Great buildings are loaded with information. As a result, it is essential to experience architecture in person. Architects record that information through writing, photography and, most importantly, sketching.
I am a huge admirer of architectural photography. But I feel strongly that the act of taking a photograph of a building does not discipline the minds eye and visual memory to look carefully into a building.
During my years as an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University, and for my first job as a computer programmer at Skidmore Owings and Merrill, I witnessed first hand the beginning of CAD, computer aided rendering and BIM (Building Information Modeling). These extraordinarily powerful tools have done a great deal to radically modify the way we practice architecture. They have not eliminated the need for architects to be able to hand sketch. We will probably spend less time drawing on paper; it may be done more on the screen of a tablet, but we will continue making visual notations through sketches.
I have taken the information and techniques I have gleaned here and applied it to my own architectural and design work, but that is a subject for another site.
I have worked in Chicago since 1975. Still, most of my sketch books are from when I lived in Paris. The rest come from vacations and work related trips to other cities and countries. I am surrounded by architecture I admire, but until a few years ago, I had relatively few drawings to show for it.
I ride my bike all over the lakefront parks and boulevards. The skyline has never ceased to astound me. The dynamic of the skyline changes from every vantage point. Many of the best landmarks have been restored. Little gems dot the neighborhoods. The massive railway bridges tower over the industrial landscape. We have everything from Mies to Belli and Belli. There is no lack of energy and inspiration.
In 2013 I began sketching with a group of other architects and artists called “everyOTHER”. Every other week, we approach another new building, interior or landscape. It has motivated me to commit to a years long project to document and analyze the city and its architecture. The results will be documented here and on Facebook.
My gratitude to Cynthia Weingarten and Phil Enquist for organizing many of our sketch outings. Also to all the other members of our sketch group: Jonathan Boyer, Peter Landon, Jim Law, Dan Wheeler, Helen Kessler, Mark Lawrence, Becky Brofman and many others for inspiring me to put down my own observations on paper.
This gallery features travel sketches created by me and shown in the May 2012 exhibit at Framing Mode Gallery. Marci Rubin, the owner and curator, suggested the show and worked with me on curating and hanging it.
These sketches come mostly from visits made to Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, England and the Netherlands in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. I have also included a selection of drawings of our own rich architectural heritage right here in the USA. Some of the buildings and spaces you see here I have spent days visiting! Armies of visitors, armed with cameras, have come and gone during the time I have spent at the Villa Rotunda alone. For me, looking at and experiencing a building or public space is a very contemplative act.
My sketchbooks are a vivid reminder of the lessons I have learned from the many architectural “Monuments” I have visited. From a small diagrammatic pen sketch, to a highly detailed charcoal drawing, sketching has been a way for me to decipher the data encrypted in a building’s architecture. I tend to use different techniques depending on whether I am exploring perspective, proportion, mass, shape, pattern or detail. The first of the ink brush sketches resulted from my interest in Japanese calligraphy and ink brush drawing as a highly effective way to explore mass and detail in sunlight. Their very imprecision exaggerates what I am trying to see and remember.
They all tell a tory about the architecture, the architects, their theories and the cities they worked in, It is also the story of my personal journey to put it on paper and into my memory.
In May of 2012 at opening of the Monument Exhibit, I met with Florian “Dan” Manas. I have know Dan since 1976. Dan is an extraordinary story teller, producer, cinematographer, editor, recording engineer and founder of “Bestlight Productions”. At that exhibit, he suggested that we should make a short video about sketching and drawing. He had a vision that would connect what was being “drawn” with what was being “seen”. Fast forward to September of 2014. At all of our meetings and phone calls between 2012 and then, we had grappled with how that story could be told. He challenged me to come up with a storyboard for a video we would begin shooting in two weeks!
The concept revolves around two sketches, the story of an architect, his bike, sketchpad and pens. I arrive on a bike at Ikea Peace Park, draw the skyline, turn the page and end up drawing at Ping Tom Park, finish the drawing, get on my bike and ride away. While sketching, I would ruminate on drawing, architecture and technique. It seemed like a simple enough framework to be able to repeat anywhere, with anyone as the artist, and any two locations as the subject.
While it all seemed perfectly simple, the realities of the camera, site conditions, the weather, lighting, traffic, editing and story telling meant that the video from two half days of shooting, score composing and creation, turned the “short video” into a three month effort! The “Two” sketches are really the result of seven sketches all shown in this gallery.
The musical score was the result of many weeks of effort by my good friend the composer and musician, the amazingly talented, Patricia Morehead. It was carefully coordinated with the background sounds of the city and my monologue by Pat and Dan. I hope you will take the time to listen to it on some headphones or great speakers.
This is the result of a very special collaboration. I hope you enjoy the results.