I've always had a love for inhabited drawings, particularly sections. They make the building feel used and alive and like you're getting a peek into the world of the users. Unfortunately in practice there isn't always time to inhabit a drawing, and more often than not, once you put pen to paper after the initial feasibility stage, what you have drawn is what is proposed... is what the client thinks they're getting ... and can - for better or for worse - be interpreted and actually built by the contractor! It's an important decision what we draw on the paper. So mostly we leave it out altogether even at feasibility stage, and that in turn means in most jobs, we wouldn't inhabit the sections with anything more than the furniture and a person to indicate heights and layouts. It's a real shame, there is an art to inhabiting a section. There was always that one student in architecture school who would try and include someone sitting on the toilet, put cartoon characters in there, or a similar running theme in their sections to see if anyone would notice. The general lay person understands sections a lot more when they're inhabited. How many times have you heard a client or perusing lay person ask "is this plan or section?" Hell, with some architects presentations, even we ourselves have to enquire.
So I wanted to take this post and introduce you to some absolutely gorgeous sections that have influenced me since my early childhood. They enhanced bedtime reading and invoked imagination. These drawings are found in The Brambley Hedge series of children's books, by Jill Barklem. It took me ages to hunt down a copy of all the books in the series. They are epic, in my opinion.
These drawings have all the makings of a good architectural education; there are water collectors, food production, waste management, hidden staircases, storage, basements, back doors, front doors, side doors, energy collectors, pulley systems, structural components, perspective, connection with nature, plumbing, heating systems... It's all there. There's a magical playful quality to them. Of course they're designed for house mice, and it is a children's story book after all, but I think the lesson I've learned from these sections is to imagine buildings in use. Mentally inhabit the spaces.
It reminds me to question elements of building design. Does that corridor really have to be straight, narrow, wide, low, high? What could it hide? Does this room have to connect to the others? Could it stand alone for privacy? Can storage double as circulation? Would that window be better situated there, be a different size, different shape? What will you see from it? Why don't you collect water and design water collection within the building?
I hope you like them as much as I, and they at least make you smile. There's a certain element of fun to be had in all architectural design, and I think these sum it up perfectly.