandchildren about, one of those “back in my day” reminiscences like when my grandfather used to tell me about riding a horse to school. The program last year was so well attended and the ensuing discussion and questions so engaging and animated that I am offering it again this year in Houston.
It’s my belief that unless we discuss it and as a profession we have a consensus about it, there won’t be anyone who draws by hand left in our profession within a generation. If you think about it, the way we as a group of professionals have defined ourselves for literally centuries has been by our almost unique ability to draw and our use of drawings as a communication tool.
I started architectural school in 1976, and one of the first classes I took in college was freehand drawing. My earliest design studios required keeping sketchbooks as a way to begin to record the world around us and to develop our skills and facility at drawing. In part I went to architectural school because I loved to draw and in college was surrounded by people of like mind and inclination.
I do a fair amount of interviewing potential hires for intern positions in my studio and have a wider exposure to young architects through my mentoring efforts in conjunction with our local AIA chapter. For the last several years, I have reviewed portfolios of young people with no hand drawing at all to represent their projects, even as concept sketches. If I ask them if they’ve done any hand drawings as part of their architectural education, I basically get two responses: the first is that their professors have told them that we in the profession only want to see computer drawings as a condition of considering them for a position or second that hand drawing wasn’t required for them to develop or present their projects in school. Both answers concern me because they suggest there is an inclination away from hand drawings in the academy. I am curious if this is because our collegiate schools of architecture feel that’s what they need to do to prepare young architects for the profession or if it is the inclination of the schools themselves? Either way the results are the same and drawing as a tool, a means of expression, a way to develop an idea, an artistic expression, and a means of communication is both diminished and in danger of being lost.
I am interested in knowing if the changes we are seeing are necessary, a sign of the times and the progress of the world, or if they are driven by forces outside our profession and the way we practice. It’s my intention to find this out through discussion and dialogue with as many people as are interested in the discussion itself and who feel they are vested in any of the possible points of view and outcomes.
Add your comments on this topic to the TSA blog and be a part of the ongoing discussion. Attend the TSA Convention in Houston and sign up for CE Session 109059 to hear more on this topic from Michael Malone, Saturday, Oct. 24, at 1:30 p.m.