New Theme: “Sketch”
Challenging the rather simplistic tendency to assign extremely different characterizations to northern and southern European cultures, the etymology of the word sketch, at least in the English language, is shared by a remarkable pair.
The 17th century Dutch schets, and the Italian term schizzo, mentioned by the dictionary as the origins of sketch, both feed on older Greek and Latin roots, and lead to an equally interesting conceptual contradiction. Sketches are usually assumed to be done simply or hastily, yet most definitions coincide in their ability to reveal essential characteristics of an object, situation or idea.
Quick and brief, yet clear and deep, sketches operate in a realm akin to that of poetry, favouring understanding over thoroughness and setting the elemental before what is dispensable.
Accounts, blueprints, cartoons, charts, copies, depictions, descriptions, illustrations; paintings, pictures, pieces, portrayals, summaries, versions or vignettes; the many equivalent terms that meet the notion of sketch (including the French essai, origin of essay, meaning attempt) speak of an act of controlled openness, or sharp yet limited focus.
Given the relation of this positively disturbing figure with several of the Writingplace’s most recent concerns, we have decided to focus our attention on sketches during the next couple of months. The results of this emphasis should provide enough material to feed our desire to explore formats other than the blog, while allowing us to reaffirm the bonds that link our work with that of our friends and colleagues of the broader Writingplace network.
Our hope is to invite contributions in three different levels:
Sketch2 (sketch squared) – The first of these levels explores the possibility of meeting the already basic nature of a particular sketch with an equivalent reply. Contributions around this possibility can include a series of jottings, scratches or doodles (written, drawn) that in turn aim to explore, explain or reveal whatever is considered crucial in another (drawn, written, built, etc. – hopefully favourite) sketch.
Moving from image to image, text to text, image to text (or the other way around), we hope that the act of transferring, translating, further synthesizing what is already assumed as elemental, or simply picking up a conspicuous feature from an already basic trace for deeper elaboration, pose extremely interesting questions for the architectural mind.
Sketchbook – A second possibility for contribution is more introspective. Potential collaborators can submit a few of their own (written, drawn) sketches, with a short explanatory note-cum-reflection trying to reveal additional elements of the object, situation or idea that remains latent in each sketch. As in the previous case, the conflation of multiple formats (text / image in all possible combinations) should boost the initial documents’ potential, and provide material for further discussions and reflections.
Sketch+ – A final, moderately elaborate level of contribution aims to collect a series of rather formal theoretical inquiries or historical accounts on the act of sketching. Within the extremely limited space of 1000 words, we aspire to complement the freer formats mentioned above with tantamount yet more detailed reflections on the nature of sketches in a digital era, the different formats in which the act of sketching takes place, the crucial role of the sketch as a focal point for architectural and literary concretion, its cardinal role as an educational tool, and the aforementioned tension that is established between a sketch’s openness (ambiguity, incompleteness) and its amazing powers of synthesis, for example.
By far, this invitation has gone way beyond the limits of what could be taken for a sketch proposal; yet we truly hope that our lack of analytical power and synthetic elegance are a moderate cost for setting the minimum bases for contribution relatively clear.
Hopefully, your sketches will make up for our lengthiness and fill this space with fertile reflections, upon which we can later start detailing and refining future, equally shared projects.