Posted Jul 28 2023 | By

In Celebration of Sketching

At Levitt Bernstein we love to draw…

…. And so do I.

Sketching is in the architect’s nature; an invaluable medium and an ancient form of communicating and translating. Essential for thinking outside of the, oft cold, rationalisation of the CAD box whirring away on our screens. In the day-to-day reliance on computers to help us to seamlessly visualise ideas in the endless search for maximum efficiency, we might forget that many of us happened upon architecture as a career due to a simple love of drawing. In notebooks, on scraps of paper whilst on the phone, on walls, etching onto desks, crude drawings in textbooks; the list goes on.

My initial draw to work at Levitt Bernstein was in part thanks to the culture of drawing that is in place. Having seen lovely WIP sketches on the website and iconic projects such as the Royal Exchange Theatre (fig.1).

In my interview I presented many drawings. Not only final polished ones, but also various process sketches and personal work. The sectional perspective (fig. 2) below is an example of a drawing done in the middle of a project to test the organisation of a building. By drawing to scale, it helped to test the relative size of spaces, and what light and atmosphere might be achieved. By virtue of it not being a final representation of the building, it (somewhat) removes the pressure of perfection, allowing room for experimentation and quick adaptations in its place.

Not one to shy away from a competition, I also entered one of my drawings into the RIBA Eyeline competition. Although unsuccessful (definitely not still sour about it), the brief presented a great opportunity for me to mix my own style and the subject matters I find most intriguing outside of the profession, with a nod to architectural elements (fig. 3).

At Levitt Bernstein, sketching goes hand-in-hand with the early stages of projects. On projects such as Withington Girls’ School, King’s Bruton and Monmouth, many sketches were made early on to quickly test ideas such as connections or zones and to explain core concepts to the clients (fig.4).

When thinking about sketching and design, we tend to focus on concept drawings of buildings or products. However, sketching also translates to the many ways in which we organise ideas and translate them to one another such as with storyboards (fig. 5).

In later stages, it is paramount to find a balance between not being too precious with a design and maintaining key concepts and realistic proportions. The checking of dimensions with CAD, and then drawing to overlay established architectural drivers, makes for a perfectly synergised process during stages that require a lot of coordination (fig. 6 and 7). The same can be said for details (fig. 8). Being able to view an idea in 3D and in colour helps to instantly see what works and what may need adjusting (fig. 9 and 10).

This extends to extracurricular activities such as our annual Christmas party, where the competition for best costume is serious business. The stakes are high and the allure of walking onto stage in your best glad rags, looking over the sea of round biodegradable-coloured spectacles as the whole room vibrates with the intoxicating chants of your beloved colleagues. Glancing down upon the myriad of disappointment ridden faces you have left in your wake; of those mere mortals who could not stitch well enough to join the pantheon of craft deities! You accept your voucher, in the least gracious way possible…Or maybe that’s just me (fig. 11).

Below are a few more ways that we have in the past, looked to the future, and imagined how we might adapt our landscape. There are accompanying post-construction images, showcasing what elements were lovingly kept, sadly lost or thankfully adjusted (fig. 12 and 13).

It has been a busy month here in Manchester. We have hosted a 10th birthday party, a study trip, been involved in the Manchester International Festival, and it is now my last day at the studio before continuing my studies back in Skåne, Sweden. In the wake of all this excitement, I wanted my essay to be a reflection on a more meditative pastime close to my heart and one that is, thankfully, intrinsically linked to the ways in which we work at the practice.

Although sketches might not always take centre stage in architectural publications and at awards, it is something we probably – hopefully - still find ourselves doing every day. In notebooks, on business cards whilst on the phone and crudely on contractor’s drawings. However we choose to draw, I thought it worth taking a moment to appreciate the infinite ways in which we at the Manchester Studio have for the past 10 years, rendered and ultimately shaped, the world around us.