Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Classification of Drawings

In readings and trying to explain drawings to others I have run into the situation where I need to differentiate the types or categories of drawings. It has been difficult but I think Michael Graves has done it quite well in his essay The Necessity for Drawing.

There are of course several types of architectural drawing. By clarifying the dominant nature of each type according to the intention of the architect assumes for his drawing, we find three primary categories: 1 the referential sketch, 2 the preparatory study, and 3 the definitive drawing. This sort of classification can never be pure, as all drawings have aspects of each category. However, it is important to identify the primary themes each.

1 The Referential Sketch. This kind of drawing may be thought of as the architect's diary or record of discovery. It is a shorthand reference that is generally fragmentary in nature, and yet has the power to develop into a more fully elaborated composition when remembered and combined with other themes. Like the physical artifact collected or admired as a model holding some symbolic importance the referential sketch is a metaphorical base that may be used, transformed, or otherwise engaged in a later composition.

I presume that most of us are by nature lazy, and when we see something that interests us in the natural or built landscape, we may deceive ourselves into thinking that we can remember it without drawing. However, if we do draw to remember, the chance that the particular image or set of images will stay with us is obviously increased. In making such a record of our observation, we of course do so with a point of view. It is that very bias by which the natural phenomenon is interpreted, reseen, that allows the artist to identify with the image and causes it to have special meaning for him. It goes without saying that what the artist or architect chooses to draw, using his sketchbook as a record of observation, reveals the examination of his artistic conscience.

2 The Preparatory Study. This type of drawing documents the process of inquiry, examining questions raised by a given intention in a manner that provides the basis for later, more definitive work. These drawings are by nature deliberately experimental. They produce variations on themes and are clearly exercises toward more concrete architectural ends. As the are generally developed in series, a process that is not wholly linear but that involves the reexamination of given questions. Generally didactic in nature, these studies instruct as much by what is left out as by what is drawn. The manner in which they are able to test ideas and provide the foundation for subsequent development involves a method of leaving questions open through the presumption of incompleteness and the technique of
pentimento - the erasure and subsequent reconstruction of thematic and figural representations.

3 The Definitive Drawing. This is the drawing that becomes final and quantifiable in terms of its proportion, dimension detail - indeed in its complete compositional configuration. In the two preceding categories of drawing, the burden of experience was placed on the life of the drawing as much as on the architectural conception. In the this final classification of drawing, however, the burden in inquiry in now shifted from the drawing to the architecture itself. The drawing becomes an instrument to answer questions rather than pose them. This is not to say that these drawings attempt to imitate reality; however, they can be regarded as the final step taken in the drawing process that allows the built reality. As in the preceding classifications these drawings must also remain somewhat fragmentary, since no single drawing can explain the several aspects of a building's intentions. The various means of representation of architectural ideas (plans, sections, three-dimensional drawings) show the building as an artifact imagined not so much through the existence of any one of these fragments, but by the understanding of the tension between them.

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