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I can't draw...can I be an architect?

zdphotos

ok, so I'm taking a drawing class right now, Art 101 and I'm learning that while I can improve, my hand drawing skills are sub par.

To what extent can I still be successfull in the field of architecture without that talent?

I can say that right now I am a computer professional so I am tehcnology savy and have already started with the easy-to-learn Sketchup product. I feel like I have decent ideas but I don't express them well by hand. opinions?

 
Jan 29, 08 12:22 am
citrus.grey

It sort of depends, drawing is a technical skill which, although very much related, is not completely necessary to a successful pursuit of your architectural interests, perhaps at one time it was more important but now representation is moving away (hopefully not too far away) from hand drawing skills so as to provide someone with sub-par talent in this area the opportunity to present their ideas clearly and beautifully.

That said, from my experiences so far (final year of arch. undergrad) a natural aptitude for basic drawing belays a more important and possibly necessary skill which is an aptitude at spatial perception. Good hand drawings start with a good understanding of what you're looking at, how pieces interrelate in three dimensions and how this thing you're seeing relates to your own body as you draw it.

Relatively speaking I’m just starting at this too, so I'm not sure what to make of this aspect of design yet (skills in spatial perception), I’m sure it can be developed, but I’m also pretty sure that some people have this ability to think intuitively about spatial relationships at their fingertips and some don't.

I guess I’m rambling so no, I personally don't think you need to be able to draw to be an architect, I know plenty who can’t. But yes, I do think you need to intuitively grasp three dimensions (a skill often revealed through hand drawing) to be a successful architect.

Then again these are my opinions and there are certainly no rules to what makes you successful in this field and what doesn't.

Jan 29, 08 1:17 am  · 
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Apurimac


this is a drawing by one of Architecture's golden children, Frank Ghery.

Alot of architects I know (including myself) are doodlers at heart and rarely expend the energy to make "perfect" sketches and drafting techniques are easily taught.

Jan 29, 08 2:51 am  · 
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b3tadine[sutures]

i like Frank Gehry sketches, i like drawing in a fluid and way...

Jan 29, 08 7:08 am  · 
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first, and most importantly, don't let anyone telling you that you don't have to be good at drawing keep you from practicing as much as possible.

drawing beautifully is not necessary. drawing for communication is a great skill to nurture throughout your career because it means you can use drawn communication anywhere and with very limited tools.

second, no: as was said above, you don't have to be great at it from the outset. gehry can actually make great drawings, but has found a certain kind of shorthand sketch that works for him.

others, though, like walter gropius, have been constantly frustrated by what they themselves perceived as lack of drawing skill. gropius solved it, at least in part, through collaboration. most of his projects, even before 'the architects collaborative' were collaborations in which he communicated verbally or through simple sketching to someone he regarded as more skilled at drawing. there are very few drawings BY GROPIUS out there.

Jan 29, 08 7:17 am  · 
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trace™

some are just naturals, but there are certainly techniques you can learn to be better. Don't get discouraged, you've got years and years and years to practice.

Jan 29, 08 8:27 am  · 
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aquapura

You'll be a terrible architect unless you can paint like this.

Jan 29, 08 8:39 am  · 
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snook_dude

Quote from old Drawing Sage, Kirby Lockard: I'm here to teach those of you who can Think to Draw and those who can Draw to Think
and understand what they are drawing.

Liberty was one of his many students.

Jan 29, 08 8:51 am  · 
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same as: now that we have electronic means, why do we need live/analog music?

we continue to draw because it's an essential tool. willingly/intentionally giving up ANY of the tools we have that we can use for communication is just dumb.

Jan 29, 08 9:02 am  · 
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snook_dude

She might have sharpened her skills under the guidance of the Cowboy Professor McNeil in her later years of school. I always
loved it when he would send us out on the University of Arizona
Campus and let us sketch as a class, instood of being in those
nasty old stinky studios overlooking Speedway Boulevard.

Jan 29, 08 9:03 am  · 
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liberty bell

It's all personal. I use drawing to help me see - I can analyze an existing or imagined condition better when I draw it. That's a physical commitment that, frankly, helps me think. meta doesn't need to use his body to think, that's his situation, and that's fine.

