7 Levels of Drawing with Stefan Davidovici Architect – 13th May, 18:00

7 LEVELS OF DRAWING, Reflections on Free-hand Drawing and Architecture

Stefan Davidovici
Lecturer, NABA Milan


‘I draw all the time’
(Cino Zucchi, Inspiration and process in Architecture, Moleskine 2012)



These reflections about free-hand drawing or architecture are born straight from direct professional practice. They are supposed to stimulate students and architects to use free-hand drawing, a technical and intellectual instrument connected with architecture since its dawn, that nowadays demonstrates its increasing relevance in the context of the dominance of the digital representation technologies in our field.

Gradually, in successive steps, the reflections enlarge the perspective of what free-hand drawing can do. Starting from the first level, the basic representation of reality, we go on towards properly perceiving the space around us; including the fourth dimension, the time, in our representations; leaving the realm of form and function to explore freely imaginary architectures; and finally learning to make and use abstract drawings. Far from being mental acrobatics or simple demonstrations of graphic skill, these uses of drawing are instruments used to improve, during time, our intellectual and design skills.

The reflections revolve around one of the main functions of free-hand drawings for architects – expressing the conceptual thinking at the base of any project – but they touch it only in the last step, the only one not illustrated with the author’s drawings, that discusses the ever-disputed connection between the ability to draw and the ability to produce high-quality architecture.

Theoretical references are avoided, in order to enhance the immediacy and accessibility of the message.

The lecture is fully illustrated with screen projections of hand-made drawings, mostly by the author, and takes around 45 minutes.
The lecture is paired with one/two session/s of live drawing for three hours.
A selection of drawings that illustrate the seven levels is exposed for the duration of the RDW.




Drawing what we see, as opposed to simply snapping one more picture with our cellphone, puts us in direct, active relation with our subjects. We literally have to pass what we see through our eyes, minds and fingers. The result is that drawing makes us understand what we see at a much deeper and more intuitive level.
But most drawings depict just a simplified image of a frozen-in-time reality seen from a single point of view.

At any given moment, our perception of space is built from a small area of focused image and a much-larger, unclear sphere of space around it; in this very moment the reader of this text can perceive the room around him/her without having to specifically look outside this page. In this respect ‘larger’ drawings are more true to reality than the regular, ‘focused’ ones.

Our perception of any given space is not limited to a single photogram, but is a complex mental construction made out of a succession of images put together.
Time is a fundamental element in creating this ‘mental image’ and can become part of our drawings in a variety of ways.

We have no reason whatsoever to stop our exploration of the expressiveness of the Architectural space – the one original artistic side of Architecture – at the buildings we manage to realize during our careers. The exploration of imaginary architectures is a cost-free, powerful mental-gymnastics exercise for architects.

Imaginary architectures slowly give way to actual abstract drawings, where lines of force organize themselves in ways that escape our logic but seem to respect a superior, complex order.

Is anything we do – including the reflections just presented and the drawings that illustrate them – really original? Doesn’t seem so – humanity seems to advance mostly incrementally, in small steps that always are based on previous achievements. Our own drawings will seldom – if at all – be amazing, original works of art, but even the humblest sketch has its own value and represents a step ahead for the person that made it. Originality is personal.

Are the ability to draw and the ability to produce high-quality architecture connected or inter-dependent? Wonderful question with many answers. What is certain is that a consistent set of anecdotic evidence suggests that most great architects tend to express themselves easily through free-hand drawing.


Stefan Davidovici Architect and Lecturer, NABA Milan


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