Friday, November 30, 2012

Small Projects, Part One...


Small Projects, Part One...

I love small projects, pretty much of any type, but especially small residential projects of a classical or historicist orientation. Elevation and sectional design drawings are especially fun to draw and can often be done at the same time as, and assisted by, CAD drawings. From a design drawing standpoint, the limited scope of small projects (depending on your definition of small) allows you to combine schematic design and design development into a single phase, letting detail observations and refinements made with hand drawings credibly inform and influence the broader compositional design elements at an early stage of the project.

There are lots of reasons for this, at least from a drawing standpont. In broad terms, the small size of the project immediately allows you to conceptualize and render at a scale larger and more dimensionally and profile driven than "schematic" scale. You start out at something like 1/4", 3/8" or even 1/2" scale which, especially on traditional and classically themed projects, require a detail-oriented approach to conceptual design. They also, like large scale projects with a similar parti', require a high level of attention to craft, usually worked out with large scale, profile intense drawings. This used to be slow and mostly enjoyable process in pencil, but impossible to justify with the availibility of quick, simple AutoCAD underlays to trace over. These first drawings I show here did a little of both. It took less than a day to draw and render all three of them as a small part of a presentation for a much larger project. They're drawn at 1/4" and 3/4" scale on white tracing paper (any 12" roll is fine) over basic CAD underlays that established running floor and framing datums, wall, roof and center lines and brick coursing to trace over. As a rule of thumb CAD is also great used as a tool for use making underlays with drawing borders, north arrows and other graphic information to freehand over.

After these first digital steps, it is an all pencil, ink and marker exercise. Design elements like window fenestration, dormers and eave, wall and stone profiles were resolved and layed out in 3H pencil and inked over in free hand with Prismacolor Premier Fine Line Markers, .02 & .005 ( and Pilot Razor Point II fine line pens ( Drawing pens are always a matter of personal preference and style. I like these pens for their excellent sketch and hardline qualities. I also really like their ability to take Chartpak marker and colored pencil washes without smearing or blurring linework. You will find this very useful when you render later in color. Landscape and entourage elements are all quick, free-hand and fairly loose. Later posts will provide more discussion on color rendering on translucent white or yellow tracing paper. The fun in rendering on trace, because of its transparency, is the ability to work both sides of the paper with color and line work.

Elevations, as drawings, lend themselves to much livelier presentation by hand than their digital counterparts. Much of this depends on the quality of linework and how shadow and color are used and rendered. Shadows are, like linework, a huge part of depicting foreground / background elements and changes in plane in rendered elevations. By using simple plan projection methods to create consistent shadows, they really are an essential element in using elevations as an effective presentation tool. 3D sketches  present more varied and complex opportunities for the use, or non-use, of the selective rendering of shadow. Again, the transparency of trace allows many opportunities for subtle layering in drawings like this.

These are quick black and white sketches (all around 8-1/2"x11") on white trace, all drawn in a single day for a very small house on Martha's Vineyard. I rendered a series of quick sketches by hand over photographs of the steeply sloping site. They were drawn freehand in ink over a hardline pencil base study. Drawing over photographs is a theme we will definitely return to here. But for now, these drawings illustrate a larger point. These are "charrette" drawings, all done in a relatively short period of time in a drafting room context. They have digital or photographic assistance at points, in the interests of speed, but are purely hand made. Drawings like this not only afford a greater level of intimacy in communication, they are inexpensive and faster to do with higher rate of return in their effectiveness as architectural drawings than digital images produced in the same amount of time.

The idea that hand drawing is less efficient as a design or presentation tool than purely digital drawing doesn't bear out here.  If it sounds like I'm making an economic argument in favor of hand drawing, well, perhaps a little. At the same time, hand drawing rewards in different ways. The graphic vibrancy of well made hand drawings on small projects still trump purely digital images everytime, especially with small, historically themed residential projects. And they're still more fun to do.

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