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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: Architects' Sketchbooks

Architects' Sketchbooks by Will Jones
Metropolis Books, 2011
Hardcover, 352 pages

This fall I finally took the plunge and started teaching. In my first semester two classes are on my plate: a second-year design studio and a first-year "visualization" lab, aka drawing. In regards to the second, I'm glad to know of and be part of the continuing emphasis on hand-drawing (hard-line and free-hand) as a way of documenting and understanding architecture. Computer renderings may be the focus of both student and professional presentations, be they competitions or commissions, but one does not leap directly into computer modeling and rendering without learning through the process of drawing. There is still something to be said for the link between the brain and the hand with the pen or pencil as a tool. Yes, the computer is a tool, but in hardly the same way; its abstraction divorces certain levels of understanding that come when putting drawing instrument to paper, especially as BIM takes the "drafting" out of CAD. Doubtful folk should read Juhani Pallasmaa's The Thinking Hand for a theoretical argument and soak up the sketchbooks that Will Jones has collected in this jumbo collection, to see the wonderful diversity of exploration found in architects' sketchbooks.

[Spreads from Artbook blog]

Diversity may be the operative word for this collection, as the media that is considered as part of a sketchbook is broad, including not only pen and pencil but watercolor, paint, but also models. This points to a general emphasis on process of design over getting a sneak peek at the personal sketchbooks of famous architects, even though some illustrations appear as scans from them, grid paper, rounded corners, binding and all. The selection leans towards a UK selection, perhaps stemming from Jones living in London (now he's in Canada) and the relationships born from one's home base. This fact is also aligned with the book, because even though communication networks may make connection possible across boundaries, the old-fashioned face-to-face, like ye olde pencil on paper, is still important.

Ultimately this book is loads of eye candy and inspiration for architects, just not the type we're used to seeing online and in magazines. Enthusiasts of architecture may find interest in the imagery, but the stunning level of diversity makes the book especially appealing for architects who can appreciate the sketches as a means towards completed buildings and as artistic expressions in their own right.

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