Book Review / Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand

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Poplar Forest, Drawing by Frank Harmon.

In his introduction to Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand, author J. Michael Welton explains that his personal interest in architectural drawing was inspired by three pencil sketches of the Virginia countryside drawn during the winters of 1946 and 1947 by his father, a World War II veteran, when he was a graduate student in the architecture program at the University of Virginia. Welton, a freelance architecture and design writer based in Wake Forest, North Carolina, first covered the subject in a 2011 feature he wrote for The Huffington Post.

Kicked off by a foreword by architect and professor Robert McCarter, Drawing from Practice takes a closer look at what the art of drawing means to 26 different architects including Stanley Tigerman, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, Alberto Alfonso, Deborah Berke, the late Michael Graves, and others. AIA Gold Medal winner Peter Bohlin explains that his love of drawing was inspired by his father, a former president of Eberhard Faber, who delivered pencils as a young man to architects like Hugh Ferris and Raymond Hood. Tod Williams explains that he draws not for pleasure, but to simply to help him think. For Daniel Libeskind, drawing was a way to communicate when he first moved to the U.S. as a boy and spoke no English.

While the font is tad small, this volume has a wonderful look, weight, and feel to it. Welton’s features and interviews on each practitioner are incredibly readable – and by that I mean written in clear, relaxed, flowing language that is absent of overly complex “architect speak” that would alienate those outside the profession. Overall, a nice book for those already practicing, those in school, or anyone who appreciates the power of hand drawing in the built world.

Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand

J. Michael Welton

Routledge

2015

221 pages

$54.95 (softcover), $180.00 (hardcover)
Available through Amazon.
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Study of south elevation, AIA North Carolina Center for Architecture and Design. Drawing by Frank Harmon.
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Early sketch of northwest corner, AIA North Carolina for Architecture and Design. Drawing by Frank Harmon.
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Competition drawing of northwest corner, AIA North Carolina Center for Architecture and Design. Drawing by Frank Harmon.

 

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Sketch of a future intelligent adaptive road surface, the “tripanel” which can change responsively in three modes. The drawing portrays both a smart road and a smart car and the networked system that would enable real-time responsiveness to “sharing” a transformable road. Image courtesy Höweler + Yoon Architecture.
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The concept sketch of the Shareway suggests a future scenario where various infrastructure modes are bundled togther and switching between modes is more seamless. Image courtesy Höweler + Yoon Architecture.
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Connectivity offered by a car-to-car system is visualized by superimposing a diagram of a social network interface of a heads-up display. Image courtesy Höweler + Yoon Architecture.
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Raleigh Durham International Airport concept. The Freelon Group Inc.
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Raleigh Durham International Airport parking structure. Photo © James West/JWestProductions.com.

All images courtesy of Routledge.

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