50 Years of Architectural Drawings and Sketches, 1965-2015 BC (Before Computer)

School News

50 Years of Architectural Drawings and Sketches, 1965-2015 BC (Before Computer)

March 26, 2015

The exhibition, 50 Years of Architectural Drawings and Sketches, 1965-2015 BC (Before Computer), which ran from February 2-13, presented, for the first time, a dizzying retrospective of drawings by long-time School of Architecture professor Graeme Maxwell Morland, AIA, RIBA.


Spanning private residences, larger commissions, competition entries, and other works “in the pursuit of design ideas,” the collection reveals ways of thinking about architecture and the world around us. The show stands as a virtual travelogue of cities, spaces real and imagined, speculative and built buildings, and very personal notebook sketches of streetscapes, light, shadows, and people caught in time.


At the opening, Qingyun Ma, dean of the USC School of Architecture, remarked that this exhibition is very important for the School and for Los Angeles. “The work connects a great mind with great skill,” he said, “and presents Los Angeles as a cradle for architectural experimentation.”


Professor Gail Borden, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Discipline Head of Architecture, and Director of Graduate Architecture noted that Professor Morland’s drawings “striated across the decades, embody the evolving architectural thinking of a masterful architect. From spontaneous sketches to a fifty foot, 360 degree panorama, the work passionately envisions the best of what architecture can represent: a hopeful vision for humanity manifest and facilitated through the built environment.”


Morland, who joined the faculty in 1970, brings an unparalleled range of experience and talent to the School of Architecture, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses with an emphasis on design and urban theory. He is the former director of the USC School of Architecture Anthony A. Marnell II, Italian Architecture Studies Program. “Students that spent time with Graeme in Italy often returned with a renewed interest in using the process of sketching to study and capture the places around them,” reflected Professor Lee Olvera, Assistant Dean for Communications and Special Projects.


Morland studied architecture at the Mackintosh School of Architecture at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. “This is where I first learned that, in architecture, ideas are the only things that really matter.”


For Morland, while there is no intrinsic opposition between the computer and hand drawing, they do represent different ways of thinking. “The speed of thought that emerges when you are exploring with sketches, cycling through ideas, is incredible,” he says. “For me, this isn’t possible with the computer because with the computer you are dealing with premediated ideas that you then modify and this can be a slow process.” Citing Frank Gehry’s early drawings as an example, he explains how they express a very personal way of thinking and seeing things around him and how out of this comes “the essence of a direction to pursue.”


“In our world of architectural practice, a world that has come to expect and glorify the digital medium, Graeme’s work breathes new life into another generation of architects,” says alumnus Nathan Prevendar (B.Arch. 2006), who went to Italy with Morland for one semester. He says he feels privileged to have been one of Morland’s students. “His guidance, coaching us how to see, analyze, and document architecture and urban spaces through drawing, molded me into the architect I am today,” he adds.


One person who has experienced Morland’s work over many years is Associate Professor Charles Lagreco. “For me the exhibition was a summary of my experience at USC,” he says. Lagreco began teaching at the School of Architecture in 1973 and for a few years taught with Morland in the fourth year of the program. “Graeme was my mentor,” says Lagreco.


To him, the exhibition captures the School of Architecture through Morland’s very personal journey. “He brings a unique perspective that is both totally L.A. and, at the same time, the viewpoint of the tourist,” says Lagreco. “Graeme has always been a fully mature artist-architect-urbanist who has never wavered from a commitment to study and explore, someone looking with absolutely fresh eyes.”


Morland describes the process of drawing as a way of understanding “the mathematics of perception,” a way of learning how to really see the world and how it is constructed. “Through hand drawing, students gain an understanding of systems and hierarchy. You draw the important things first and start with the big picture and subdivide,” he says. “The elements of drawing are the elements of seeing.”


“Style is a preconception,” Morland says. “When students are designing they are often belabored by pre-set ways of doing things. But I try to encourage a calculated ambiguity so that what they focus on is personal to them and not part of some larger cliché.”


(Music: www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music)