Finding Your Style Through Analogue Experimentation
As a rule in architecture school, you will almost always be working towards a tight deadline which can sometimes be stressful. So, when going through the developmental stages of your proposal/design/project it can be very tempting to stick to digital methods - understandably so! However, during this time, it is a great opportunity to learn as much as you can! Although trying new things can seem intimidating at first, everybody has to start from somewhere. You never know where a particular skill might take you.
There’s this pressure/expectation to find your style or what uniquely sets you apart as a designer - architectural or otherwise. Your tutors might guide you towards a certain precedent of work or push for a particular drawing style.
Here’s the catch they don’t tell you - there are NO rules (at least whilst at university in practice is a different story altogether ). There’s nothing to say that you can’t create massing models from chunks of cheese - if you have a reason for it why not ! Students will usually reach for digital software - mostly out of imitative behaviour or because they feel computer-generated lines and models will solve all their problems.
As designers, it's important to broaden your skillset. The mediums you choose could vary from sculpture to photography or even printmaking. What you learn could end up as the starting point for a project. Now, I think it’s worth pointing out that not everything has to relate back to architecture. You are allowed to create things for the joy of creating - when you’re having it shows in the result. These skills you learn now could open different pathways in the creative industry such as Graphic Design, Illustration and Product Design.
From my own experience, I made it a point of trying to learn as much as possible with the facilities my university offered. In particular, I developed an interest in analogue photography, sculpture/ceramics and doodling. Does doodling count as a form of media? Perhaps illustration is more appropriate.
The first two (analogue photography and sculpture) emerged during university. Sculpture and ceramics really helped to make the model making parts enjoyable. Something about working with your hands and using clay/plaster which are quite tactile materials. Although I have experimented with chocolate models in second year for a project….. don’t ask.
During lockdown, I saw a lot of Youtube videos from an artist I admire @studiomeggy. She used a lot of polymer clay to make pins and earrings - so it looked like fun to try with my tortoises. In terms of classes /inspiration I recommend Studio Meggy and Knivesmeow on Instagram and Youtube. It was very (inspiring) to see WOC thrive in creative environments. They’re not usually seen in the mainstream- but it's nice to see that changing slowly.
As for the analogue photography - we had an induction to the darkrooms in second year. I fell in LOVE with cyanotypes. Blue is the best you cannot convince me otherwise. Later during the third year I expanded a little to black and white photograms and further into lockdown tried lumen printing.
The slightly excessive lumen printing was partly because I did not have access to a darkroom anymore. As for photography in general...I’ve seen a lot of architecture students interested in this but less so with analogue photography. Maybe the love of buildings/satisfying angles - I don’t think I can answer this unfortunately.
If you want to try analogue photography an easy one to try would be Anthotypes - they use the juice from plants with photosensitive capabilities and change with sunlight.
And now for the doodles. These started in the few weeks before the third year final project deadline. It was a way of relieving stress. They’ve come a long way since then. So now I would describe it as a compromise between the precision of an architectural drawing and the emotion from a scribble.
Most of the drawings/scribbles/doodles come from a real-life object or person. For example, the pigeons are very real - they visit our garden frequently and so does the cat. But, if you want to pin down a specific theme, maybe storytelling? Each image has its own story to tell and that is up to the viewer.
Another person who inspired me to start making my own stickers was @smoleart on Instagram and YouTube. I watched a lot of her videos and thought it would be fun to give it a go and try to make a few stickers to see if anyone would buy it.
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But to summarise - these kinds of processes helped to keep my mind loose and open to different outcomes. They also helped me to realise nothing is really final - and how important patience is.
Additionally - there is a human touch that can’t really be replicated by a computer with analogue processes. This is why I believe digital processes are useful to enhance analogue methods and at the same time introduce emotion to a project which is sometimes lacking in some architectural design/project.
So my advice to you is to try as much as you can! Keep experimenting and when you find something that you like, go for it. It will surprise you where it can take you and at the same time help you to enjoy the architectural education system more!