Drawing - The Architect’s (not so) secret weapon

Much has been discussed and written about the importance of drawings in architecture. From a mere representation to a design tool, drawings are -no doubt- the most direct and immediate form of space and form thinking. Moreover drawings have been one of the first evidences of how humans differentiate themselves from other species as “thinkers” as they represented their rituals and their way of life.


As with our own language, before we can express an idea or a thought, we learn to speak and write. We master the ability to place our phrases in past, present and future tense; or use adjectives to qualify what surrounds us. In drawing there is no difference, first see, then analyse, then think, and then synthesise to finally propose.


"An artist must have his measuring tools not in the hand, but in the eye." Michelangelo.


Drawing requires practicing and mastering as any other skill such as playing a musical instrument. The coordination between our brain and our body, choreograph a way of thinking and expresses our version of what we want to say, in traces. In some cases we draw what surrounds us; we reproduce, observe, we analyse and more importantly we learn. We learn the proportions of a tree and its components, how wide the branches spread in relation to the tree height. We understand the relationship between buildings heights and street width when we draw, by ‘measuring’ them with our eyes. We capture the essence of things like its weight, mass, materiality and even movement. By drawing we learn to observe, to analyse and synthetize what we see.


"Drawing is not what one sees but what one can make others see." Degas


Some other times we draw to express our thinking and ideas of our own making -we create, and project-. When we draw we choose, we think, explore and test. The better we draw the better we can ‘say’ what we think; the easier it becomes to articulate a spatial idea in a simple and direct way. When we move away from computers, and confront the white paper, we really explore and challenge ourselves to distil what we want to express.



At WRAP we are interested in the relationship between drawing and architectural ideas, not only drawing as a mere representation (which is also important) but more so about drawing as a critical tool to express and capture the essence of what we want to say while we are doing it. For example, how what we choose to draw (section, perspective, plan, etc) reflects the way we think or reveals the essence of a particular project. How the tools we use, pencil, felt markers, charcoal or watercolours, define the character of what we are creating.


A sketch will always win.


At WRAP we are immersed in a world of computer assisted drawings, computer generated images and more recently virtual and augmented reality. Having said that; we also crave for that trace, that unique scribble that conveys “the” idea that was trying to ‘emerge’ or be defined for so long. Moreover ‘talking by drawing’ remains today the most powerful way to exchange ideas with clients, colleagues and the overall team involved in a project, not so much because of the precision of the drawing itself but because that drawing contains the essence of what has to be ‘said’.


Those who witnessed this moment feel a part of the process and generally remain convinced of something way beyond the drawing, that is unreplaceable, becoming the beholder of the direction to follow to build what has to be built.


But the power of drawing -as a skill- is not only about that perceived moment of ‘genius’ or genesis at the idea stage; thankfully drawings do remain as a resilient tool to solve technical issues ‘in situ’ or to simply explain the way forward, long passed the concept stage.

It is with no doubt the architect’s ‘weapon for mass construction’ (if you spare the tasteless metaphor); to resolve and -again- direct what has to be done on site when master builders find themselves with the very common question of: “what do we do here?, we need to ask the architect.”


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