Eleven Exercises in Architectural Drawing

FRASCARI’S ELEVEN EXERCISES IN ARCHITECTURAL DRAWING

I’ve just received Marco Frascari’s recent Eleven Exercises in the Art of Architectural Drawing (2011). Frascari’s an interesting writer: opinionated, idiosyncratic and unconventional. His essay “The Tell-the-Tale Detail” (1984) is an essential read, and his Monsters of Architecture (1991) is a cogently weird expansion on it. Eleven Exercises isn’t a drawing manual; it’s “not about right or wrong simulations and dissimulations in architectural drawings, but rather about a discerning process that takes part in the interplay generated by our sensorial assimilation.” In other words, drawing in his book isn’t a matter of correct or effective representation, but a cognitive process. This approach is appealing to me because it recognises cognition as a materialised process. It isn’t your mind that thinks, it’s your brain—mind is an abstraction. Nor is thinking exclusively done with brains. I store my upcoming appointments in a calendar, and commit my research ideas to paper because my brain alone isn’t very good at detailed long-term memory. And when I draw, I’m not just documenting ideas that I’ve already had in my brain, I’m inventing new ideas. Drawing is cognition not just documentation.

Questions are raised for me, though, when Frascari appears (at least in this early part of the book) to be setting up a distinction between trivial and non-trivial, imaginative and unimaginative, poetic and prosaic drawings.  I encountered Frascari’s skepticism of CAD when he spoke in person at an Interstices symposium in 2011. He’s of the school that sees digital drawing as inherently less soulful and imaginative than hand drawing, leaning heavily towards the prosaic, and unimaginative. In Eleven Exercises he claims “it is uncomplicated to develop computer-processing systems that can straightforwardly substitute the work of engineers, lawyers, and physicians, but it is an impossible Sisyphean task to develop systems that can replace draftspersons, cooks, rôtisseurs, gardeners, and architects.” Where the former set “base their profession on a sequence of logical protocols” the latter “practice imagination”. I think this claim is just snooty and wrong, and I’d like to see him make the claim to a mob of engineers, lawyers and physicians. I’m concerned that while he’s taking a radical line on the materialisation of cognition, he’s still got some deeply traditional subterranean prejudices at work.

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