Ask any architect about the genesis of their work and they’ll usually say something about the importance of drawing. In the digital era, the sketch is perhaps the last bridge between the architect and artist, an umbilical cord that reasserts their claims to creativity. Architects’ Sketchbooks is a new monograph that brings together the thoughts, squiggles, sketchbooks and first drafts of a huge number of prominent contemporary practitioners. Contributors include Will Alsop, Shigeru Ban, Tony Fretton, Sean Godsell, 3Deluxe, Eva Jiricna, Norman Foster, Alessandro Mendini, Narinder Sagoo, Paul Raff and Terry Pawson.
The term ’sketch’ is pretty loosely interpreted. Some of the imagery is computer-generated, some of it is three-dimensional models, some painting and collage. Working methods are rarely laid completely bare, but aptitude and spatial sense is more apparent in some entries than others. Shigeru Ban’s precise diagrams for the Centre Pompidou-Metz imply the formal elaboration was already fixed and immutable, while Will Alsop’s characteristically abstract paintings give little indication of architectural form. Other examples are most linear, like the heavily worked tracing paper roughs by Boidot Robin Architects which eventually evolve into neat card models. Or Brent Buck’s densely layered pen sketches and meticulous notebooks or Sean Godsell’s obsessive, small scale form-making.
The era of the grand measured perspective, along the lines of Frank Lloyd Wright or Paul Rudolph, are probably over for good. But Architects’ Sketchbooks offers convincing proof of the role of drawing in architecture, be it as a playful means of expressing ideas (Narinder Sagoo’s elegant, cartoon-like project descriptions for Foster + Partners, for example) or as an expressive way of exploring form.