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Ming Pao Magazine Interview

October 7, 2013

Act of creative aketchingThe book is a collection of your blog entries – but what makes you putting the comments on the side too?

In a blog the interaction of writer and reader is key.   It’s a different ‘animal’ from a book. Each post/entry tells a story, and usually they are independent from one another. In addition each post has an introduction, body and an end, where as a book tells a full-length story through many pages and many chapters. Blogs are also directed at specific audiences and oftentimes the author sets out to create a dialogue with the visitor. These are the uniqueness of blogging. The comments on the side of my book illustrate my dialogue with my visitors and give ‘life’ to our discussions that an ordinary book does not do. I want to bring this interactivity and dialogue with my readers into the book. These comments further enhance the contents and provide more perspective to my sketches.

You have included every single entry from your blog – and some of them are quite personal, why so?

Matter of fact not all my posts are included in the book. There are a few posts that did not fit within the scope and theme of my book. Sketching is inherently personal.  When we sketch we imbue the subject with our own ideas and perception of reality. Giving the reader a glimpse into my worldview, which also enables them to further understand my sketches.

In HK fine art in secondary school isn’t a prerequisite for taking architecture in universities (unlike the UK) do you think the ability to sketch is crucial to architecture?

Yes, personally I think the ability to sketch, particularly free hand sketching, is crucial to the thinking process in architectural design. Let me tell you a story. I interview many young architectural graduates over the years and I discovered that because they are trained to use CAD software they are incapable of sketching and doing free hand drawing. I once interviewed three graduates individually and they each presented the same set of CAD renderings. They could not tell me how or where they contributed. CAD students fail to understand that they are operators of the software developers code and their artistic touch (signature) can never be included in the rendering produced by the software alone. If they want their renderings to have their design signature they must combine their free hand sketching / drawing with the computer software rendering.

How this book is relevant to the public – who are not architects?

The book is about how we as humans interpret and capture our vision of the world. and express this vision to each other. This is a universal theme.  Furthermore, I think the public are always interested in knowing how complex things are processed and or manufactured. It is the process that they are keen to discover and not necessarily need to know how to do it.  The book will not tell you how to sketch; it will tell you my personal way of how I manage to create complex sketches. The early section of the book illustrates and discusses many of my simple sketches and as you go towards the end of the book you will be treated to very detailed sketches, particularly on-site complex sketches. This insight into my own creative process can fuel ideas for the reader’s own artistic endeavors.

Some of the sketching was done when travelling  – now people can simply press the button when they see something nice. Do you think cameras change how an architect views architecture?

The blog posts in my book covers a time span of more than four years, so it is natural to see posts created during my travels. Camera technology has skyrocketed recently, and we now see cameras that can capture scenes easily that make us feel like we are great photographers. I am sure there is a camera out there where if you press a button your picture will look like a hand drawn sketch. Architectural photographers will wait for the right time of day, season of the year and proper angle of the sun before shooting the picture of a building. The camera has a single station point, due to its fixed optics, so the photographer must consider and plan all variables before shooting the composition. On the other hand, our eyes has variable station points that makes us see more than the camera does from the same place. Because of this, I will always complete my sketch before I shoot the scene with my camera. I use a camera as a recording tool only. My sketches also enable deeper connection from viewer to object. It is an interactive and thoughtful process, beyond photography, that enables one to forge a more completing relationship with the object or subject one is viewing.

What’s the concept of your sketches? You draw from airports to landscape to plant and glass door.

You may want to think of blogging as a process similar to entries in a diary, except that in my case sketches and related texts are always included in my posts. Many times the content of one post will lead to another. For example after experimenting with simple line drawings to delineate the female body, I used the sketches to create Christmas wrappings for my wife Daphne Chan’s lingerie; and that led me to create a post of my Christmas story for 2010.  I would like to think the concept for the sketches in my blog is to illustrate the thrill of how sketching can be a stimulating experience in one’s daily livelihood. They include a variety of subjects and images that tells the story of my life together with Daphne over a specific time period. Daphne, also an architect, was involved throughout the entire development of my blog posts and production of the book, contributing many concepts for the posts and including the book cover design. The concept of the blogging process and not the individual sketches was the driving force behind my blog.

When you work as an architect, do you really draw a lot?

Sketching and drawing for me is similar to writing except that I produce images and not texts. During all of my architectural conceptual developments I will produce many sketch options to explore design visions before proceeding to computer drawings or renderings. For example I will explore the design façade of a building project ten to twenty options before finalizing a direction. The ability to sketch is paramount in the architectural profession. I sketch to illustrate my visions.

Do you draw apart from architectural sketching?

When I was five years old I would sketch comic book covers. Superman, Captain Marvel and Batman to name a few that fascinated me. Since then over the years I have developed a personal sketching style and system, which is what I try to tell in my book. I get pleasure in sketching on-site views and scenery. The act of sketching to me is similar to participating in a symphony, once started I sketch continuously, there is no turning back and there are no errors.

Do you think, sitting still and drawing the sketch changes your understanding of architecture?

Architectural design is a complex process. It takes eight to ten years to become a registered architect through academic studies and internships. Practical experience of construction methods and ways takes years after your internship before one can feel confident as an architect. Then where one chooses to practice, there is the codes and regulations that one has to learn and understand. Architects really use sketching as a conceptual and communicating tool. Due to the interpretive and interactive process of a sketch your understanding of that subject, be it architecture or the nature, world evolves. You gain a deeper appreciation of the subject. The process of sketching forces you to look closer to exploring surroundings, curves, lines and details that can easily be overlooked. As I sketch I discover beautiful subtitles that change my view and foster news insight about the world that I live in.

  1. Reblogged this on Archi Blog.

  2. dafchan permalink

    A very good interview which communicates and shares with readers much insight and understanding about your 3 big passions; sketching, architecture design and writing … Will read the book again

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