Vergason - University of Virginia: School of Architecture


Vergason - University of Virginia: School of Architecture
The Practice of Drawing
Michael Vergason
Michael Vergason Landscape Architects Ltd.
Michael Vergason began to realize the value of drawing
during his time as a student at the University of Virginia.
As a participant in the first Vicenza program, he explored
drawing as a method of engaging sites across the Veneto.
As a Fellow of the American Academy, Vergason honed
his ability to use drawing as an investigative tool.
International travels and local observations continue to
influence his current practice and working method.
Drawing is an integral part of Vergason’s design
process. Rigorous training and sustained practice
allow him to understand sites and develop ideas in a
way that photographs or verbal exploration could never
accomplish. The act of drawing becomes synonymous
with thinking, generating ideas that are not pre-meditated,
and at times, entirely unexpected. These drawings are
not about presentation or even explanation. They are a
Drawing also plays an important role in the collaborations
that comprise much of Vergason’s practice. As a landscape
architect he works to develop relationships across
disciplinary boundaries. In collaborations with architects,
clients and consultants, drawings engage all participants
into the process.
141 Drawing Michael Vergason
lunch : dialect 140
Michael Vergason (FASLA) holds a Bachelor of Science
in Architecture and a Masters of Landscape Architecture
from the University of Virginia. He is currently the
principle of Michael Vergason Landscape Architects Ltd
in Alexandria, Virginia. In 2006 he held the Thomas
Jefferson Foundation Visiting Professorship and delivered
a series of lectures on drawing at the University of
Virginia School of Architecture.
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143 Drawing Michael Vergason
travel sketchbook
Gannett detail development
Drawing and Place
Drawing and Designing
Vergason emphasizes how drawing strengthens one’s experience and understanding
of place. Sketching demands an intense and sustained visual engagement with a site.
Drawing parts demands an understanding of proportions and relationships. This trains
the eye to more critically judge what is seen. Time spent drawing also heightens other
senses. Smells and sounds embed themselves in the mark making, fostering a deeper
mental and physical connection to a place. Vergason stresses the value of always
carrying a sketchbook and learning to use it as a tool for deepening his connection to the
world around him.
Vergason maintains that the skills developed while drawing from life strengthen the
ability to draw from imagination. Marks on paper provide a vehicle for working through
ideas. This is why drawing, particularly freehand sketching, plays a significant role in
Vergason’s designs from early site investigation through construction documents. These
drawings range from marker sketches to digital stylus rendering over photographs.
Specificity or clarity is manipulated through the selection of media.
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145 Drawing Michael Vergason
Drawing and Collaboration
Drawing plays an important role in communicating intentions and generating new ideas
through collaboration. Early sketches with a marker or soft pencil intentionally lack
precision. They allow for a range of interpretations, opening the initial design to new and
unexpected readings by others. It is this “opening up” that describes Vergason’s goals
for a more fluid collaboration with architects and clients. The above sketches for the
Gannett/USA Today Headquarters presented a convincing argument for reconfiguring the
initial site strategy to work better with site structure and ecological systems.
Gannett site structure