Observation Drawing: To the Full Extent

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Observation Drawing: To the Full Extent
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   " Observation Drawing; to the Full Extent Mine H Hashas-Degertekin mhashas@spsu.edu Southern Polytechnic State University Observation drawing in architecture is often used to record objects and settings in the environment. It often might as well be integrated into the curriculum to teach the students how accurately they can reproduce the environmental features. Even though the intent might be to make students aware of environmental features and establish architectural and design vocabulary, the nature of the implementation can limit the potential of this very important observation tool. If observation drawing is recognized and embraced in studio pedagogy as a tool for understanding and analyzing environment as well as introduction to design thinking, it might achieve more than its conventional use. It might be deliberately used not only to record, but actively presenting and underlying formal orders, visual properties, spatial layering, material qualities and assemblies, so on and so forth. Utilizing various techniques and media for observational drawing can also help looking at the same environment through various lenses, which would open the students’ eyes to recognize varying qualities of the environment. The students can also realize the bias of various media in representing various qualities of an environment or an object. This type of drawings holds a greater potential for inspiration for the design process and could pave a clear path to design formation. A series of exercises were crafted for first year architecture students using observation drawing as narratives of visual properties, formal order, material qualities and spatial experience. While students were developing free hand drawings through various media, they also learned to design their observation by focusing on specific formal and visual qualities, selecting proper media, framing, distance and angle. At times they were required to create a verbal argument about properties of space and then represent that argument graphically by their drawings. The proposed paper will tell the story of these exercises with underlying principles and outcomes. Observational drawing becomes very important design communication tool taught in the first year of architecture education. It is crucial for the architecture students to gain the skill of documenting observed environments with varying detail and within varying time periods. However, the students usually look at the object for a shorter and at their paper for a longer time period while drawing observed environments or objects. This behavior activates drawing the subject matter form the mind’s eye by an internal mental image instead of carefully observing the exterior reality. Therefore the exploration and learning through the observational drawing becomes limited by nature of using the convention, which is already stabilized and registered in the mind’s eye. However, it is crucial for the students to open their eyes to a new way of critical seeing and understanding that they would need for the rest of their education and profession. A Series of exercises of observational drawing were used in the first couple of weeks of first year architecture students to improve the way to see and record objects, details and environments. In addition, various methods were used for increased exploration as well as introduction to design principles. Defamiliarization of the conventional and gaining new eyes The first exercise is a contour drawing exercise where the students first draw objects hidden in brown paper  bags. Without any visual connection, the students are asked to draw via moving their fingers over the object, which aims to shift the focus from the internal mental image to the external observed image. Later the students take out the objects and draw by looking at the object, but without taking their eyes off of the object. Neither looking at the paper nor picking up the  pencil is allowed. They are asked to do the job of their fingers and touch the contours of the object by their eyes in a pace that their hands do not go faster than their eyes. This way, while they practice hand and eye coordination, their attention is focused on the object   !"#$%&'(' *+,- -%+.",# /0 +, /12&34 ."45/$4 6//7",# +4 45& 8+8&% 19 :,-9 ;&,+'   # exploring every each detail. Not picking up the pencil avoids overlapping parts of the object since the students are not either looking down and aware of the order on the paper. The outcome drawing then is used as an artifact by itself to analyze the characteristics of the object as well as its compositional properties (Figure.1.a). The more simplified the object is the more the  principle elements or relations are brought forward (Wang & Hsu, 2007). It also helps introducing the reverse engineering methodology in observation through end result of some processes. In these drawings one can easily see how some qualities of objects are unpacked and disassembled while focus on the details of various parts (Figure.2). Redrawing the same object by starting from a different end results in scrutinizing various details and parts, hence provides a greater understanding. The main compositional sections of the object become clearer with their underlying directions, repetitions and elements. Haptic qualities  become integrated in the drawing while the students move their eyes as they move heir fingers around the object. The detailed  process makes it possible for the students to see later –if not while drawing- the object clearly representing its formal or compositional elements and connections between these elements with similar or opposing qualities, directions, texture, rhythm, or even materials. Since the process becomes almost an interpretation for the object, it defamiliarizes the student from the conventional form and opens his eyes and mind to a novel condition of exploring