Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Welcome to "The Good Hand"...

Welcome to "The Good Hand", an inter-active blog dedicated to the promotion of the art of classical architectural drawing, draftsmanship and illustration. Classic in the sense that it embraces the concepts of traditional architectural "hand" drawing in a wide variety of media, from sketch books through plans, elevations and sections all the way through to three-dimensional renderings utilizing both hand constructed as well as digital base drawings.

Architectural draftsmanship has been the principal means of study, design exploration and graphic communication for architects for nearly two millennia. And yet, in just the past twenty years, the very art of draftsmanship has been seriously degraded by the rapidly emerging digital technologies taking over every aspect of architectural education and drawing production. The consequences of this as it relates to both the education of architects and the practice of architecture are broad, subject to many interpretations and will, hopefully, be widely discussed here. But rather than simply leaving drawing behind with a sigh and a shake of the head, "the good hand" will strive to be a forum for those still engaged in the process of "drawing" architecture, knowing that graphic ownership of a building through good draftsmanship is synonomous with the craftsmanship of good building. Rather than being regarded as an unaffordable anachronism of the digital age, good drawing skills, "the good hand" as it were, should be seen as mutually supportive of a draftsman's digital vocabulary. The process of design composition through manual drawing studies constantly informs and refines the decisions a designer makes digitally, taking advantage of the elements of immediacy, composition and atmospherics inherent in hand drawing and instilling in the digital designer a true sense of authorship in the work at hand.

Obviously, the paramount role that drawing used to play in the production of architecture will never be recovered. Today, architecture must be commnunicated digitally. Three dimensional and parametric modelling, SketchUp, BIM / Revit and file sharing with project consultants / bidders all demand a digital foundation in the climate of today's architectural or interior design practice. And yet, every project presents the designer with numerous opportunities for manual graphic exploration that are not only appropriate to the task at hand but provide that designer with an outlet of expression that far exceeds the creepily anonymous but seductive versimilitude of digital rendering and animation.

Throughout the twentieth century, most truly gifted architects and designers were recognized as much for their unique styles of draftsmanship as for their collective bodies of built and unbuilt work. There are a variety of reasons for this, not the least of which was a unique form of democracy that used to exist in most architectural offices, a democracy that was built upon the drawing skills, "the good hands", of its young architects and draftsmen. At its core was the widely accepted belief that the more superior your drawing skills were, the more rapidly you rose through the ranks to become a designer on the projects you were working on. If you were "graphically talented" or could "draw like a bandit" nothing, short of gross character defects or sleeping with a client, could keep you from rising through the ranks of middle-management to the highly coveted position of "project designer". The quality of your drawing skills was the determining factor in which phase you first saw a project and, as a result, the stage at which you actually became a designer.

Oddly enough, this mind-set still exists in many architectural and interior design offices today and can still be capitalized upon. The reason for this is fairly straight forward. The most successful designers and renderers introduce the elements of personal style and abstract representation into their drawings that point to the origins of both the design and the designer. Digital technology not only supports this concept but actually enhances and refines these skills and vice versa. This is also the purpose of "the good hand", namely to present a wide variety of architectural and interior design drawings at different phases and stages of a design project, explain the various media and drawing techniques used to create a particular image and to show how digital technology actually informs, supports and enhances this process. This will hopefully be an on-going dialogue and images describing the drawing process and the media used will be frequently presented. Reader submitted images and comments will always be welcomed. Drawing types will include sketch book studies, traditional plans, sections, elevations and, of course, hand drawn 3D renderings. Design and presentation composition will be frequently discussed as will the application of these skills to digital drawing techniques.

So, sharpen up those 3H pencils, stretch that tracing paper and let's sit down and draw something...


  1. Mr. Davis.

    Thank you for providing an outlet for that sad, twisted group of archaic architects who refuse to fully embrace digital technologies, or worse, who cling to the quant, antiquated notion that erudite designers and illustrators (aka professionals), have more to add to the inherent character of a design through hand rendered media than the programming team (software architects anyone?) at Autodesk or Trimble.

    God speed and good luck with your Quixotian endeavor. Count me among your army to help attempt to keep the digital dragons at bay. We will exact our revenge when the world's computers are all hacked and their content deleted by the paleo-modern cyber spies who troll among us. And no, I am not paranoid.

    Your faithful brother in arms.


  2. Mr. Davis,

    As this post is long out of date, I doubt you will read this. But in the case that you do, I would like to at least like to say how much I admire solid traditional draftsmanship.

    Architecture my not be my area, but I recognize the great time and value that skillful penmanship can apply to all areas, be it traditional or digital.

    My grandfather was an amateur painter and a furniture designer by profession. His draftsmanship is immaculate to my eyes which and a great standard for my own work.

    It is good to know there are others out there who appreciate such discipline. I wish you the best.