I'll reiterate what Steven said: as you are a student, I think it's unwise to simply toss hand drawing out of your repertoire of skills so quickly. I encourage you to explore using hand drawing as an analytical method: use a sketchbook, and keep it private - that way you don't have the pressure of other people's judgment every time you put pen to paper (which face it we ALL have). Sketch a little bit every day, from life and from your brain. Your drawing muscles are like any muscles - the more you use them, the stronger they get. Eventually you'll be proud to show people what's in that sketchbook.

Also: you mention Art 101 - I took Life Drawing 101 as a GRAD student and I flat out suck at it - even now my 4yo son draws more lifelike and nuanced figures than I do! But I can draw a fantastic and legible axonometric of a wood detail in seconds flat - it's all about your personal intent and skills.


Jan 29, 08 9:12 am  · 
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liberty bell

Exactly, snook. McNeil - and I'm sure thousands of other architecture profs through the years - would send us out on campus with the task of drawing (10) five-minute sketches of, say, cornice details. So f*ing educational.

I loved Cowboy McNeil. He could estimate the number of studs needed to build a given house design in his brain - no Chief Architect necessary.

Jan 29, 08 9:15 am  · 
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love techno, meta. even better, though, is a cd mix with a techno track sandwiched between a honky tonk track and james brown live at the apollo.

Jan 29, 08 9:18 am  · 
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snook_dude

met...personally I think the same holds true for computers....
Junk in is Junk out. I only say this after sifting thru thousands
of drawings and wondering what the hell was that guy thinking about.

Kirby was an innovative guy so I'm sure he welcomed the computer,
and viewed it as another tool as a means to an end result.

Jan 29, 08 9:18 am  · 
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zdphotos

I appreciate all of the responses. I certainly won't stop practicing my drawing skills, but its great to hear the feedback! very encouraging!

I do find that I can quickly sketch things that don't look pretty but people can understand, so its good to know that I can survive on that level.

I have been observing an old-school architect as I make my decision to enter the profession. He only uses a computer to email, everything is by hand, including his own renderings with chalks and watercolors. Hence, I was worried that I would need to learn all of that!

thanks again for all of the honest feedback! Love the discussion!

Jan 29, 08 11:18 am  · 
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zdphotos

oh, and Bob Ross is my hero...

Jan 29, 08 11:19 am  · 
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bowling_ball

Don't confuse the reason(s) architects draw: not so much presentation (that's a profession unto itself) but for COMMUNICATION.

Learning how to draw, especially fine-art-type drawing (still life, models, interior spaces, landscapes) can and will help you to communicate (to yourself and others) tremendously.

This year, the architecture department at our school BANNED the use of computers in class (for taking notes) and for all presentations/crits. You can work all you want on computers, but you have to print stuff out. This sounded really archaic and ridiculous to me, but now I understand it: a lot of the students in years above me can't draw to save their lives, it's really sad.

Sketching with pen/pencil and paper is always always always the quickest way to get your ideas down. By the time you've pulled out your laptop, started it up, the software's loaded and you've got a new document set up for modelling, you could have made a dozen sketches (and by then, the opportunity's already passed you by).

Architecture is NOT about 3D modelling. The vast majority of the beautiful icons of design and architecture were not created on a computer.

Jan 29, 08 11:58 am  · 
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futureboy

Gropius famously couldn't draw and always needed others to draw his designs for him......

Jan 29, 08 2:00 pm  · 
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treekiller

I didn't think that I could draw, so i went to architecture school instead of art school.

still don't draw well, but I'd like to think that I'm a competent professional...

Jan 29, 08 2:21 pm  · 
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voila_phil

Most drawings nowadays takes place in computers, but it would be very helpful to illustrate communications via drawing.

But don't let your lack of drawing skills stop you. you'll improve in time. I.M. Pei admitted he wasn't a good drawer and almost quit architecture school. Good thing his professor stopped him.

Jan 29, 08 3:33 pm  · 
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brian buchalski

it's probably better to begin without the natural talent for drawing. it will give you more room to grow (provided you make the effort).

having the talent come too easily can sometimes be a crutch. for some people, they can always just sit down with a sheet of paper and pretty things will flow...but others are forced to apply effort, imagination and problem solving...and those are all good skills to have.

even as you go deeper into the profession and use computers more, i'd suggest never giving up on drawing.

