For decades I have argued that architectural drawing can be divided into three types, which I call the “referential sketch,” the “preparatory study” and the “definitive drawing.” The definitive drawing, the final and most developed of the three, is almost universally produced on the computer nowadays, and that is appropriate. But what about the other two? What is their value in the creative process? What can they teach us?
The referential sketch serves as a visual diary, a record of an architect’s discovery. It can be as simple as a shorthand notation of a design concept or can describe details of a larger composition. It might not even be a drawing that relates to a building or any time in history. It’s not likely to represent “reality,” but rather to capture an idea.
These sketches are thus inherently fragmentary and selective. When I draw something, I remember it. The drawing is a reminder of the idea that caused me to record it in the first place. That visceral connection, that thought process, cannot be replicated by a computer.
The second type of drawing, the preparatory study, is typically part of a progression of drawings that elaborate a design. Like the referential sketch, it may not reflect a linear process. (I find computer-aided design much more linear.) I personally like to draw on translucent yellow tracing paper, which allows me to layer one drawing on top of another, building on what I’ve drawn before and, again, creating a personal, emotional connection with the work.
I have never really thought about the three different types of drawing before - but it is true that when I first start to look at how something goes together, there is often a series of napkin sketches that puts some preliminary ideas onto paper. I also commonly see people sketch on one drawing about opposing views of construction - or elaborating on others sketches - and I think that these steps are important in the technical design process.
I think that with computers it is occassionally too easy to make something work on paper that really isn't practical to do in real life.
Finally, I thought this was interesting:
As I work with my computer-savvy students and staff today, I notice that something is lost when they draw only on the computer. It is analogous to hearing the words of a novel read aloud, when reading them on paper allows us to daydream a little, to make associations beyond the literal sentences on the page. Similarly, drawing by hand stimulates the imagination and allows us to speculate about ideas, a good sign that we’re truly alive.
It is true that upon reading, I occassionaly (or even often) pause and reflect - or skim a statment over again. Either to make the idea more firm in my mind or to think about the implications. While this is certainly true when reading educataional or informative information, it is also true in fiction. Sometimes its interesting to pause and think about what is next, or what might relate to the story outside of the book. And, while I like to listen to audio books - for convienence, it is harder to replicate that - you have to think more about actually stopping the process to reflect.