Tatiana von Preussen, cofounder of London practice vPPR Architects, says that certain software comes with constraints that encourage a particular style:
“Something I’ve noticed with new buildings is that you can almost tell which software they were designed in. For instance, if you take Revit, it’s very hard to freely create non-orthogonal, non-linear geometries, and it’s very easy to create repetitive elements, so it lends itself to a particular way of building.”
A skilled draughtsman guides design conversations by selecting and emphasizing details in a way that computer programmes cannot. Ron Slade, author of Sketching for Engineers and Architects and a structural director at WSP in London, calls it “conversational drawing”. He notes how botany field guides are always based on detailed drawings rather than photographs — as much for what they leave out as for what they show. “Extraneous material that might exist in a photograph is eliminated. It may be important to pick out and illustrate particular areas and leave other parts in sketchy or broad outline.”
Psychologists have noted that people tend to place greater artistic value on images when they can see the work that has gone into them — a tendency known as the “effort heuristic”. They are also more likely to connect emotionally with the work if they can detect the human hand, says Goldsmiths’ Chamberlain. “There’s an argument that if we see a brush stroke, we almost recreate it, and that’s part of the connection we feel with the artist — you can feel the intention.”
Perhaps to capitalize on this, some architects now show presentation drawings that look hand-drawn but are actually generated entirely by computer. “It’s totally fake,” says Brillhart. “They just take a computer image into Photoshop and put filters over it to make it look like it’s drawn by hand. It’s kind of amusing — instead of just sitting down and drawing for an hour, they spend eight hours making it look like a hand drawing.”
But in the past couple of years, Brennan believes that tablets have caught up, with apps such as Apple’s ProCreate and Morpholio’s Trace becoming far more responsive to the user’s marks. “Tablets didn’t used to have that immediate response, from brain to eye to hand to pen to paper. A half-second delay has a huge impact on how you think — it causes you to stumble. But now that lag’s gone, it’s almost the same as drawing with pen on paper. You don’t need to engage with the airbrushes or other features — just use it in its purest form.” The stylus, too, far more convincingly apes a manual pen: “You’re able to tune it to almost replicate your favourite pen — and it doesn’t run out of ink.
Chetwood is an iPad devotee, using it to produce fantastical urban artworks as well as architecture. Far from hindering the drawing process, he believes tablets will give rise to a new era of creative drawing. “A lot of people say technology and computers are taking away the true art of drawing. That’s rubbish, it releases sketching. You can move so much quicker and change things much more quickly, and it keeps a record of what you’re doing. The control is just brilliant.” The polished glass surface is the only flaw, but textured acetates applied to the screen can make it feel more like paper.