Is Drawing a Form of Listening?

Listening is a big part of being an architect.

In the early stages of meeting a client and throughout the life of the project, listening constitutes the ethereal foundation of our work. It (the other’s voice, face and body) comes to us as language (audible, textual and body)…..and is first translated into sketches.

The initial sketches we create are the first (and therefore the most important) translations of listening. A sketch’s genesis is not abstract, it is always generated by some form of listening. And as the sketch evolves over time, it begins to speak.

As we sketch, we create intended and unintended consequences, and new discoveries are made. Our response to the sketch’s “self-generated” discoveries constitute a formidable creative cycle: listening and sketching and then listening and sketching, and on and on.

So often, a sketch done quickly and early, sometimes on a scrap piece of paper forms the concept for an entire project. As we progress from the sketch into 3D modeling and construction documents, we work diligently to preserve the sketch’s “original” voice so as not to dilute the power of the “first” listening. In this sense, the sketch serves a powerful and vital role in creating the architectural manifestation of the client’s voice.

What prompted me to write this post is Mike Barkoviak, one of our intern architects. His sketchbook was laying on his desk and I saw many beautiful drawings. He sketches every week to listen and to understand. When I asked him about why he sketches, he told me:

“Sitting down and sketching once a week has been something that triggers both abstract thought and an understanding of how things come together. If you sketch something that is “real” you begin to understand subtle nuances such as how certain lines cross each other or how areas of a shape are lighter than others. You utilize all the information you see and and begin to portray what the object is saying to you.”

Here are some of his sketches. Enjoy!