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Get your pencils out

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The winner, runners-up and student winner of the AJ/Kingspan Benchmark Sketch a Facade competition

Find out the winner, runners up, and see all entrants to the AJ Kingspan Benchmark Sketch a facade competition

We knew this competition would be popular. But 222 registered competitors submitting 588 sketches between them? We were not expecting that. The story begins in March when, together with Kingspan Benchmark, the AJ launched its Sketch a facade competition with a lecture by Professor Alan Dunlop at KPF’s new gallery on Langley Street in Covent Garden.

It was a full house: over one hundred attendees with quite a few standing. Alan gave an impassioned talk, discussing the central role sketching and drawing plays in the design and development of good architecture.

Using his own work and the drawings of past masters, including Paul Rudolph, Louis Kahn, Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, as well as artists Ed Ruscha and Patricia Cain, Alan kept the audience’s attention with a slew of incredible images and smart observations.

At the evening’s close there was a buzz in the air. Soon after, Twitter came alive: ‘Professor Alan Dunlop is an absolute hero,’ tweeted Robert James Mawson. ‘Some beautiful hand drawings tonight with Alan Dunlop. Paul Rudolph is inspirational @ArchitectsJrnal #handraw keep it alive!’ said MAP Architcture. J-J Lorraine added: ‘@ArchitectsJrnal fantastic event at KPF Alan Dunlop lecture on the beauty and integrity of drawing over the “busted flush”of CGIs.’

We’d obviously touched a nerve. Architects like to draw, but too often reach for the computer when thinking about how to show their designs to prospective clients. That’s starting to change. Partly because clients have also realised the value of the architects’ sketch. In fact, the drawing Alan made of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studio’s Broadcasting Tower in Leeds to advertise our competition, which uses Kingspan Benchmark’s facade system, so impressed the sponsor that it now hangs in its office.

After the lecture, the sketches began to arrive. A trickle, then a torrent. Then a flood. Picking winners from 588 entries was going to be tough. Alongside Alan, we recruited his friend and internationally recognised artist Patricia (Trish) Cain as a fellow judge. And after hours of discussion, which included commentary from Kingspan Benchmark’s Rachael Morris, we picked our favourites. The overall winner has received £500 and student winner has won an annual subscription to both the AJ and the Architectural Review. We’ve published those here, along with others that caught the eye. We hope you like what you see - and that they inspire you draw again, from time to time, and not just for fun.

Find out the winner, runners up, and see all entrants to the AJ Kingspan Benchmark Sketch a facade competition

The judging process


How do you pick a winner when they’re each so different in style and execution, asks Patricia Cain

It’s difficult to define exactly what a sketch is: like the term ‘drawing’, you want it to be open-ended in order to encompass the varied ways that sketches are used in the architectural process to express different ideas or qualities.

We definitely got a sense of the different processes behind the drawings. Some were hasty, un- detailed drawings or paintings made as preliminary studies. Others were closely observed drawings that captured the qualities of a facade - with the level of observation that only happens when you really ‘look’ at something, rather than simply ‘see’ it.

Some drawings were obviously studio-based, others done on the spot. Often it was possible to identify some sort of struggle by the maker to get their expression on paper and inevitably, it was the actual making of the sketch that helped them work their ideas out in the end.

In choosing the winning entries the judges discussed all these distinctions and, although we didn’t define our consensus about what

a ‘sketch’ is through our choice of winners, we were surprisingly united in our assessment of the strength and quality of their drawings.


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