To be a great architect… you must be able to draw.

In order to be a great Architect, the individual needs to know how to draw.  But it isn’t just that one can put a pencil down on paper, what an ability to drawing represents is that the individual knows how to see.  Yes, see.  To understand this you have to appreciate that architectural design is an exercise of the mind, that is one’s ability to fully visualize a project, from it’s details, construction, lighting, layout, function, and all it’s many viewpoints in a real and yet atmospheric way.

Visualize in an atmospheric way?  Well yes, for design is a molding and modeling process, much like sculpting, that merges hundreds of ideas together, many of those being purely visual, like texture, lighting, reflection, form, and color, and these elements, in order to achieve the best possible design, must be visualized in their correct place, lest we are in the business of creating disasters.

So how does visualizing make a real difference?  If you understand something about the human mind, you’ll understand that our brains are capable of thinking much faster than we can physically move.  For instance, the person who plays a piano doesn’t deliberately press the keys down one note at a time, for if they did the piece would sound horrible, but instead they let their brain take over the functioning of their fingers allowing automatic function.  In effect, they are enjoying the music as much as the audience is with only minor acknowledgement of what they’ve rehearsed their minds to accomplish.  In design, the designer must be able to visualize what the implications of what it is they’re visualizing, and be flexible enough in their thinking to be able to make changes ‘on the fly’ to achieve a higher level of design than someone who’s not experiences or driven in the same way can.

This higher level of visualization ability can easily lead to dreams which can help the designer solve design conflicts.

So how does drawing really help with visualization?  It’s very simple, if you can see, and I mean look at something and then visualize what it is you’re looking at, you can then transfer that mental image onto paper.  It is a simple and fundamental exercise that all Architects should do and to be frank, be excellent at.  If they aren’t then you can be sure that they’ve ‘slacked off’ in their duties to become the best Architect that they can.  It is fundamental and a very easy way for the public to understand what kind of Architect they’re hiring.

Being able to draw well, means you can visualize.  Visualization is fundamental to having an ability to design well.  In reverse, being able to then visualize and being able to draw allows the Architect to effectively communicate their ideas quickly.  But it doesn’t stop there.  If the Architect has a heightened sense of visualization, with an excellent understanding of humanity, history and our aspirations as a civilization, the ideas will be a reflection of contemporary human thinking and thus the design will push the limits of traditional or even contemporary thought.  As such, the skill of drawing and visualization plays an important role in the further development of us as a civilization.

Finally, having the ability to see, draw and visualize gives the person a unique advantage over others who can not.  Basically as one moves through their environment they are more ready to absorb, noting what works and what doesn’t, allowing them to avoid the latter in their own design work.  Basically, over a life time one can acquire a wealth of resourced information in their memory, applying what they know instantly to any given design problem.  It still baffles me when I see a blatant design mistake, like up escalators on the left side of a passageway (6 train Lexington and 53rd Street Station) or small urban buildings that don’t understand what a corner is and how to take advantage of it for the benefit of the property owner.

White House Blue Room Rendering by Nicholas Buccalo
White House Blue Room Rendering by Nicholas Buccalo

There is a lot of imagery for new design concepts, but before you get drawn in by the glitter of it all, ask yourself  some basic questions, like would this design be easy to heat and cool?  Is it structurally sound and not vulnerable to mischief?  Would the occupants get enough light, would they have access to fresh outdoor air? Would the design promote easy maintenance, and not be vulnerable to water infiltration?  While these are only a few practical questions to consider, a thing that all good architecture must qualify for since we are building shelter and we wish to build shelter that can financially maintain itself lest we want a building that is constantly in decay, there is of course our intent to represent ourselves as a society that is optimistic, forward thinking and on top of today’s technology.  After all, when it is all built, we as a society want something we can be proud of that represents us well, for the future to acknowledge our time as a great time.



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