Repost: Interesting essay on Architecture

“Drafting is the soul of architecture”
By Ernesto R. Zárate, FPIA
I wonder if this old man’s envy is common to others his age—envy for those younger architects who are experts at what is now known as “electronic drawing.” Envy for not being able to create such clean beautiful lines without the use of a drafting table, scale, triangle, pencil, eraser and other paraphernalia. It’s the fingers now that do all the work, pressing numbers and letters on the keypad of a PC.I don’t remember being taught how to draft. What is vivid in my mind is when our instructor in college scolded me for using the scale like a ruler. “It is only used for measuring,” he sneered. Although later I would discover it could also be a convenient tool for cutting tracing paper from a roll or for scratching an itchy back.

I remember the very first time I used a T-square. It was so cumbersome. I hadn’t learned the technique yet of pulling on to the ruling surface with my left arm while positioning or holding down the triangle with the hand. Later also would I learn the convenience and good sense to draw vertical lines along the left side the triangle starting from the bottom towards the top and for horizontal lines from left to right.

I also had to unlearn how to hold a pencil when drafting. And that one had to twirl the pencil as a line is drawn so that pantay ang pagkapudpod and you end up with a rounded pencil point and not chisel-edged which could tear the paper and ruin your work. But with the early mechanical pencils (or “lead holders” as they were called then) the leads were about 1/16 of an inch in diameter so one had to constantly sharpen the point of the pencil either with a “pencil pointer” contraption or a piece of fine sandpaper stapled to a piece of flat stick. Extreme care would always be taken in sharpening pencil points because there was always the danger that the dust from the graphite particles would smudge one’s work.

For general drafting work, I always used “B” especially during humid weather or within an air-conditioned drafting room. “HB” or “F” for the fine thin lines. During dry days though, I would use “HB” for general drafting; “F” and “H” for finer lines. You see it is not the lead that is the problem but the softness or moisture absorbed by the paper you are using (“Snowhite” was the “in” brand then). The harder pencils were for dry weather and the softer grades for humid or wet weather.

Before my eyesight started to fail, I used to pride myself in drawing bricks to scale (1:100M) without any miscue in vertical on a “running bond” pattern (what many mistakenly call “hollow block pattern.”) Ahhh… them were the days… And I used to pride myself in having different gradients or thicknesses of lines. I used to observe how the drawings were done in the Architectural Graphic Standards and copy the line gradients as best I could. I also tried to copy, again as best I could, the style of lettering used in the book… some sort of flattish expanded Helvetica or Arial—all caps. If there was time, I would always ink my title blocks using my trusty “Doric” lettering set (I couldn’t afford the more elaborate “Leroy” set then).

In the early 60’s, in the office we established with Arch. Ruben Payumo and three other aspiring architects, we copied the drafting standards set by Adrian Wilson (where Archs. Lina Orobia and Freddie Hocson, our other partners, used to work together with Ruben) where specific sized letters and callouts were followed. And for a more “professional” look, I even adopted their style of using the triangle for all verticals or stems of block letters when doing pencil lettering.

But it was always the layout of the drawings in a sheet that drew special attention. These were never done haphazardly. They were always aligned vertically and horizontally—in good order and harmony. It was like setting various dishes on a buffet table… they had to be pleasing to the eye and look invitingly delicious.

That was architectural drafting in the old days. I am sure ALL the great architects of the Philippines today took pride in their drafting work… MANUAL drafting, that is. Electronic drawings? Ah, anybody could do that… even a CAD operator who knows nothing of architecture can do that. But manual drafting? Truly, that is the soul of Architecture.

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One thought on “Repost: Interesting essay on Architecture

  1. Pingback: Let Me Count the Ways I Love You Oh Architecture | My Art✦Deco Life

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