Drawing The Informality of The Architectural Studio

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Hand Drawing, Sketch

Drawing The Informality of The Architectural Studio

[OPENGAP ARCHITECT’S STUDIO competition 2016, First Prize]

STUDIO-MISHIN architectural bureau



Located in the historic centre of Saint-Petersburg, Russia, the site is surrounded by old buildings, whose architecture seems to be ordinary. The chaotic development of the city has resulted in numerous unused spaces. The proposal addresses these no man’s, in between spaces voids and tries to integrate them within the city through the use of an ‘architecture studio.’

The disposition of the studio’s functional program is determined by the various types of architectural activities. For example, the architectural bar is determined by its access and a preposition to communication. The ultimate structure of the studio is a synthesis of the voids of the city, void cutters, clientele, and to fulfil the different architectural activities.


The studio is actively cooperating with the city, where the streets work closely with the office provoking all kinds of communication. The citizens can observe the whole process of architectural design and offer their suggestions, anyone who wants can join the project. Multiple projects are displayed with drawings, visualisations and models to present the whole scheme.



MN = Michael Nemkov

SM = Sergey Mishin

Who influences you graphically?


Every idea needs its own kind of graphics, suitable for this particular situation. In this case, of course, the drawings of Franz Kafka, also useful were images that reveal the life inside the building [like in the drawings of SANAA]. You can’t divide the way you represent your idea from its content.


My preferences change all the time, rather, they even mutate. If earlier I enjoyed qualities as preciousness and refinement, now I prefer spontaneity, negligence, even rudeness, an inaccurate touch, a raggy line, rough texture, a strange, unusual drawing technique. I think highly of the drawings of Michele De Lucchi, Peter Märkli, the last works of Alexander Brodsky. But most of all I’m touched by the graphics that nature sometimes shows: shadows on the wall, the drawing of bare branches on the sky background in November, the patterns of ice melting in the spring or cracks on the asphalt.

What defined the language of representation of the project?


The simplicity, naive and in some sense inaccuracy was mostly defined by the activities we had to represent and the context. It wasn’t an image of a design/architecture, but an attempt to represent concept as a nature of a studio [system/organism/inner order/inner architecture/script]. Architecture as a building design wasn’t really important for us, rather we were much more interested in trying to create the ‘studio scenario’. So, graphics were firstly influences by this idea. We tried to make it as simple as possible, easy to understand without taking much time to get into the project.


The language of representation reflected the meaning and goals of the project.

In this work we tried to develop informal, unofficial ways of the evolution and existence of the architectural studio, which works in close contact with residents, neighbors, real city life. The architects should speak with ordinary people in a language they understand. We assumed that the ordinary people would not be very familiar with the hyper realistic renderings or the fashionable architectural magazine representations. Therefore, the project is articulated in a ‘language’ that is similar to that of cartoons or non-professional drawings. I think that architectural representation should be as diverse and vibrant as that of the fine arts, and should follow less the generally accepted rules. After all, projects and their image on paper, probably, will survive most of the buildings built on them.


What is your take on the architectural competition? How does the format of the board limit/ liberate the project?  


When we began to compose the board, we wanted to make some kind of newspaper design: strict and simple. The board format was given, so it’s more like the rules you should follow.


What was your work process in terms of project development and production of images? How much work was analogue vs digital?


Work process was much more about things like: watching life go by, walking around and thinking, talking to each other, joking, reading books, trying to remember things, imagining something new, defining changes. It’s hard to determine what was more important. Sometimes you make just a five minute sketch – that’s enough. But sometimes you had to make a 3d model and spend a lot of time walking around the site to analyse all the specific details you had to work with. In my opinion, it is all the same, you just work in a way to understand/research.



We’ve been chattering and waving our hands in the air mostly instead of sketching. But closer to deadline, we had to draw a little with a pencils and markers. Technically, it worked like this: we firstly made a simplified 3D model, and then began to implant some painted characters, objects and trees into it.


If you could give one piece of advise when it comes to formatting and drawing for a competition what would that be?


Make it clear and simple, leave only necessary things.


Talking simply about the complexity



STUDIO-MISHIN architectural bureau was founded by architect Sergey Mishin in St. Petersburg in 1995. In the beginning the studio focused on the study of urban fabrics and the evolution of the city. Specifically, the studio has thoroughly investigated the territory where the Hermitage’ Museum complex is now located to then later be engaged in the reconstruction of old buildings and the designing of new ones. The studio  values  the context as a treasure listening to the whisper of circumstances and the environment and it professes a rather therapeutic than surgical method. They always try to formulate the project by creating it’s mental and then verbal model, and only then begin to incarnate the ideas in design.

Not long ago they became a branch of the famous EDAS Studio, which deals with kids with architectural studies, visual and spatial practices. This allows them to focus on formal searches with our students.



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