Lee Skolnick's Sketchbook

The sketch is the first, meaning-laden expression, the opening of the conversation with yourself and others.

 

Lee H. Skolnick
Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, New York

Most children draw before they can write. I was certainly one of them. Sketching is perhaps the most primal means for identifying and embodying even the barest seed of an idea, for testing and shaping it, and for expressing it in its purest and most distilled form. If one can retain the essence and yet achieve the potential in the realized project that the initial sketch suggests, then the challenging creative journey can be deemed a success. All design is communication.

For me, sketches are often spur-of-the-moment epiphanies. They are shorthand notes made in the heady rush of ideation, and they can occur anywhere and anytime. While I envy and admire those who keep well organized, uniformly formatted and dated chronicles of their sketches and notes, mine are scattered on napkins, in fragmentary sketchbooks, on loose bits of trace, and on other slips of paper or cardboard. One of my favorites is an airline air-sickness bag, every side of which held initial sketchy plans and elevations of a residential project, and which was later exhibited in a gallery along with the models, drawings, and photos of the built house.

In conceiving the Muhammad Ali Center (Louisville, Ky.), I was inspired by a few essential elements in the Ali story that I believed the building should embody. One was the familiar mantra uttered first by Bundini Brown and then repeated by Ali and, ultimately, the rest of the world: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” 

Another was the historical phenomenon of Ali as the first icon whose celebrity coincided with, and was brought forth through, the emergence of a media-driven culture. And then there were the key themes to deliver: hope, ascension, striving, protection, and nurturing--all in service to trying to be “the best me possible.” 

These narratives evolved through loose, annotated sketches, through 3-D explorations, to more developed renderings, and finally the experience of the built project.

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