Jan 29, 08 3:50 pm  · 
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bowling_ball

Good advice, puddles.

Last term, the head of the arch department told me during a crit that my drawings were the most 'godawful he's ever seen!' I had a good chuckle, because my drawings were meant to communicate a couple of simple, low-tech ideas. And it worked, because an engineering pHD student came up to me later and told me that he understood exactly what I was talking about thanks to my drawings.

Communication isn't always about communication with other architects: you also will have to deal with clients, contractors, technicians, your mom, engineers, etc. If your mom can understand it, you've done a good job ;)

Drawing is about PRACTICE and hopefully picking up some tips and tricks along the way that help you to communicate your IDEAS. Getting really good at only one type of drawing or subject matter doesn't get you very far. On the same token, I got out of practice of drawing for a while and it took a bit of time to come back to me, though I'm nowhere near the ability of many of the people I've seen on this board, all of whom have a lot more practice than me!

Jan 29, 08 4:20 pm  · 
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SDR

When people say "I can't draw," a certain number of them really mean "I don't draw as well as I would like to."

If I could have drawn as well as i needed to, when I was in school, I might be an architect today. Design talent and drawing skill are two different things.

A good test of structural visualization, a critical aspect of a potential architect's mental software (as touched on at the top by sitric.grey), might be the making of simple paper or cardboard models of imaginary objects. This wouldn't involve drawing (in the usual sense) but would indicate ability to visualize space and structure.

"This year, the architecture department at our school BANNED the use of computers in class (for taking notes) and for all presentations/crits. You can work all you want on computers, but you have to print stuff out." So, there IS hope. . .!

Jan 29, 08 4:38 pm  · 
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sunsetsam

You have to express your ideas coherently. You have some architects who have 4th grade sketching ability but can express their ideas clearly through those sketches.

Art 101 is a good class to take, you should also think about taking Architecture History, in a lot of Arch. History courses, you have to sketch a lot of the structures you analyze. This will well help you later on , in my opinion, with pointing out the main design "scheme(s)" in your head.

Jan 30, 08 6:14 pm  · 
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cydquaye

Join the club. I can't draw well either and i graduated top of my class.
Just communicate your ideas the best way you know how, the drawing should follow but if it doesn't, dont worry; some 'drawing geek' will take care of that for you.

Feb 3, 08 3:56 am  · 
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zonker

draw?, I did my last 2 years in M.arch w/o drawing anything, used Maya, Form-Z , architectural desktop, sketchup and Revit. first 7 years of practice, no drawing, just Revit 

Nov 2, 21 11:15 am  · 
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Non Sequitur

And?... not something to brag about, really. I was drawing just a few minutes ago and draw almost everyday.

Nov 2, 21 11:20 am  · 
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zonker - that's nothing to be proud of. If you need $10,000 worth of hardware and software to draw anything then you're at a disadvantage in this profession.

Nov 2, 21 11:37 am  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

Should zonker be bonker Z? (I know, I had to make a play on Form-Z)

Yes, I did some stuff with Form-Z in the past but isn't kind of like.... ancient news, now? I draw frequently. You don't have to be a master artist with the pencil. Just even a rough sketch to compose and rapidly develop ideas. I can do hand drafting when/if I need to but most day-to-day "drafting" is done in CAD/BIM tools (ok, 3d models in BIM tools or SketchUp and 2d / 3d drafting in CAD tools). I don't do as much of the CAD work in SketchUp itself but that doesn't mean I won't potentially incorporate CAD drawing into SketchUp. 

However, computer tools like CAD or BIM are not really suited for sketch ideations processes. Pencil/Pen and Paper are really about as efficient as it gets. If you can't draw, you wouldn't even some of the required architecture courses in most architecture schools. 

You don't have to draw well.... but you would need to know how to draw to pass some of the required architecture courses in most architecture degree programs. It is an essential skill to possess at least a working level of skill on the work. You don't need to be a masterful artist in that skill to be a good architect but it sometimes helps.

Nov 2, 21 2:01 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

I remember using form-z (pronounced "zed") back in 2003. You needed to insert a green USB trinket so the software knew you had an authorised license.

