The decisive moment

The decisive moment

I'm an ardent user of the computer and its possibilities, but even in those projects in which computer is used from the start, I always go back to the good old paper for the quick and expressive exploratory sketch. Yes, because, contrary to what may be the widespread belief, the architects still use paper.

I still have, as I imagine that many of my colleagues do, huge blocks of sketch-books, of all sizes and shapes, from luxurious Moleskines to ordinary greasy paperbacks. Many are incomplete and I go back to them at intervals of years (decades in some cases). They are full of drawings, notes and thoughts. But much of the work I do is mental. In other words, it is not easy to turn off at the end of day, I continue to think about the problems I have to solve, especially in the conceptual stages of projects. That is why in many of my works, the main sketch, that, to me, is the turning point of the project, turns out to be performed elsewhere. Sometimes it isn’t easy to find it later, for one simple reason: It could have been done on a restaurant tablecloth, a paper napkin, the back of a sheet where I took notes in a meeting, or eventually on the first piece of paper that I find.

Most of the main sketches I knew were quite abstract for all but for the author and eventually the members of his team, if in tune. In addition, they are often small doubtful looking scribbles.

They are sometimes hesitant and exploratory, others made at once, with the certainty from who believes, or knows, that has had a good idea. Some are simple, succinct and elegant, others are dirty, confusing and unfathomable, as if the author was lost in a dense jungle with a machete, trying desperately to find his way through the bush that surrounds him. There are sketches that convey calm and security, others reflect moments of anger or despair.

There are sketches that convey calm and security, others reflect moments of anger or despair.

Some are followed until the end, others do not withstand a critical eye and are replaced by a better idea. They cease to be "the sketch."

What makes them tick is being the key of the project, untying the knot of problems or graphically solving the equation in which we work. They establish the rule, the logic of what we explore and often contain the essentials of geometry that we will use.

They can be volumetric and explain the relationship and shape of the volumes that will materialize our idea but may also be only composed of a tangle of lines that makes perfect sense for us. They may result of what we felt when we went to the place where the building is to be located, but also from a long rational reflection or simply from an expressive and seemingly irrational moment. And even from an inspiration of the most unusual sources.

Basically, when it comes to issues of imagination, the sky is the limit. Or maybe the limit heads, in the wise words of Buzz Lightyear (*) "to infinity … and beyond!"

*) A character in Pixar’s "Toy Story" saga, Buzz is an astronaut, or rather, a "Space Ranger", which faces the unknown with a smile and great confidence in his abilities.

2011, September