My Sketchbooks by Oscar Mather


We still hold sketching as an integral way of communicating ideas, to help work through or inspire thoughts or solve design challenges. Here, Architect Oscar Mather talks about his sketchbooks.

Let whoever may have attained to so much as to have the power of drawing know that he holds a great treasure.” Michelangelo

A few years back, the great draughtsman and Moriarty musician Stephan Zimmerli encouraged me to shrink my notebooks, “shrink them to the size of a phone, so that when idle, you pick up one and not the other.” With this advice came another, more obvious one: draw anything.

Over the last few years, I’ve reconnected with a drawing practice that expands from architecture. Drawing from life, from memory (self-portraits are a good way to practise both, as well as mood observation). And of course, drawing from imagination, things that could come to be: buildings, furniture, objects, art projects. At times, the small format also helps to condense ideas.

I rarely erase – only sometimes cross out. I find comfort in the absence of “undoing.” It’s all there, staying. For that reason, I now tend to use pens rather than those 9B pencils, having found that with age such sketches blend into a grainy texture. Around these sketches, I often jot notes: date, place, or descriptions for later.

I suppose it’s part of the process of developing that personal graphia that Aldo Rossi, inspired by Stendhal, writes beautifully about. A special language, “clumsy and naive”, half-way between figurative representation and written fragments.

I’m not particularly precious about these sketchbooks. They fill up, age, corners get torn. I like to think of them as a living mass of paper, ink, observations, and ideas. A field scored and ploughed. Room for things to grow, a place “where old friends meet.”


As featured in the Architects Journal