Nov 2, 21 2:06 pm  · 
3  · 

I used form-Z from 1998 - 2002. Only used it for massing models to trace over though.

Nov 2, 21 3:25 pm  · 
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zonker

That being said, do learn how to sketch, I've been increasingly doing things by hand - it's the only way to internalize the design - otherwise you are only internalizing Revit or sketchup or Rhino commands

Nov 2, 21 11:18 am  · 
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whistler

Hasn't stopped Charlie Munger!

Nov 2, 21 2:32 pm  · 
3  · 

::rimshot::

Nov 2, 21 3:25 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

One of the major reasons I went into architecture was that my freehand drawings "weren't much to look at" but my drafting, starting from 7th grade, was great. It's incredible what a straightedge, compass, and triangles can do for a mediocre artist, and learning how to draw a "formal" perspective was a true revelation.

Now, after 25+ years in the profession, I can actually do some freehand that I'm not outright ashamed to have anyone else see, but still nothing presentation-worthy.

Nov 2, 21 3:25 pm  · 
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x-jla

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9MyT-wk0DuI

Nov 3, 21 11:38 am  · 
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Just stop

Nov 3, 21 3:19 pm  · 
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x-jla

?

Nov 3, 21 9:15 pm  · 
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randomised

i can't architect...can i be a drawer?

Nov 4, 21 8:47 am  · 
3  · 

I'd recommend you look at being a chaise lounge instead. Way better pay.

Nov 4, 21 10:15 am  · 
2  · 
atelier nobody

LONGUE! The word is "longue", as in French for "long chair".

(Sorry, just a pet peave of mine...)

Nov 4, 21 12:43 pm  · 
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Peeve all you want. It's the American spelling and usage.

Nov 4, 21 1:18 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

Touché

Nov 4, 21 1:48 pm  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

Longue in America would be pronounced like saying "Lawn Goo". Americans lack accents.

Nov 4, 21 1:57 pm  · 
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Atelier - It's all in good fun. :)

Nov 4, 21 5:15 pm  · 
2  · 
archinine
You absolutely need to draw, it’s the most crucial and basic form of communication as an architect. That said, just because you aren’t great now doesn’t mean you can’t become adept. It’s practice, usually fueled by interest and curiosity. It won’t be difficult to log your first 10,000 hrs if you are truly interested in design. You may skate by for a while, but at a certain point it will become frustrating / you’ll hit a ceiling in your career. By career I don’t mean pay, but development of your mind and approach to problem solving through visual communication. Style is not the measure of a ‘good’ drawing. Doodle or realism, doesn’t matter. What matters is your ability to communicate your ideas and thoughts to others.

There may be some who have a ‘head start’ if they’ve been drawing since childhood etc. vs you’re starting later in class. However that doesn’t mean you can get there. You need to be able to communicate your thoughts, not compete with peers for the prettiest picture you can make with graphite on vellum. Keep an open mind about what ‘drawing’ means to you. Never underestimate how vital hand sketching is - it is the basis for your digital sketching and you’ll inherently improve both skills simultaneously by using your hand. The more you do it the better you’ll get. If you get stuck trace something you like. Then drawing redrawing it without trace. You’ll improve over time. When you get to really use those drawing skills while putting together a building, that will inform you even more. It’s never too late to start and there’s always room to improve no matter how far along you are.
Nov 4, 21 4:55 pm  · 
1  · 
rcz1001

I'll add the point more clear and shorter point: Drawing skills is essential. It is crucial to develop the skills to be adept with it. However, you do not need to be a master of drawing. Mastery and adept are two very different benchmark of skills. You need to be able to draw to communicate design intent effectively. That is developed by practice and doing and learning.

Nov 4, 21 5:32 pm  · 
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Xavier Gregoire

I don't think it's critical. You can hone your drawing skills in parallel with your efforts. 

Nov 10, 21 6:46 am  · 
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Not really. You can improve your drawing skills. If you can't draw at all, you're rather fucked in this profession.

Nov 10, 21 1:18 pm  · 
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randomised

Luckily everybody can draw

Nov 11, 21 7:18 am  · 
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Exactly! Now excuse me, I have crayons to use on a schematic site plan.

Nov 11, 21 10:30 am  · 
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