Doing it By Hand - Design Bureau

Doing it By Hand

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

By Nalina Moses

A drawing assignment from high school haunts Omar Gandhi. 

 “We drew the same red pepper over a month, with a continuous level of concentration, in different ways, until it rotted away in front of us,” he recalls. “It hurt your brain, but you learned to draw with control and see things  clearly.” It’s this elusive, deep-rooted connection between the hand and the mind that is at the heart of Gandhi’s architecture.

As the founder of his eponymous Halifax, Nova Scotia-based firm, the architect still develops designs through sketches and handmade models before drafting them on a computer. “Most of the thinking happens before I turn on the computer,” he says. It’s a gutsy approach to take at a moment when every aspect of architecture, from design to fabrication, is becoming more and more automated, but his approach is paying off. Only two years after he started his firm, Gandhi is busy with a full slate of residential commissions, including the Moore Studio, a new house and studio for two artists on a forested site in Nova Scotia. For his modeling work on this project, he created a series of ink sketches and cardboard models, which reveal a hand that is both expressive and precise. 

 If it was the power of drawing that first inspired Gandhi, it’s the pleasure of drawing that keeps him going. He is determined to hold manual modelmaking and drawing at the heart of his practice.  His total confidence in hand work is echoed in the advice he has for other architects: “Draw all the time, and don’t worry about the outcome of the drawing.” Because even if it means drawing a rotting vegetable, what results from it can be inspiring in surprising ways.

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