Rule and emotion: The role of hand drawing at Porto School | Rafael Sousa Santos

Rule and emotion: The role of hand drawing at Porto School | Rafael Sousa Santos

Autore: Diego Barbarelli
pubblicato il 17 Maggio 2020
nella categoria Concorso Giovani Critici 2020

Testo inedito

“J’aime la règle qui corrige l’émotion”
Georges Braque

There is a general recognition about the importance of hand drawing in the educational model of Porto School. It is possible to identify this relation between the School and hand drawing both in its didactic strategies and practices, but also in the design approach of some synthesis-personalities – such as Fernando Távora, Álvaro Siza Viera or Eduardo Souto de Moura (Portas, 1986). In fact, as Alberto Carneiro refers, in order to understand the “Porto School identity”, it is essential to consider the several “interpretations of hand drawing and corresponding theoretical notions, woven around it as a method and design process” (in ESBAP, 1979: 17).
However, it seems that the understanding of the role of hand drawing at the School tends to be limited and, consequently, permeable to misinterpretations. On the one hand, it does not seem enough to consider hand drawing for its instrumental dimension, as is often referred to. On the other hand, there may be a temptation to understand hand drawing as a legitimizing means of a certain “plastic dilettantism”, limited to exercise and to uncritical formal sublimation.
With this article it is intended to recognize the role of hand drawing in the educational model of Porto School. Thus, it is expected to contribute with a particular case for the development of perspectives on the representative dimension in the scope of architectural education, considering its need for constant reflection on what must be conserved and what needs to be transformed (Abbagnano, 1984).

In the formulation that became famous within the Porto School, António Quadros states the cognitive character of hand drawing – “drawing is thinking” (in Carneiro, 1995). Thus, hand drawing is distinguished from the simple scratch when it corresponds to a mental articulation as will of representation (Carneiro in ESBAP, 1983), when “each movement of the hand, which is also an action of thought, is reflected in the agent who practices it, as a reflexive physical and conceptual action” (Marques, 2015: 194).
Alexandre Alves Costa (1991) proposes an understanding of hand drawing according to three main purposes: the sensitive perception, the critical analysis and the globalizing synthesis. It should be noted that in all these procedures there is a markedly subjective component and that therefore it can only be justified with the own sensitivity and personal criteria (Bonito in Alves Costa, 1991).
This expressed importance of the subject is associated with a School defense for the artisticity of architecture, both in perceptual and propositional procedures. As Távora points out, it is essential that “without neglecting all the lessons from the outside, we must fully understand all of our inner reality” (in Portas, 1986: 20). The architect training should be then characterized by finding not only in science, but also in art, possibilities to know and transform reality – combining the logic and experimentation of the scientific method with the intuition and illumination of art (Vieira, 1995).
As Siza Vieira (in 1976) argues, the design method is not linear, starting from the information to the form – considering that the result of an analysis can never be a synthesis. Instead, the design method is sinuous and flexible, pointing out an idea from the first contact with the changing reality – it is “the method of a passionate man, and not of a cold technocrat” (Távora in Portas, 1986: 19).
However, the valorization for the subject’s particularities at Porto School does not correspond to a lack of procedural rigor. This aspect is underlined by Nuno Portas with the expression “school of rigor” (1986: 10): not a rigor associated with a certain ascetic tendency of forms, but with rigor in the choice, critical evaluation and resolution of problems, as well as in the communication processes (Fernandes, 2010).
Improvisation or the idea directly transposed is not acceptable in architecture (Siza Vieira, 2009): it is crucial that the idea or the intuited hypothesis be worked on, corrected by the progressive expansion of the information that constitutes the design – this process of refinement is a condition to reach poetry (Siza Vieira, 2009).
According to Siza Vieira (2003), the search for the sublime in architecture needs to find correspondence in its social function. Architecture as a particular form of art is then characterized by a fundamental responsibility: to seek to respond to the material and spiritual needs of a society, through the revelation of a “nebulously latent collective desire […] in a progressive departure from the Self” (Siza Vieira, 2009: 169). Because, at the end, “it is only Man who is at stake” (Távora in Portas, 1986: 19).

