A few weeks back, I had posted this view of the Fremont Public Library. While it shows the architectural appearance of the structure, it says little about where it is—its context. The structure could be in many different places. There is nothing in the drawing to suggest where it is located.
During a break in the rainy weather on Friday, I stopped to draw this view. While it doesn’t capture the frontal appearance of the library, it does show a bit more of how the it is situated in the city of Seattle. In the background, you can see the Aurora Bridge. To the right foreground is the A.B. Ernst Park, and on the righthand edge is the profile of the building to the north. The bottom line is that it is often difficult, if not impossible, for any single drawing to tell the story of a place.
Yesterday at the monthly meeting of the Seattle Urban Sketchers group, I drew this view while sitting in the corner park at East Pine and Broadway in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, looking toward the Broadway Performance Hall and Seattle Central Community College. This scene attracted me because of the way the trees in the park filtered the view of the buildings beyond. I began by first drawing the building forms and then worked from back to front, adding elements such as the fencing, the ground terracing, and the sculpture by Charles Smith. I then drew the tree trunks and foliage. Finally, I went back to fill in the details and texture that I could see through the trees.
I think that it’s okay in a sketch like this to draw over previously drawn elements and even be a little messy as long as the lines are lightly drawn. It’s when we add details and darken certain lines that we should pay attention to which elements overlap others. I believe the resulting transparency of the drawing helps convey the depth of the space.
While in Rio de Janeiro a month ago, we had the opportunity to visit Casa das Canoas, the first residence designed by Oscar Niemeyer in 1952. It is a true gem, nestled in a beautiful hillside setting and displaying the characteristic flowing lines of Niemeyer’s architecture. Thanks to Caique Niemeyer, Oscar’s grandson, for allowing us the privilege of touring this fine example of modern architecture.
After doing a few sketches of the exterior and interior of the deceptively simple structure, I attempted to draw a plan to try to understand the two-dimensional origin of what I saw in three dimensions.
To verify my plan, I perused several books on the architecture of Oscar Niemeyer but none contained a plan of this house. Upon returning to Seattle, I did an internet search and found this plan drawn by Jeff Hottinger, which is included next to the plan I drew.
In this age of digital 3D modeling where much design thinking and decision-making is made from a perspective viewpoint, it is still a useful mental exercise to try to imagine the orthographic relationships that plans and sections reveal and which perspective views do not. As designers, we should be able to think two-dimensionally as well as three-dimensionally.
Here are a few sketches I did when attending another stimulating Design Communication Association conference held at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Georgia. The first are views from Marietta town square; the second is of SPSU’s architecture building; and the third was done during a tour of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, showing Richard Meier’s building but not Renzo Piano’s addition that creates a piazza beyond.