Karl Friedrich Schinkel, The Origin of Draftsmanship (1830)

Image courtesy Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal

Welcome to the Death of Drawing blog and discussion forum. The Death of Drawing: Architecture in the Age of Simulation is a forthcoming book that will be published by Routledge Taylor & Francis  Group in June 2014. I’m the author, David Ross Scheer. The book deals with the replacement of drawing by two digital technologies: building information modeling (BIM) and computational design. Its thesis is that the pervasive adoption of these technologies is creating a sea change in architectural design thinking, comparable in scope to the creation of the modern practice of architecture during the Italian Renaissance. The codification of architectural drawing was required for the advent of modern practice and is at the root of how architects think, design and build. With its replacement by these digital technologies, the entire edifice of architecture as we know it is collapsing. New ideational and practical frameworks are arising to take its place.

About the title. People, including architects, continue to draw. For many architects, especially those over forty, drawing is still essential to their design processes. It is not the personal exercise of drawing that is dying, but its fundamental role in architectural practice. Drawing is fast disappearing as the chief medium for developing design ideas and transmitting information to other people involved in a project, including contractors. This trend is most pronounced in larger projects, but it is filtering down into ever-smaller ones. There are irresistible economic and technical forces at work that will eventually cause all but the smallest projects to use BIM and CD.

Simulation refers to a mode of experience. In this mode, experience is taken at face value. In particular, experience does not represent anything else. Digital tools like BIM and computational design give rise to simulation. The experiences they generate are produced by means that are completely different than those that underlie real-world experience. Asking about the origins of simulation leads to the means used to produce the simulation, Drawing, on the other hand, clearly represents experience. There is no mistaking a drawing for a building. A drawing is a sign of an ulterior reality and a means of learning about this reality. Representations are always partial reflections of reality and new ones can always be created to reveal different aspects of it.

The replacement of drawing by digital tools is not just a change of media; it entails a radical change in how we experience the world and architecture in particular. The book explores various ways this affects the design, construction and reception of works of architecture. In advance of its appearance, I will post brief introductions to some of the its topics here and invite everyone interested to contribute to the discussion. The book contains 135 illustrations including many drawings by well-known architects. These will also be featured in these posts. Welcome, all.