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The Architecture Drawing Prize - Not just another competition
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The Architecture Drawing Prize - Not just another competition

Posted 30.01.2019
By Lukas Göbl

Prizes that reward structures, many of which have little to do with architecture, are like sand on the beach. Nowadays, if you are economically successful enough as a company you can just buy awards. It’s often been the economic interest in the foreground and not the architectural quality. Clients love ratings, and so do architects. I can tell you that from personal experience, because once upon a time we gave into the allure of what is simply a game of “pay and play” recognition.

The Architecture Drawing Prize, however, stands opposed to that practice and I see and appreciate it as a serious and altruistic effort to highlight the core of architecture and one of its most central media, the mother of architectural ideas: the drawing itself.

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The Samsara of Building No.42 on Dirty Street, 2017 (3), Li Han

The architectural drawing gives the uncertain feeling and the vague idea of spatial form. There is nothing more immediate, hardly anything initially like the drawing (except possibly the primal scream). It is there from the very beginning of human history. Although the drawing has already been declared a thousand times dead, it was, and still is, an integral medium of artistic expression and an important means of communication. Le Corbusier wrote the following sentence decades ago: “I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and allows less room for lies.” And it is to the point! In the permanent fire of manipulations, superficialities, lies, and their consequences, it is a blessing to see genuine thought experiments and refreshing contrariwise designs manifest themselves in architectural drawings.

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American dream or American nightmare - 2050, Yue Ma, Cornell University

The Architecture Drawing Prize as a political statement

Because The Architecture Drawing Prize focuses on the drawing itself and not on the finished object, one can see what might be possible and at the same time one appreciates what often gets lost on the way to the realisation. Drawings are referring to certain values which we have agreed to as a society and therefore it’s about politics and policy in the broadest sense. The Architecture Drawing Prize must be read accordingly in this context as a critical statement. It shows what might be possible if both the balance of power were organised in a different way and we as a profession focused on other things and gave alternative values a higher priority.

Many of the presented works on display for The Architecture Drawing Prize make us mercilessly aware of what could be possible and what could be brought in the world if we were organised in a different way. The absence of what would be possible is brought to light: the invisible becomes visible. Many works show which priorities we have focused on as a community and what comes out at the end is usually only a caricature of what was possible in the beginning. The Architecture Drawing Prize is therefore important. Apart from introducing beauty, vitality and the elegance of architecture to a wider public, it highlights what could surround us and what we, as a society, choose not to afford for many reasons.

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City of Beautiful Bodies Vol. IV (detail), Lukas Göbl
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Lukas Göbl, winner of the hybrid drawing category, being presented his award by Make's Frank Filskow at WAF 2018

This post forms part of our series on The Architecture Drawing Prize: an open drawing competition curated by Make, WAF and Sir John Soane’s Museum to highlight the importance of drawing in architecture.