This is the essence of drawing (a fact forgotten, simply because of our familiarity with it)


There is a meme that floats around, that says that the idea of location-specificity (of statement, in a model) is a consequence of privileging drawings (which, it is said, are archaic). Another expression of the meme is to say that aligning the directive of a drawing into the environment of a model reflects “a ’2D CAD-mentality’. “

This is an argument worth challenging, mainly because of its importance, and also because it so clearly sets out some terminology that needs clarification. It is important to walk through some of the structure of this argument, because doing so will take us forward in a meaningful way.

There has been discussion of this subject here: What follows is a second look.

Drawing and modeling are fundamentally different things:

Drawing is an essential activity, the premise of which:

  • to draw is to draw one’s attention toward something.

Although the word-play might stand out in English only, still the play is compelling and holds true conceptually and practically regardless of language.

The German form of the word “draw”, I’ve been told, refers to [‘name (call)’/’designate’/’describe’]. I ask a German speaker about ziehen (draw), Zeichnung (drawing), and others. I imagine that a language rich like German is going to have some kind or another interesting correlation between words for “making a drawing” and seeing, either by author or viewer, and having something specific brought into sight where it draws or focuses one’s vision, sight, or attention.

As, to draw (something) is to designate that someone has looked at something and determined something, this gets us closer to things that are fundamental about drawing, to those aspects of drawing that make drawing what it is. We list the essential components of drawing:

Let’s now return to the meme that says that “drawing reflects a 2D CAD mentality”, or that designating and aligning drawings within the environment, to bring location-specificity of authorship and directive statement into the otherwise speechless domain of environmental modeling (BIM), reflects a regressive (and unnecessary) privileging of drawing.

There is no need to say anything more about that, so let’s do something more interesting.

Chauvet Cave:

Look at these drawings in Chauvet Cave, which are 30,000 years old:

Werner Herzog’s 2010 film , films these drawings in the cave. The point is made throughout the film that these drawings, beautiful as they are, abstracted from the cave as photos in coffee table books, communicate only a mere fraction of what they communicate as part of the cave.

30,000 years ago these drawings took their form inspired by the physical environment and form of the cave, and viewing them, contextualized within the environment from which they are formed, greatly amplifies, according to Herzog, their transmission of meaning – meaning which of course 30,000 years later we can hardly decipher, but as with all language, especially visual language, we can sense its directiveness, appropriateness, intensity, richness…

CAD did nothing to alter the essential condition of drawing, although, if anything, conventional modern drawing has set the medium back 30,000 years, deprived it of essential communicative qualities and exiled it strictly to the abstract.

We have the technology to recover from that error now, and we don’t have to live in caves.

Change happens:

Recorded sound, particularly voice, is conceptually directive. Voice recording and playback was available in 1877.

Motion picture (without sound; silent film) was contemporaneous with recorded sound, but the two did not meet until sound was synchronized into film in 1898.

Silent film is an environmental medium, or at least it should be fair to say that it was a medium that was insufficiently directive.

When presented with the possibility, as happened in 1898, of synchronizing the directive (sound) into the environmental (film), one would not argue that doing so would reflect an “archaic mentality”.

An argument like that would be not really satisfactory.

Things will not stay fixed as they are. Drawings as we know them today, will not remain fixed in the form with which we have become (over) familiar. Models as we know them today will not remain forever stuck in a rut of non-directiveness.

Obviously, we live in a time when things change, rapidly. The media of communication, central to our industry (drawings and models) will not remain frozen in time.

Here’s a funny example, a television (fernseher) commercial about (tele)communication from the US phone system in the 1970′s  I’m not sure why they were advertising, since, back then, by law they had no competition. While there is no need to elaborate on the evolution in telecomm since the 70’s, I will say more about drawings and models.

I’ve talked with many people about drawings and models, and they have some interesting things to say, like this:

– “We are meticulous about our drawings / they are very high quality, but nevertheless, whenever anyone has to actually use the drawings out in the field, the drawings are a constant source of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, delay, error, and waste. And yes, this does seem to be due to the inherent nature of drawings in their current form (they are abstract).”

