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Presented at Recto/Verso: Redefining the Sketchbook, University of Lincoln, 2011.


(Borromini) The sketchbook continues to be important for the parti in the design process in architecture. The computer is an important tool in the development and execution of the design, and can also be important in the parti, for example when forms are generated from number sequences, but certain functions of the sketchbook cannot be replaced by the computer. The sketch can more completely represent the relation between the human mind, thought and psyche, and the architectural design. The best example of this is the quality of palimpsest in the sketchbook, where layers of forms and ideas overlay layers, and traces of partially erased layers rise to the surface and become part of the form. The quality of palimpsest can be found in drawings by Francesco Borromini in the seventeenth century, and Carlo Scarpa and Peter Eisenman in the twentieth century. The quality of palimpsest can be found in urban landscapes, Rome being the best example, where buildings or streets are composed of traces of past buildings or streets. Most importantly, the quality of palimpsest can be found in the human mind, where layers of consciousness are composed of traces, memory fragments of visual and aural forms, of previous layers. Through palimpsest the sketch can emulate the human mind, and be a tool in urban design and architectural composition which connects the built environment to the human mind. The sketch should thus continue to be a mechanism to produce increasingly creative, insightful, and meaningful design.

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