Fragment to foundation: photographic observation and tonal drawing as a point of beginning for architectural design

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The medium of photography provides a first vehicle for the study of architectural and visual form. Through its employment, initially in a spontaneous and instinctive manner but with increasing understanding and awareness over time, a groundwork is laid for visual design in other media.

Continuous tone pencil drawing becomes the means to realizing the lessons learned through these photographic exercises. Through this instrument, subsequent studies reveal the need for architectural design to evolve as discoveries of place rooted in a visual seed anchor point and evaluated by the same visual judgment developed in the earlier photographic work. Beginning with fragmentary images, the range of inquiry in the drawings broadens over time to encompass ever larger concerns in the design of architectural places.

Reaching fruition in the design of a small retreat house, this process of study initially undertaken in photographic observation, following by drawn fragments and finally entire places, represents a paradigmatic approach to developing a working method of architectural design. The discovery of this design approach through the execution of the thesis itself constitutes the underlying theme.