Architectural Sketching and the Built Environment

Primary living space.

Primary living space

The sketches featured here were drawn after this course went completely remote. Before this transition class activities were dependent upon the freedom of movement and close inter-personal contact. Until this point the mode of interaction and learning was very direct and experiential.



Marysia Paradis



ARC 122
Spring 2020


BS Arch

Students traveled freely – in groups and as individuals – to different environments on UB’s campus and in the surrounding city of Buffalo in order to interact with their surroundings and to record their thoughts and observations through drawing. This was a time of uninhibited wandering and exploration. They visited places together and shared sketchbooks with each other. They made drawings in and of the places they visited. They could pass sketchbooks around the room, touching and looking closely at the pages. They often gathered in small, intimate groups as they realized drawings in a variety of different contexts. They could huddle together around the drawings in order to examine them closely and discuss them. Sometimes, they shared drawing tools.  

They were no longer afforded the freedom of movement that they had in the very recent past. Many students returned to their residences in different parts of the world and many – if not all – were homebound. They were encouraged to not interact with others and could not visit the places that they could ordinarily expect to visit. They could no longer flip through the pages of sketchbooks of their classmates. Their relationship to each other and to the surrounding environment had changed drastically. 

Dennis Maher, clinical assistant professor, encouraged students to view this as a special opportunity to reconsider the world, the immediacy of their surroundings, anxieties, and especially the act of drawing in new ways. Drawing is, after all, an intimate activity. It was a chance for them to explore a relationship to the medium in a more close and personal way and – simultaneously – to cultivate a new attitude toward the spaces and the information that we share with one another

Students very closely observed the environment within which they each were situated. They began looking at all the constituent parts of whatever environment in which they were living – whether it is a house, apartment, dorm, or something else. They looked closely at the walls, floors, ceilings, windows, doors, furnishings and all the contained objects. As they studied the immediacy of their own surroundings – including the variety of materials, surfaces, colors, textures and the emotions they generate – they drew selective ‘vignettes’ from their current living environment. 

In this context, a vignette is a constellation of associated objects. For example, as you observe your bathroom sink, you may also observe other objects that could be considered integral parts of the sink’s universe: perhaps a comb, a toothbrush, floss, or a washcloth. Each vignette was to be composed of one major object and at least three other minor objects Students made one drawing of the complete vignette and one detailed drawing of each of the minor objects. 

To facilitate discussion and drawing sharing, all students were required to maintain an Instagram account, and used the platform to view work produced in the class by sharing posts with the hashtag: #arc122drawinghome.