Freehand Drawing:The timeless tool in architecture

I entered architecture school at the end of 20th century. At that time, computational tools began to appear in the architecture realm in both practice and academia. Autodesk AutoCad was perhaps the most dominate tool at that moment. The fundamental method of drawing in AutoCad does not change much compared to Alberti’s method of architectural drawing in the early Renaissance. The main difference was that drawings were generated and output through the computer instead of human hands.  Since then students in architecture school have spent countless hours to learn and understand the tools.

A decade later, the new paradigm emerged with Building Information Modeling (BIM). It has changed the fundamental process of architectural drawings, and the operational method of architecture since the Renaissance era. Architectural ideas and designs are no longer generated from two-dimensional drawings such as plans, sections, etc. Instead, BIM generates the architecture as collective data in three – dimensional format. Then this computational model can generate data, and two-dimensional drawings to serve communication purposes. The current BIM software that is wildly used is Autodesk Revit. Once again, the academic and professional realms have to drastically adjust to this new paradigm shift.  In academia, schools have been adjusted and taught the new set of computational tools to ensure students are prepared for the on-going modification in the profession. Additionally, students are also expected to be familiar and efficient with graphic applications such Adobe software, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and After Effect. It is undeniable that learning these computational tools and trying to keep up with the on-going changes are important as part of necessary skill sets for students to market themselves to prospective employers. However, the demands and expectations from architectural students also tends to increase anxiety in them. I myself have been keeping up with on-going changes since the beginning of my time in this profession and this will not end. It will continue on. I’m certain that a new tool set will replace BIM eventually. But at some point, I will no longer be able to keep up with these rapid changes.

Only one type of tool can still withstand the test time, a tool that has been used for centuries from the beginning of human civilization to the digital age of 21st century. That tool is freehand drawing. Learning this skill to use for developing design ideas and generating thoughts does not require software updates or license permissions. However, freehand drawing skills are lifelong learning skills that need constant practice in order to be good at it. The simple act of drawing only requires the artist, a pencil and a piece of paper, and perhaps the focus to generate and explore architectural ideas. As an active practitioner of drawing, it is the best tool by far that I have never experienced in my architectural career. A lot of talking, let’s draw instead!