The Digital Hand Drawing


Through this ongoing project, which immortalizes a collection of inspirational buildings visited by Gabriel in the last few years, the architect aims to challenge the threshold between digital artwork and the analogue hand drawing. Through a series of illustrations, as opposed to renderings and hyper realistic visualizations, the images evoke the former more ‘artistic’ way of communicating architecture and its relationship to nature.


What prompted this project? Where do you see this developing? What made you approach and go back to a more analogue style of drawing which rejects the hyper realistic render?

This series of works started as a creative outlet that allows me to investigate aspects of architectural representation that have always interested me since I started in the profession.

As a young architect, I found myself often wondering why would we use hyperrealistic imagery to represent ideas in competitions. To me, it is somehow counterproductive to reveal too much or to be too literal. The building is finished, there is nothing more to it. As opposed to hand-drawing, it leaves nothing to the viewer’s imagination, makes you stop thinking since your brain received all the information it needed.

My research is based on how I can use today’s technology to represent architecture as I would do with a hand-drawing, focusing on the relation between architecture and its surrounding nature and how this affects perception.

What is your take on the whole array of digital tools available to the contemporary architect?

From ideation to production and construction digital tools have allowed us to approach architecture in ways we could have never imagined before. We can nowadays investigate form and matter within a few clicks making the whole process time and cost-effective.

However, these tools can both be our best friends or potential enemies, driving us into processes where it is easy to get lost in the medium specially at the conception face. Drawing in a screen where you can zoom to infinity, getting lost in details, can lead to a point where you lose perspective. You stop thinking about architecture and obsess about  joining points, making it to the deadline. This to me, is the moment where our job as architects become compromised by the digital tools.

What is your time frame for each drawing? What defines the scale of these?

For the time being, I use every available amount of time to drawing. This is, evenings and weekends, so the time frame depends mostly on the amount of detail I put in the illustrations and how much free time I have. The biggest ones, such as the Chai House by Siza take about a month, while others like the Vitra Series were produced within two weeks.

I am now starting to work with printed copies to figure out what the correct print scale should be. When I illustrate an entire building, I tend to imagine the prints as a large scale, where the viewer gets sucked into the atmosphere I created. However, other illustrations such as the ones in the Vitra series, would work better as smaller formats since they focus on details, things you can almost touch.

What is your take on color? What is the effect of the monochromatic palette on how we perceive these architectures?

Louis Khan showed us that Architecture “is a matter of no-light, light, no-light, light”

Black and white helps to reduce the amount of information we perceive, it blends the irrelevant information to the eye, helping us focus on the object and its interaction with its surroundings in the form of shadow and reflection.

To me Black and white drawings also make reference to pencil or ink drawings.

How and to what extent has the work of famous photographers affected the way you yourself frame and depict these buildings and their elements?

I often go to the work of Julius Schulmann or Ezra Stoller to learn from how they would frame a Building.

They would manage to depict not only the building, but almost a mood bringing you into that moment making you feel like they did while taking the picture.

This has so far been my main obsession; evoking through my illustrations that  feeling I had when approaching these architectural works for the first time.

How important are elements as the background against which you set these architectures?

Architecture and its context are one. One cannot exist without the other. In my illustrations, architecture materializes in the way  tree branches throw shadow on a surface, or water refracts on glass.

Every building is depicted in the moment I saw it. I still remember the time time I arrived to the Schroeder Haus. There was snow everywhere and the layered structure looked almost like a Neoplasticism drawing against a white background. The bright reflected light faded the colored surfaces emphasizing the red, black and yellow columns and the glass windows were almost black, floating over me. These are the things I try to depict through my illustrations.

To what extent has this project affected how you operate as an architect?

I would say it goes both ways. The way I operate as an architect has pushed me to find this creative outlet, go back to my roots and rethink the way I approach architectural representation.

Chasing this project helps me review the work of the masters and investigate new ways of representation which I believe will make me a better architect in the future.