formal and compositional qualities. Needles to say, each drawing session is accompanied with discussions on the material(s), texture, compositional elements and qualities to enrich students’ understanding of observation as well as of formal order and assembly. Bias of a Media Later on, after introduction to various media, the students were asked to draw a texture of their preference by using different techniques and media; pen, pencil, charcoal and paste (Figure.3). With each media and technique they realize that certain qualities come forward and become more apparent than the others. They sharpen their knowledge on bias of each media and technique might have; while a medium and technique could work to represent certain qualities, another might not transmit the idea at all. Outline of shapes and forms and their relationship, texture and its haptic and perceptional qualities, effects of light and shadow on objective surfaces and compositions as well as subjective perception and comfort, and color tones and hues in relation to each other and light are problematized when reviewing the drawings. Color theories are introduced not as set of knowledge  base, but as an area to be investigated by each student to discover various effects of various combinations; how red might be  perceived differently when beside brown versus blue. In addition, change in colors by the effect of light is also explored as they investigate textures under various light sources, changing angles and distances. The students become aware of objective as well as phenomenal qualities influenced by light hence during the cycle of the day. !"#$%&'<' =%+.",#> /0 + 4%&& 1+%7 ."45 ?+%"/$> @&-"+ 19 *+7"@ *+>+,' !"#$%&'A' *+,- -%+.",# /0 /12&34> ."45/$4 6//7",# +4 45& 8+8&% 19 B"4/$ :67/69C D"#&6 E%+-6&9 +,- F9+, */%#+, '   $ Excerpts from the Juhani Palasmaa’s “Eyes of the Skin” and Zumthors’ “Thinking Architecture” and “Atmospheres: Architectural Environments - Surrounding Objects” books are assigned to contribute the discussions and conversations about the space and spatial qualities are introduced at this phase. While intertwining their knowledge of space, order, perception, material, media, communication, technique etc, the students also become aware of fixed as well as ever-changing qualities of objects, materials surfaces and spaces. A Narrative of Space At another observation exercise, the students explored various qualities of a space. The main goal of the exercise is for the students to create a graphic narrative of a space. Their exploration is about starting with the genre most appropriate to the qualities they realize about the space and further investigate the space based on process and resultant drawings. They either drew the space by using each medium and looked at the results in order to gain insight about a space or used selected media for selected areas to emphasize various qualities based on their initial observation. They generally realize how certain lines, walls, sections, columns follow each other or intersect each other, how materials contribute or join the game of these alignments and tectonics, how different uses of material and color effect the overall atmosphere, how texture of materials present themselves depending on the angle, distance, and light, how various elements come together. The overall idea is that observation, thinking a learning are all integrated to each other through one process. Again, the drawing itself becomes an artifact in itself and becomes a subject while being the object of the students’ investigation. Shift through various media again helps students to defamiliarize themselves with the conventional notions and environmental elements, opening their mind to look with a critical eye to perceive the details, which makes up a space. All of a sudden, placement of a window or an entrance in relation to the buildings orientation and use star making sense. It is also an integrated goal that the students would well be aware of the bias of each medium and strategically select the one that could narrate the story of each investigation. Design Inspiration The last loop in the chain and the ultimate goal is to use this process of investigation and analysis in the design process. The idea of the exploration and that each student becoming the leader of his/her investigation by using appropriate medium and technique to investigate and tell a story of the current situation sits at the center of the process. The value of process and critical investigation is well emphasized and becoming the free agent of thought and design is initiated for the student. Students shift from being part of the process to being the judge and evaluator of the product; expanding their understanding by each drawing and exploration. This simple and relatively short exercise is prepared to provide a synopsis of a process where the investigations are transformed into designed objects, surfaces or building skins. Investigating various properties now extended into the iterative  process of what-if scenarios guiding the design process. Each student is rewired to prepare various alternatives to explored objects and textures as well as models transforming the 2D investigations into 3D design explorations. Again, each drawing  becomes and entity and an artifact of its own to be reinterpreted and to drive inspiration. !"#$%&'G' B8+4"+6 &H86/%+4"/, 19 *+7"@ *+>+,' !"#$%&'I' !%/@ -%+.",# 4/ @/-&6",# 19 J&>>"3+ K//-@+,   % References 1.   Regina W Y Wang & Chin Cheng Hsu, “The Method of Graphic Abstraction in visual Metaphor,” Visible Language 41, 3 (2007): 266-279. 2.   Francis Ching, Architectural Graphics (Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, 2009). 3.   Juhani Pallasmaa, Eyes of the Skin (Great Britain: Wiley, 2005). 4.   Peter Zumthor, Thinking Architecture (Basel, Boston, Berlin: Birkhäuser Architecture, 2010). 5.   Peter Zumthor, Atmospheres: Architectural Environments - Surrounding Objects (Basel, Boston, Berlin: Birkhäuser Architecture, 2006).
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