J.K. Irwin

Columbia College Chicago (UNITED STATES)
This paper will present outcomes resulting from two course assignments presented experimentally in a first year architectural drawing course. The course teaches three kinds of three-dimensional drawing; one- point linear perspective, two -point linear perspective and isometric projection. Students typically learn the mechanics of each system then apply each system by drawing real spaces, drawing from photographs of spaces, or drawing from images of furniture. The drawing exercises present simple forms from which the students are to create a drawn composition using one of the three visual systems presented in class. This approach worked adequately with the exception of three issues:

1. Students were mechanically creating perspectives, but were not understanding the spatial qualities of what they were drawing.
2. Students struggled with the relationship between plan and isometric.
3. Students focused their efforts on the mechanical process of drawing, ignoring the compositional and expressive nature of their work.

The underlying assumption in the course is that the student has the ability to begin with an understanding of the essential formal qualities of the work within an object or image, then place this into a visual system. A second assumption is that when a student draws a constructed perspective, the student will necessarily perceive the drawing in three-dimensions. A third assumption is that art naturally progresses historically from the simple to the complex, and therefore learning how to do art, a part of which includes architectural drawing, should follow the same progression.

Contrary to these assumptions are the realities of the classroom and studio; that our Millennial students are more attuned to visual complexity than visual simplicity, that a beginning student will understand images as flat shapes even if an image shows a spatial volume, and that many students will draw a disordered spatial construct while perceiving their drawing as an ordered composition.

To address these issues two assignments were developed and deployed experimentally. The first was to create a set of two-dimensional abstractions based on the floor plans of Lecorbusier’s villas. When the abstractions were complete, the students then converted the abstractions into isometric drawings.

The second assignment was to observe paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago by Lecorbusier and Picasso for the purpose of creating studies of the compositional and formal elements contained within. The students prepared figure ground analyses of the paintings, as well as sketches representing the two-dimensional drawings representing the compositional devices within the paintings. The students then converted their sketches into three-dimensional drawings.

The results were positive.

- Students integrated their knowledge of composition with the mechanics of three-dimensional drawing technique.

- Students began to critique their earlier work and re-drew their drawings from several weeks earlier.

- Students moved from disordered spatial representations to spatial compositions ordered by means of the drawing techniques presented in the class.