☆ Nic Clear : Drawing & Animation

☆Lecture 4!

  • Date: 01/02/12
  • Lecturer: Nic Clear
  • Topic: Animation & drawing


The topic of the week was ‘Animation & drawing’. Nic Clear, our guest for this lecture is interested in Architecture and design in conjunction with motion graphics and animation. He also runs the Postgraduate architecture diploma unit. For around about 20 years he had been teaching at the Barlett school of architecture at University College London, for a lot of that time he was a part time tutor, running his own practice. About seven or eight years ago he moved to become a full time academic, his main level of interest is using film and animation in the development and representation of architectural ideas and architectural practices.

He stated that he would talk about two specific aspects, the use of animation and how and why he developed them within architecture. Secondly, he would illustrate some of his points by showing a lot of his student’s work instead of the talk being all focused on himself. One of the first issues he wanted to address is this idea that architecture is solely the domain of the architecture profession. An aspect of architectural design is the production of buildings, he states that that is only one aspect of it. I agree that what the history of architecture is includes so much other things which widens the meaning of what defines ‘architecture’, just like how graphic design is constituted of different branches.

What I found interesting was when Nic stated that architecture is still considered to be a new thing, ‘not quite 200 years old yet’. It has to be broadened to include a whole number of difference spaces including: digital spaces and virtual spaces and while the profession of architecture still protects the title ‘architect’. A rather good point, as architecture I suppose is still a fairly new idea needing to be developed, not only in the sense of the production of buildings but how these ideas can be transmitted across to the audience, in order for people to understand what the architect is trying to say. Just like how Nic explains the importance of drawing, that drawing is prominent within architecture.

Architectural representation is autographic projection, the drawing of plans, sections and elevations. Historically this was how architecture had been communicated but the development of 3D software and animation has changed everything, it allows us to go beyond that and produce more. This is something which made me think with the advance development of technology, architects and designers are able to easily communicate their ideas, such as using animation, video etc instead of being confined to drawing. Yet, I also contradict this factor as drawings can appear 3D and life-like by simply adding contour and shadows which display just as much detail as animation. An example of 3D drawing is the work of Chilean artist Fredo, whose charcoal drawings seem to literally pop out of the page, despite it being ‘flat’, these intricate drawings are both amazing and thought provoking.

Going back to the history of architecture, Nics says it is important to understand architecture and its relation to the drawings. There was an essay called : ‘Translations from drawings to buildings’ by Robbie Evans who was his tutor. In this essay he talks about the origin of the drawing.

There was a story developed by the philosopher Plimy about how drawing as an activity was developed. For the architect, drawing is so instrumental in terms of the production of architecture that we simply ‘couldn’t have architecture before the drawing’. The story he told explains his point that the person could not have drawn on the architecture without the drawing, the architecture couldn’t have been made.

It is important because it determines how the architecture practice operates with relation to drawing. In a way, drawing is the primary activity, stressing Nic’s belief that architecture evolved from drawing, one could not have existed without the other. Space isn’t flat, it takes training and knowledge to understand the protocols of architectural drawing. From his earlier days of training Nic never really questioned this but with the development of CGI, he started to realise that the paradigm of flatness needed to be put in place.

‘I love drawings, I make drawings’, he muses. One of the things he wanted to do with the way he used architectural drawings was to exploit the virtues, the flatness, but also to develop a kind of narrative. Just like how many artists in general have a motive behind their pieces of work, looking at it from another person’s perspective should generate a kind of story, is something I believe. This reminds me of the project we are currently working on in Graphic design principles, where we chose an object reflecting us and use it to communicate a certain message about ourselves. Whether it is an aspect derived from religion, sexuality, culture, memories etc. This makes it a whole lot more personal to each of us which I find meaningful, knowing that there is a lot more to be discovered from all individuals.

Nic showed us clips of animations his students had produced; this exploited the idea that architecture traditionally was represented through photographs. I agree that sometimes animations is a rather effective way of communicating ideas and spaces, it combines both drawings with movement and produces perspective-ensuring that the creator is able to influence how the viewer is looking at the message being encoded. Another advantage of animation is also how the soundtracks emphasises on this point, achieving atmosphere and tension just like the videos Nic showed us. The animations had somewhat similar music due to the students acknowledging that it would be more suitable than adding what is perceived as ‘happy’ music, this just wouldn’t match.

The one of many animations I liked the most was one called ‘Robots of Brixton’ produced by Kibwe Tavares showing chaos as robots crash through the city and are at war with humans. This was beautifully animated, portraying a dystopian world of the future. I have a strange love for dystopian films/books, especially ones concerning the future, ironic that people are so afraid of how advance technology may affect the unforeseen. Yet, we are potentially the ones to blame for this problem.

What captivated me the most was when Nic talked about the work from a guy named Dan Farmer which was really inspiring.  At the beginning of his final year, he went blind in one eye. He developed something called Optical iritis which is a breakdown on the optic nerves between the eye and the brain. He decided to base his entire project on it; he was interested in the way he was treated by the irologist to train other bits of the brain and the perceptual system to recommit the kinds of lives. His project becomes the way in which perception of reality doesn’t happen out there but is constructed within the brain. His project was interesting as it contained series of scans of his brain, that perception is a kind of illusion. I really admire how Dan revolved his project around something sensitive, making it personal to him as though stating that nothing would bring him down, he would accept his and demonstrate his strength through the process of his project.

To me, animation is something more than just drawings in working motion, it comes alive and speaks perspective-especially concerning architecture. Just like a fitting piece of puzzle, providing visual communication through the language of drawing, sound and movement. A very fascinating talk Nic has given, a good insight into the world of drawing & animation, it made me think a lot long after we had filed out of the lecture hall.


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