2013-08-12 22.34.29

Tool – noun, verb, other?

Architects use many tools, some are obvious, some are assumed, and a few are really important. You might be thinking – aren’t they all important? Yes, they are.

Yet, for all of the technology we have or will ever have, I prefer, dare I say need my sketchbook. Could I explain why all of the other tools are important? Yes, in fact I’m sure someone from our #Architalks family will do a great job at that.

It’s the sketchbook that has no rules or no limits. In it I can think, I can test, I can explore, I can make mistakes, I can study and I can relax. For someone that chased this profession from an art background as a kid, this tool keeps me grounded in my roots. No digital tool can replace that.

Architect’s sketchbooks are NOT about pretty drawings or finished thoughts or complete images. They’re just evidence of thinking out loud. It is here where I conceive ideas and work through the conceptual aspects of details. It’s a boundless arena to make and to think.


Almost a year ago, Princeton Architectural Press was kind enough to send me a set of sketchbooks to evaluate. I agreed and found this set The Architect Says Notebooks to be a nice change from my usual blank white pages. These gridded notebooks made an interesting, yet useful tool in my process. Sometimes I followed the “rule”, sometimes I ignored them. They’re small and fit within most pockets.


I’ll share a few of the pages if you agree to leave them here.

sketch p 1

sketch p 2

sketch p 3

sketch p 4

sketch p 6

sketch p 9

sketch p 11

sketch p 14

sketch p 15

sketch p 18

It’s a bit like my diary.

Please read the posts of my friends.

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
tools #architalks

Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect)
One Essential Tool

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Super Tool

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Construction: An Architect’s Learning Tool

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
(CTRL A) (Command-A)- Edit

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Architools – Mind Over Matter

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
3 Tools to Get Our Clients Engaged and Involved

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The Best Tool In Your Toolbox

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
The Tools That Help Make #AREsketches

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#ArchiTalks 17 “Tool”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Tools of an Architect #Architalks 17

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Why An Architect’s Voice Is Their Most Important Tool

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
it’s ok, i have a [pen]

Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@simplybrinn)
Synergy: The Value of Architects

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Tools for Learning

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Something Old and Something New

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Helpful tools found within an Architecture blog

Aaron Bowman – Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Sharpen Your Tools


13 thoughts on “tool

  1. Great sketches, Lee. Lora’s right, you should definitely share these more often. I think you’re right about treating the sketchbook like a diary. I know a few people who treat every sketch as though it’s the most precious drawing they’ve ever generated. Architecture is about revealing design through chaotic exploration. How else are you going to test your ideas if you’re worried what they look like? If the information is just that, informative, I say mission accomplished!

    1. Michael, thanks for the vote of confidence. I suppose my comment about not sharing them isn’t because I feel they’re precious, it’s just that I don’t do them for the purpose of display, but simply to record a thought or to explore an idea. I’m not afraid of people’s reactions, it’s just that I don’t wish to share them in the spirit of showing off or putting them out there as if they are remarkable drawings in and of themselves. I’m far more interested in process and recording thinking than making pretty drawings. However, I do work at my skills so that they aren’t awful drawings either. Clarity is key. I do want to make nice drawings, not for other’s praise but for my own satisfaction.

  2. Lee, your use of coloured pencil here is what pushes them into the land of beauty.
    A nod to Scarpa, perhaps? I often find that once the initial – often tough – thinking lines are down on the page, the slower, more distracted period of adding colour or hatching while the mind muses yields huge creative resolution.
    Thanks for sharing,

  3. wmello1934 says:

    Any sketch medium is the tool that is either handy or selected for the comfort of expressing the conception of an architectural project.
    What are the tools used to conceive?
    What are the tools needed to understand conception?
    Is it or are they so basic that it or they are overlooked?
    Bill Mello

    1. I discovered many years ago that the simplest foods are the most enjoyable. Fresh bread, a piece of good cheese, fresh produce is where it’s at. Fancy recipes and complex flavors are fun, but pleasure comes best from the basics.

  4. Thanks for the look into your sketchbook. Sketches are a great tool for working things out / thinking things through. They are part of the process. And while interesting in their own right, the appropriateness of their public display depends largely on the importance placed on the process versus the product.

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