Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We use cookies to personalise your experience; learn more in our Privacy and Cookie Policy. You can opt out of some cookies by adjusting your browser settings; see the cookie policy for details. By using this site, you agree to our use of cookies.


Sketchbook: Anna Shapiro


How are you filling your time during the lockdown? The AJ’s Sketchbook series is an ongoing showcase of architects’ sketches and concept drawings. Today’s sketches are by Anna Shapiro, an associate partner at Sheppard Robson

Sketching for me is a mode of observing and learning, but it is also a way to feel present in the here and now. The digital landscape that dominates our working from home routine these days takes away a very significant part of our ability as design practitioners to continuously engage with the physical world. Now more than ever, we need to emphasis thinking through drawing and sketching as a way to explore ideas.

Drawing by hand allows me to discover new things in what is often overlooked; it helps me to think across scales and themes, while being the most immediate and effective means of non-verbal communication.

Photograph of anna shapiro

Photograph of Anna Shapiro

In the last 24 hours, I’ve been sketching the immediate world around me: my video conferencing, my workspace, my views, my breakfast. I would usually roam around London for at least 10 minutes a day with my Moleskine to record city scenes but now I am concentrated on drawing my apartment, where I hardly spent any time before Covid-19.

This focus has made me look harder: I see interest in the smallest of things as well as appreciating the views out over London more than ever. Being able to see large construction sites from my window helps me feel connected to my profession while communal fitness sessions – where people use their balconies around our central courtyard to exercise together – preserve a sense of community during lockdown.

As well as being an associate partner at Sheppard Robson, I’m also a course master and design tutor on the Architectural Association School of Architecture’s housing and urbanism programme, with collaborative working at the heart of both roles. Working from home has made me think about how the digital and physical worlds meet to make collaborative practice productive, efficient and fun.

While being chucked in at the deep end with remote working, I have quickly sought new ways of harnessing the immediacy of hand drawing while working with colleagues, students, clients and collaborators. I have found it best to have initial discussions using pen and paper, as these early stages of lateral thinking require a rapid and familiar form of communication. After this, we have been using tablets and digital pens to discuss an idea, creating layers of critical thinking.

The move to these digital tools has been a revelation: they share the same instinctive qualities as pen and paper, and are compatible with the speed required to conceive and iterate designs within a team.



Share your working-from-home sketches with us on Instagram 
Tag @architectsjournal and use #sketchbook


Readers' comments (2)

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.