Advice From an Architect

Alice Howard

Second year BA Drawing student Alice Howard gives us an insight into her critical thinking as we delve into sketchbook notes made on her visit to the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany.




The Vitra Foundation is a collection of buildings by the likes of Zaha Hahdid, Frank  Gehry  and Herzog and De Meuron. The buildings house furniture collections – showrooms kitted out like your living room would look if you bought only Vitra furniture. People come here to design their homes but mainly to learn about contemporary design and the history of design. The Vitra Design Museum, a building designed by Gehry, displays not only key objects of design history, but also the estates of several important figures (including Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Verner Panton and Alexander Girard). The exhibition on Alexander Girard (1907-1993)displays his initial drawings,  collections, design rules and finished pieces. It conveys the thought process of a designer, “seeing how each person, and each individual artist depicts the same theme is an education in itself, one which cannot help but lead to greater understanding of the world.”

Notes made:

I want to look up all these architects. Learn all about them. Often it seems logical and practical or perhaps more beneficial to do research about people before you go and see their work. However I find that if I see the work, take it in and make my own opinion then my interest in the artist is so increased that I then go about researching them with more passion and enthusiasm. Those two qualities passion and enthusiasm, once felt are critical to learning and gathering new information, if not intrinsic to forming memories on any new topic.

I love drawing buildings. Ameri and I both said that today. The chair drawings we did were most enjoyable. There were so many chairs that we were tired from looking, that feeling when you want to draw but find it difficult to really look and take in what you see. Our solution was to draw a chair a minute, picking one each from each set. This made us see how each chair was constructed.




Everyone was influenced by their time. They all rubbed, bounced and learned from those around them. When looking at the pieces, even when elements are borrowed something fresh is always brought to the table. Everything is new, as no one is quite like you and therefore cannot  make something in the same way you can. One of Girard’s rules was not to borrow. Not to copy or purposely take but to learn from and develop.  Always taking it forward to the future but in the present. Learn from the past but never linger too long on those thoughts. Use them in the present to create moments which will themselves form you, make up the past and carry you ever so surely – striving, running, laughing, decorating in detail and modernity into the ever imminent future filled with all the moments your heart desires.