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Digital Design_Hand Drafting  // Riley Haney


In the debate between which is stronger in the design world, hand drafting or computer rendering, one can find many articles that support either side. Some say that hand drafting is a thing of the past and holds back the architect because it takes too long or can’t be easily altered. Some say that computer drafting is too rigid and doesn’t flow well. As a student I feel as if being pulled to either side by professors and peers alike. Computers make the entire process faster from concept to construction but drafting gives the project life and a sense of accomplishment.


While in school, some professors expect to have construction documents along with renderings that must be done in computer programs such as Revit, Rhino, or AutoCAD. While some professors that are also practicing architects still use hand drawn sketches to build buildings. For example, Professor Peter Magyar loves showing students his sketches that were used to build his projects and the students enjoy seeing them. In fact he has a seminar dedicated to learning how to draw in his style and pushes you to create your own (example image to the right). I personally have taken it with very little success. The class shows that creating your own language of sketching takes a lot of time and effort. Some students grow tremendously in that time and find their inner drafting skill.


In my experience with this Design+Make studio, rendering, along with physical models and prototypes, has been the communication of choice with clients. The Alma clients sincerely enjoyed seeing the progress we have made with our designs via digital outcomes. I’m skeptical that we would have gotten their approval if we had only done hand renderings and drawings for the project. The design would most likely have fallen behind because of the time put towards the hand drafting and not towards the actual concept. One major advantage that digital production has over manual drawing is the ability to edit and transform the model without losing hours or even days of work. Once the pen is on the paper you’ve committed to that piece. No going back. Computer renderings also have a bit more legitimacy to them if presented to a certain audience. I am not saying that sketches and straight up graphite and velum don’t deserve respect, but to the naked, non-architectural eye, a realistic, computer generated, and photo-shopped end result will win the majority of the time. But not the same can be said for architecture fanatics, professors, students, or even some clientele.


Another example is from third year. There was a professor that wouldn’t look at his student’s progress if they had it in the computer or even printed. He wanted to see strictly hand drawn progress via sketches or drafted with a parallel bar. Some students had trouble with this concept while other embraced and accepted the idea. It helped expand their drafting skills while holding back their computer knowledge. An unfortunate give and take situation.


In the end I think that both manual drafting and computer rendering are two very important and critical aspects of architecture that each have pros and cons. Which ever is used and presented is dependent on the audience and whom you are working for. What they prefer is ultimately the answer because if you do not present in the way that speaks to the client the relationship and project will not reach its full potential.


Written by Riley Haney

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