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Let’s Settle This: CAD or Hand Drawing?

The 2nd Annual One Drawing Challenge is open for entries, with the Final Entry Deadline right around the corner on August 28th. Last year’s competition saw a breadth of captivating entries, which, through the power of a single drawing, told unique narratives centered around architecture and the experiences of those that would inhabit it.

Enter the 2020 One Drawing Challenge

Ozair Mansoor’s “Between Possibilities and Limitations” and Mandalika Justine Roberts’ “The Machine: A Mechanical Mudlark” brilliantly exemplified these qualities, netting them the two top prizes in last year’s inaugural competition. While both high in quality, the two pieces were crafted in completely different ways, reflecting a growing dichotomy in architectural drawing. 

The division here is between CAD drawing and hand drawing, with the former increasingly rising in prominence as the go-to drafting method. Many believe the growing use of CAD and 3D modeling, especially in architecture schools, means students and young architects are no longer practicing drawing by hand, signaling the end of the ‘art’ of drawing and sketching. 

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“Between Possibilities and Limitations” by Ozair Mansoor (2019 One Drawing Challenge Student Winner)

Prophesying the complete erasure of hand drawing in architecture is extreme, however, it is clear why CAD has grown to be so popular. For starters, the contemporary world operates almost entirely digitally. Using software is simply a more practical, time-efficient option for most at this point in time. 

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“The Machine: A Mechanical Mudlark” by Mandalika Justine Roberts( 2019 One Drawing Challenge Non-Student Winner)

The power of a computer offers pinpoint accuracy and the ability to use an array of features to assist the drawing process, such as line weights and line styles to communicate different elements of a building.

When it comes to technical drawing, CAD also allows individuals to work much faster compared to those that hand draw, a method that requires a more meticulous and taxing workflow. Additionally, CAD allows for multiple people to collaborate on a single drawing, and if there are any mistakes made, one can edit their work without the fear of having to start over. 

Frank Gehry used the CATIA software, which utilizes CAD, for this 3D model of the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao in 1992; image courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP

Hand drawing, on the other hand, is a timeless art form that spans far outside the realm of architecture. Whether a simple sketch or detailed illustration, hand drawing infuses a unique, human quality to a piece that can’t quite be achieved with CAD.

Advocates for hand drawing argue that there is more scope to introduce emotion and atmosphere into an ‘analogue’ drawing. Hand drawing forces individuals to deliberate and strategize, requiring an extensive understanding of the subject, the materials and techniques. 

Frank Lloyd Wright and John H Howe, Fallingwater, 1937, pencil and colored pencil on tracing paper; image via The Modern House

Both CAD drawing and hand drawing have their pros and cons. It is clear from last year’s One Drawing Challenge winners, however, that each avenue can produce remarkable work. While hand drawing is less popular than before, there is definitely a place for both it and CAD drawing in architecture.

Depending on the need, both can be used to tell a story about architecture, which is the ultimate goal. With that being said, we invite entrants to use either method in this year’s One Drawing Challenge. Don’t hesitate to participate and showcase your architectural drawing skills!


Check out every amazing winner and commended entry in the inaugural One Drawing Challenge here. Interested in participating this year? Register for the 2020 edition of the competition now:

Enter the 2020 One Drawing Challenge

The post Let’s Settle This: CAD or Hand Drawing? appeared first on Journal.