Sharpening Design Vision — With Architectural Abstraction

creative process

Abstraction Before (Hyper)Realism

A seemingly counter-intuitive way to sharpen one’s design vision is to begin with architectural abstraction. I did this with two images as shown in the video micro-lecture above. On the left, is a painting I created of a seaside city built-context. And on the right is a ‘napkin sketch’ I created of the same seaside cityscape. While both images are abstractions of a coastal environment, the methods used to create each help me see into my design vision more sharply.

Many times, designers begin with a (hyper)realistic drawing goal – so their design vision takes shape more quickly. Yet, by not exploring abstract pathways to see more deeply into their initial design vision, many design opportunities to innovate and think ‘beyond the box’ can be missed. This is why I experiment with architectural abstraction through the Architectonic Growth painting series.

The ‘Sculpting’ of an Idea

I notice that if I dive immediately into (hyper) representation of my vision through drawing/rendering, I may miss opportunity to innovate more creatively and poetically. For this reason, I find that painting as architectural abstraction works well to help my creative design mind expand how it thinks about a given project challenge. It is fascinating to see what ideas emerge from an architectural abstraction. For example, a brushstroke or palette-knife painting stroke can create forms with multi-dimensional qualities that evoke sensory experience, geometric form, narrative functionality, and even metaphorical meaning.

Of course, (hyper)realism is important for certain stages of an architectural design project; however, I am discovering that abstraction, as a way to better understand one’s initial design idea, can help to ‘sculpt’ that idea into its final form. In this way, my initial idea has time and space to develop into what it wants and needs to become.


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