The architects toolbox

I enjoy the process of seeing designs emerge onto paper – for me it offers a freedom where ideas flow with the fluidity of ink and emerge through the smudge of graphite. It’s great to step away from the computer to use the other items in the architects toolbox, these are stages the client does not always see as they are often ‘tidied’ up into formal sketches or CAD 3D images in order for them to translate easily – These are currently my favourite 5 design stage tools.

1. Pencils and ink pens.

A good range of pens and  pencils – both fine line and heavy smudgy soft graphite pencils. Sometimes you have different ideas that you want to convey – mood, shadow, light. Coloured pencils come into their own when you have  the ‘structural’ base and you need to communicate spaces on top of these and how they merge together. In our house I have to hide these from my family, who are equally enamoured with drawing instruments and who often leave me to scour their rooms for something to draw with after mine have disappeared.

2. Note books

I don’t think you can have too many. Seriously, if you are stuck for a present for an architect, just wander into your nearest stationery shop and find a note-book with nice paper. Sorted.  My notebooks are full of sketches, doodles, ideas, they look messy but they all explore some concept or idea, sometimes it’s just to loosen up the thought process so that you can reach that ‘eureka’ moment.

3. Butter paper

The translucency of butter paper enables you to overlay ideas on top of each other. A sort of palimpsest of ideas where there are traces of the initial drawings hidden below with the new overlaid on top. Its one of my prefered techniques for idea development, but not one that the client often gets to see! Rather than a big A-0 drawing board,  a desk or a small A-3 board is all I need at sketch stage as most of the technical data work is done on the computer after the design solution has been discovered.

4. Scalpels, metal ruler, cutting mat, PVA and card.

I’m the worst modeller in the history of architecture, and yet repeatedly received A+ in design studios as I made it look like the glue and wonky walls were meant to be there….you can tell by my blunt scalpel that it’s the ideas BEHIND the model that are my focus – it’s a design process, a  means to an end rather than the end itself….! I’m a firm believer in sticking it on and then ripping it off if it doesn’t look right, then sticking it back on again or drawing over it – this does NOT lend itself to an immaculate model, but it does result in the best solution!   3D modelling in card (even if roughly as a 3d ‘sketch’ and the model shown below is deliberately just that!) does show itself in the final result – you can tell architecture which has been visualised in some tactile way vs that which has only ever existed in pixel format.

5. Brushes and ink.

If you really want the ideas to flow – move away from that which constrains you to the detail. Get the big picture concepts going by instinctively allowing the ink to flow. Painting, Ink sketches, brushes allow to you think on a different scale.


8 thoughts on “The architects toolbox

  1. More: I find myself wanting to revisit your post. There’s something magnetically attractive to me about those tools, your comments about them. I think you’ve spoken to my little boy, the one who comes most alive in the presence of creativity. No matter what I’ve learned over the years, what I’ve done or not done, that inner spark remains the source and main driving force. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I feel myself reaching for my notebook and coloured pencils… I have a feeling it may be a late doodling night! Thank you for sharing this, it’s wonderfully inspirational!

  3. Thats great! – I have drawing moments scheduled in around kids guitar and swimming lessons, its handy to have a notebook while I am waiting for them to complete a few laps of freestyle!


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