They also say this:

– “Models are not helping. We are serious about models too. We embrace BIM. But these are not helping us solve our communication needs either, because, yes, models give no indication of where they are reliable and where they are not – so we have to assume them unreliable in their entirety. And also, yes, in the field, the models are not helping us see what to look at, and do.”

Directive Environments say what to look at, understand and do:

Let’s differentiate “Directive Environments” from non-directive ones. A directive environment directs someone to what, specifically, to look at (within the environment), understand, and do.

This is by any measure more useful than an environment that does not do that.

Directive Environments empower an author to assert the validity of the directive itself:

At the same time, a directive environment allows an author (of a directive statement) to assert the validity of the directive itself; to say, “at this statement (at this location), I have reviewed what you see here, and I affirm that everything that should be here, is here; I have reviewed this (location) and you can rely on what you see here; I authorize it.

This is the reason for location-specificity. There are other aspects of that reason. There is more discussion on this here: Goodbye LOD, Hello (again) location-specificity

Modeling everything is no alternative:

I worked for years in places where we tried to model everything (for various reasons).

This is common. One tries to model everything, because one needs to be responsible for what is delivered, and without the ability to put limits in the environment – – limits stating clearly where one is responsible and where what is seen is reliable – – one does have in mind that there is no choice but to model everything.

Of course once anyone actually tries to do that in a serious way it becomes obvious that it is impossible, for the usual practical reasons (and other reasons). But more importantly, it is not even desirable, because it is not useful. It is a complete waste of time, and the amount of time wasted can easily balloon to being enormous.

So, now, where the limits are clear, where one makes directive statements within an environment – it is at those locations that one can focus the bulk of one’s time completing what is useful. If it is also useful to develop highly elaborated richness generally throughout the environment, then of course, one is free to do that. But the initial focus, and the delivered focus, and the received focus – is at the locations of the statements.

What are the boundaries/limits?:

The boundaries are called out by callout symbols – these do the same thing in the modeled environment that they have traditionally done in a set of documents. What is it they do?

A callout says, “at this location I intend to make a statement.”

That is clear enough. In drawings (and now in a directive modeled environment) statements have traditionally had a strong bias toward a plane. Plans, sections, details… all of these have a strong bias toward a defining plane. They are not rigidly defined by that plane, but they are biased toward it. That remains true now within the environment, as a first step, as shown here and here:

Next steps:

That is a first step only. In the future, new kinds of directive statements will evolve, using various other kinds of transformations of media (and boundaries). But this is a good first step because it allows you to focus your work effort, and on the receiving side, at delivery, it allows the focus of attention toward what is to be seen, understood, and done.

On the authoring side, let’s say in the future there will be algorithms that assure the total completion of all modeling, so that total completion is no longer an obstacle – even in that case, you are still going to want to be able to say, “I want you to look at this, and then this, and then this…”

…and you will want to remark, “over here, please pay attention specifically to this; this is important and must be done precisely like this, which matters because of this…” and so on. (example: )

Going to the extreme:

Then of course there is the idea that someday we’ll just 3D print entire buildings on site with no assembly required – and when that happens, then we will no longer need to draw anyone’s attention to what to look at and do during construction. Right?

Nevertheless, even there, then we ARE going to be dependent on the reliable and correct totality of an environment. In order to produce that, we can use these statements during authoring as a way of ensuring that we have looked at the things we have to look at to ensure that the model is totally correct, everywhere. This is talking about a completely different kind of statement, and a different set of them, with different capabilities, but nevertheless, the concept remains valid – the need to designate that someone has looked at something, and determined something.

The concept of drawing remains valid:

Drawing, conceptually, reflects the not archaic, but on the contrary: permanent, need to designate that someone has looked at something (specific), and determined something (specific).

This is the essence of drawing, a fact we have forgotten, simply because of our over familiarity with it.


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