The Power of a Pencil

| Posted by: ArchitectureWorks | Office . Thoughts


The majority of production work in architecture is done on computers, but putting pencil (or pen, marker, stick, etc) to paper remains an easy and quick way to jot down and work through an idea.

A few weeks ago we wrote about the idea of a paperless architecture office being far from a reality. With a combination of means and mediums we try and solve the architectural problems that arise. This week is our ode to the power of drawing and thinking with your hand.

Below is a manuscript from a lecture given by recently retired Auburn University Architecture professor Robert (Bob) Faust. It was first given as a lecture to an aspiring group of first year architecture students, encouraging then to move thoughts and ideas from their minds onto paper through the “Power of the Pencil” Scattered throughout the text are sketches from various ArchitectureWorks projects in different stages of production.

The Power of a Pencil  Robert Faust
I know no implement that is so small, lightweight, inexpensive and easy to transport that has the capability to enable us to record our deepest feelings, keep an account of the significant events we experience or our more trivial moments as well, and does so with such immediacy and minimal procedure. 

This instrument, available to everyone anywhere, can be triggered by subtle movements of our eyes and hands and, metaphorically speaking, our hearts. 

This tool has the capacity to inform, record, and pictorially aide in our many exchanges with our fellow human beings.


In one form or another in different times and places, but always with minimal means this simple device continues to illuminate ideas and ideals, insights and visions and carries with it the power to change or negate previously long held positions or beliefs.


Great temples, cathedrals, monuments and equally expansive secular structures have been achieved and in many instances improved and passed from one generation to the next by putting marks of some sort on paper or whatever served as paper in each successive generation and culture. 


These marks, when translated into pictures, or the pictures to language, words, have served to instruct, inform, enlighten, encourage, at times empower and enable communication between all of the people in this world. 

In architectural work, we have two fundamental connections to drawing. One, we employ drawings as we employ people to do a job – drawings convey a message. Two, drawings make our imaginings clear to the craftsmen whose profession it is to give reality to those imaginings.

This could be seen as technical toiling. I don’t see it in that light… a good set of working drawings can be an art form in and of itself… loaded with a special sort of beautiful markings, of a one of a kind beautiful details. I tend to believe, as the Modern Master Architect Mies van der Rohe observed, that God is in the details.


It is interesting to note that at the time of this past century and earlier – most all working drawings, as they are called, and certainly do work for us in their own way – that was a time – a time not that far removed – when having a complete set of drawings of a building by a prominent architect was something to treasure. And, not long ago, when each sheet of the set bore at the bottom the inscriptions in capital letters DEL. ____ which stood for delineator followed by the name of the person responsible for that drawing. In fact, delineation was an occupation in itself. Additionally, in many cases the delineator was also the designer who often moved from office to office working and designing for different firms whose principals were primarily preoccupied with managing the firm.


Another component of architectural drawing is sketching. The sketches of many architects range in the realm of Fine Art, and proper sketching, when done with specific intent is a method of reaching deep within yourself to that inner reservoir of creative energy and images that reside within each individual.
In this landscape the pencil is far more important that the computer. The computer is an engine of production – the pencil is a purveyor of humanness and poetry and if viewed and properly used will allow the cosmic flow of the intuition from our third eye through our fingertips to paper and back through our fingertips, from the unconscious to the conscious mind in the form of an idea – a fresh approach which carries with it the sense of discovery. 

We must attempt to go beyond ourselves and our first thoughts. We must put down marks on paper that begin to suggest something else… the unfamiliar… a step beyond that comes “naturally”. We will not reach the level of which I have just alluded in the short time for delineation… that may come later…for now, we make every effort to introduce you to some of the basic properties and capabilities and possibilities inherent in the nature of graphite on paper and hope each of you will make an effort to extend this beginning to the next level as you continue on in your education. 
Do not depend singularly on your professor nor limiting requirements for graduation. Press on and go beyond where and whenever possible. Take charge and take care and depend on the powers within.”

Thanks for reading.





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