"Are our hands becoming obsolete as creative tools? Are they being replaced by machines?" Renowned architect and designer Michael Graves asked this question in a 2012 opinion article for The New York Times titled, "Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing." Three years later, in 2015, Graves passed away, leaving behind nearly 5,000 architectural drawings. Recently, Graves' estate gifted these drawings to the Princeton University Art Museum.
The collection dates back to Graves' 1960s fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, and comprises pieces executed in various mediums including charcoal, colored pencil, graphite, pastel, pen and ink, and watercolor done throughout the rest of his career, according to a press release.
“They represent every phase of design, from the initial conception through the thoughtful design of the character of a building or product,” Karen Nichols, FAIA, a principal at Graves' eponymous Princeton, N.J.–based firm, said of the collection in the article "Michael Graves and the Art of Drawing" published in the Princeton University Art Museum's summer 2019 edition of its quarterly magazine.
Graves is known for his firm's many large-scale architectural projects, his whimsical consumer products (including the 1985 Alessi "Whistling Bird" kettle), and his "commitment to draftsmanship," which he emphasized in his teachings during his time as a professor of architecture at Princeton, according to the release.
"As I work with my computer-savvy students and staff today, I notice that something is lost when they draw only on the computer," Graves concluded his essay "Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing." "It is analogous to hearing the words of a novel read aloud, when reading them on paper allows us to daydream a little, to make associations beyond the literal sentences on the page. Similarly, drawing by hand stimulates the imagination and allows us to speculate about ideas, a good sign that we’re truly alive."
The drawings will serve as a resource at Princeton for researchers and designers, but no specific plans for display in the museum's galleries have been announced yet.