Dream, Design, Build: The UW Architecture Student Drawing Collection, 1914-1947

Dream, Design, Build: The UW Architecture Student Drawing Collection, 1914-1947

Sketch Problems

Wendell Lovett
Wendell Lovett
chimney, ca. 1946-47
Sketch problem (senior): gouache/watercolor with
graphite on paper with matting.>

Not every day in the studio was spent on large projects. In Architecture design Grade I, students first experienced the esquisee-esquisse, or sketch problem. A sketch problem was usually assigned on the second week of class, and every seven to fourteen days thereafter. Students were notified ahead, but did not know the subject until the problem was handed out. They were given eight hours to complete the project. The problems started simple, but became more complex over the year, and continued into the junior and senior years. Each problem offered a brief descriptive text and an indication of the expected drawing. Students worked alone, and could not consult reference materials.

The sketch problems were also graded behind closed doors. Students were required to earn "sketch points," and an average of four points per year was necessary to graduate. A "Mention" was worth one point; a "Half Mention" was worth half a point. Many sketch problems were simply marked "x" and received no points.

Students learned the value of getting an idea quickly, and spending the rest of the allotted time presenting the scheme. The goal was to identify an idea that had the potential of solving the problem, and creating that sense with a good presentation. Sketch problems were easy for some students, and posed problems for others. In a few cases students had their other coursework completed, but their graduation was delayed because they had not earned enough sketch points.

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Fred Bassetti
Fred Bassetti
library reading room, ca. 1940-42. Sketch problem, gouache/watercolor on paper with matting.
Erling Bugge
Erling Bugge
stair and waterfall, ca. 1931-32. Sketch problem, sophomore esquisse-esquisse, gouache/watercolor on paper with matting.

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