A few weeks ago the Pritzker-prize winning Japanese architecture duo SANAA gave a lecture to a packed house at the Art Institute of Chicago. Most famous in the US for their design of the New Museum in New York City, they shared 9 additional projects from their impressive portfolio—both built and in-progress—and shared renderings, sketches, models, and construction photos from each one. Since their Wikipedia entry has more information on them then their own website, it goes without saying that they their point-of-view tends to be that of understatement. As they shared their work, it became quite apparent quickly that SANAA doesn’t so much employ a signature style, but common experiential qualities that link their projects together—qualities of light, transparency, and openness.
As part of the Core77 Sketchnotes Channel, I’m presenting my personal sketchnotes from the lecture to briefly analyze how I approached making them. Since the lecture was primarily visual, I spent the majority of my time soaking in the projected photos and chose not to bury my head in my book. How often do you get to experience architectural photos on a 60 foot wide projection screen? Since I decided to work this way, the notes I captured tended to try to create iconic representations of each building, capture the basic information, and any notable details or interesting quotes. In the age of Google Images, its much more important to me that these sketchnotes can cover what was presented at a high level to job my memory, than to capture each image as a sketch.
I decided to start in the top center of the page, as I knew it was to be a 45 minute lecture, and wanted to fit it all on one spread in my sketchbook. I used nothing more than a Pentel Grey Marker and a Muji extra fine gel pen, and decided to forgo color completely since the work of SANAA tends to be a bit on the austere-side. The title section was sketched while Zoë Ryan, the curator at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Architecture and Design department, introduced the speakers. Zoë actually mentioned The New York Times quote about the New Museum as the “seven story bento box on the Bowery”, and I found it amusing, so I captured it. Once the lecture started, I quickly made the caricatures of Ryue and Zazuyo, returning to them later to finish them, and later add quotes when they said things I found to be interesting, that did not relate to the main notes.
From the beginning of the lecture the architects said they would share 10 projects with the audience. These kind of cues are perfect for the sketchnoter to get an overall sense of layout on the page. As I started I thought I would do 2 rows of three projects and 1 row of 4, however in my excitement I made the first few projects a little too big, and had to shuffle the last few projects around a bit. Ultimately they all fit the spread since the final projects were presented much more in brief than the first five. The key to sketchnoting is visual improvisation—visualizing and synthesizing ideas on the fly and being flexible and reactive to the content as it fills the page.