From the Architect: Drawing Homes

From drawing comes the composition of materials, proportion and light, resulting in architecture.

My first assignment in architecture school was to draw my childhood home. Forty students sketched at drafting tables in the studio for an hour then we gathered together with our professors. I was shocked by what I saw. Some of the sketches were skillfully done, but most looked as though they were made by grade school children, including mine. One student used charcoal to create her sketch. Dark black smudge marks were on her hands, face and clothing as she pinned up her drawing. Another was drawn on a wooden box crate, leaned up against the pin board. This explained the loud scraping noises I heard at the other end of the studio during our hour of drawing. My initial shock quickly evolved to the shedding of long held naivete about drawing and architecture. I found influence in my fellow students, the artists and architects I studied, and anyone I encountered who cared deeply enough about the visual world to truly observe that which they saw before them. I ultimately found that architecture at its very best is visceral, the roots of which lie in drawing.

While architectural drawings evolve to become technical and legal documents for the purpose of constructing buildings, process drawings can be quite loose and infused with spirit and emotion. The successful confluence of technical and process drawings is optimal for architects and their clients and necessary for the creation great buildings. Homes are very personal buildings for inhabitants, and by their nature are emotionally charged. When designing homes, architects necessarily form personal connections with their clients. An iterative process is engaged by architects during which critical questions are posed and discoveries are made. Spaces are scaled, materials selected, and light modulated in accordance with project objectives and revelations borne from the creative process. At the center of these questions and discoveries is drawing.

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Drew Lang is the principal architect at Lang Architecture based in New York. He received a Master of Architecture from Yale University, and is licensed as an architect in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Louisiana.