Witold Rybczynski, architecture critic and professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, recently penned an interesting commentary on the effects of the computer in the field of architecture. As an architect who straddles the divide between pencils and computer-aided design (CAD), Rybcynski has a unique perspective of how the advance of CAD has changed the profession and those in it.
He describes the Renaissance method of architectural design, which “not only lacked Xeroxes and blueprint machines; it even lacked pencils. All drawings, including rough sketches, were done in ink.” Innovations such as the T-square, the pencil, and the eraser made the process quicker and easier, but none have changed the process of design so much as the computer. Ryncynski contends that time and painstaking, deliberate effort are integral to the design process - and that the computer has eliminated the need for both.
Students and visitors to the Drawings and Documents Archive are always impressed with the detail and precision of our hand-drawn plans and blueprints. The faculty wax nostalgic over the fine lettering and reminisce about the long hours at the drafting table during their college years.
We don't just have drawings in our collections, either. From our Kibele & Garrard Architectural Records Collection, we have an extraordinary array of ink wells, pens, T-squares, blotters, compasses, powders and other tools of early 20th century architects and draftsmen.