The architect is not a specialist, but a generalist (Siza Vieira, 2003): the design or the ability to design “is what characterizes all types of architects, regardless of the time or context” (Alves Costa, 2007: 223) and should therefore be the core of their academic training. Thus, the entire curricular definition must be organized according to the centrality of the design, through a general program of all courses that guarantee the disciplinary alignment and intersection of knowledge (Siza Vieira, 2009).
As Carneiro refers, the design didactics must be understood assuming two complementary dimensions: the first is the instrumental dimension, then related to the transmission and acquisition of design instruments or techniques; the second is the methodological dimension, then related to the design methods (in ESBAP, 1983).
However, there is a fundamental distinction between these two dimensions. What can be truly taught are the instruments for the design exercise – being hand drawing assumed at Porto School as “a privileged instrument” (Alves Costa, 2007). In turn, it is not possible to teach the method, since the only way to learn how to design is the design exercise itself: as a creative activity, the design method is something entirely personal, and therefore untransmissible (Alves Costa, 2007).
The architecture student must “learn about his own creations and the perception and interpretation of others works” (Vieira, 1995: 77), developing, in this way, his creative and imitative capacities. What is important is that the student acquires the ability to learn – learn how to learn (Siza Vieira, 2009). In this didactic approach, the student is the “facilitator of its own apprenticeship” (Carneiro, 1995: 25), affirming himself as subject and not as object of education (Alves Costa, 1991).
In this process of “controlled self-training”, it is not up to the School to transmit a method, but to indicate a methodological sense, through standards and references. Through a coordinate or a “model practice” (Mendes in Portas, 1986), it is expected that the student acquires a methodological sense, in order to develop his own method, but also to be able to manipulate it and to transform it continuously.
Regarding these two dimensions of design didactics, hand drawing is considered the privileged instrument of perception, analysis and synthesis (Alves Costa, 1991) but also the essential methodological means (Carneiro in ESBAP, 1979). Thus, as Manuel Mendes (in

Portas, 1986) underlines, there is a “globality of drawing” in the educational model of Porto School, manifested through a “general training of drawing”.
According to Alves Costa, the implementation of this education model was largely due to the methodological foundations created with the hand drawing learning process (2007). As Mendes explains, there is a tradition at Porto School linked to empirical knowledge – “communicated to and by the construction site” (in Portas, 1986: 21) – rather than research or theory. Thus, in the absence of a culture of explicit theoretical elaboration, hand drawing was the support for the continuity of the School, an expression of a unified thought about what should be the reflection and practice of architecture (Távora, 1991).
Thus, it seems possible to identity a third dimension in design didactics: the propositional dimension. This dimension is related to the transmission of the principles that constitute the School, since they cannot be simply taught. At Porto School, the official tradition of hand drawing has responded to this fundamental task, linking some generations of architects through the tacit transmission of a way of feeling and a way doing (Mendes in Portas, 1986).

“Amo la emoción que corrige la regla”
Juan Gris

With this article it was intended to determine the role of hand drawing in the educational model followed at Porto School. As a first step, the institutional understanding of hand drawing was approached. The School’s defence in favour of the artisticity of hand drawing was highlighted, considering the associated sense of rigor and responsibility in the design processes.
As a second step, three dimensions of the design didactics were enunciated: the (1) instrumental, (2) methodological and (3) propositional dimension. It was recognized that hand drawing is the common denominator in all these dimensions of design didactics at Porto School, assuming a determinant role in the educational model – in line with the referred idea of “globality of drawing”.
Finally, it is possible to conclude that hand drawing in the educational model of the Porto School is not just an instrument of architectural design. In fact, as Mendes (in Portas, 1986) states, hand drawing is both a gesture and a norm: it is hand drawing that allows the interaction between the particularity of our inner reality and the needs of outer reality; it is the poetic possibility of recognition and transformation linked to the commitment to the hidden collective desire; it is the gestural sensitivity conditioned to the rigor of construction and detail. Between Georges Braque (2012) and Juan Gris (in 1991): it is the rule that corrects the emotion and the emotion that corrects the rule

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Nome: Rafael
Cognome: Sousa Santos
Data e di nascita: 08-04-91
Professione: Architect, Ph.D. student