Architecture is an art form that reflects how we present ourselves across the earth’s landscape, and, like other expressive mediums, it changes with styles, technologies and cultural adaptations. Architecture not only provides worldly needs of shelter, workspace and storage but also represents human ideals in buildings like courthouses and government buildings and manifestations of the spirit in churches and temples. Traditional architecture has survived over thousands of years in one form or another, while contemporary design offers new approaches in how we use materials and technology to shape the look of our environment.
For every person listening, you probably have an immediate response to this question, especially if you fall in the camp of “Yes, of course, it’s art … this is a stupid question” …
Architect Michael G. Imber considers the effects of digital renderings and algorithms against the time-honored traditional methods architects have employed for centuries.
In the past, architects were always seen as the ultimate artists, visualizing imaginary buildings and places deep within the recesses of their imagination and teasing them out in paint or pencil. Only then could they begin the laborious process of drawing how the building could be assembled and brought to reality through an elaborate collaboration with craftsmen and allied artists. They drew upon their visual experiences, knowledge of human nature, and understanding of physics to bring to fruition wondrous places: places that impacted not only the way we lived our daily lives but the very development of our culture—and ultimately our civilization.
Becoming an architect was a lifelong process of studying both our built and natural environments through drawing and painting. This is how past generations came to know the world—by seeing though their hands. Through drawing antiquities, they saw the past, and from drawing landscapes they understood the beauty of the natural world. Renowned art critic John Ruskin once said, “To draw the leaf is to know the forest,” for without drawing there was no understanding. Creating our built environment wasn’t simply theoretical; by drawing our environment we came to understand our world through an empirical process—through observation and experience.
Drawing for the architect was another language. Thousands of hours of sketching allowed one access to the deepest complexities of the mind, where ideas would flow through the hand to paper instantaneously, without pondering interpretation—from imagination to fruition without impediment.
Today, an architectural office is a scene of flickering screens and humming computers, endlessly energetic tools for the creation of buildings. Yet, as technology aids the progress and efficiency of building, the young architectural graduate who can draw is but a rarity in today’s studio. As we give ourselves over to the machines, can we continue to understand nature? Can we know history and culture, and can we really understand humanity through building? Is architecture still art?