Architalks #29: Looking Back Through the Pages

Architalks – Looking Back Through the Pages


One of my first instructors in undergrad asked the class to start keeping sketchbooks.  “I want you to create a book”, she said, “that is so important to you..that if it gets lost on the bus, you will be absolutely devastated”.  Listening to this as a young and impressionable nineteen year old, I followed her word to a tee.  


These sketchbooks were a place to keep a visual, ongoing record of observations, plans for future projects, ideas and themes, personal reflections and collage.  


I haven’t lost any of my books on the bus, and I would have been devastated if that had occurred.  I have been keeping these books since about 1994.  Many were so personal and foolish that I burned them, in fear that someone would review the contents.  


But I still have an impressive stack.  They can be difficult to look through.  “What was I thinking, ugh”, I often think to myself when I do dare crack them open.  As much as I want to destroy them, I will keep some for my kids to laugh at one day.


Looking back through the pages of the books is different than reviewing old photos.  My books record snippets of thoughts, they show how my thinking evolved, how I learned a creative process.  A way to filter big and overwhelming ideas into cohesive stories or ideas.  


They are written in a style that would be gibberish to others, but they bring me right back to where I was at the time.  They record the frenzied excitement of a twenty something year old with a whole lot of energy and limitless time.  They follow the passage of time before the days of the internet.  We used our minds and the library to amuse ourselves more than apps and social media.  


I have taught a few architectural design courses over the years, and I always start my classes with the same tip that my first art school teacher.  Keep a journal – use it for recording everything.  Sort through your ideas and free yourself from a focus on the final product.  If you do this, great things can happen.  Just make sure you don’t lose your books.  

just a few of my old sketchbooks. #sketchbook #oldsketchbooks #silverfish #creativeprocess

A post shared by Jane Vorbrodt (@janevorbrodt) on

This is my second post for “architalks”, a network of practicing architects who blog monthly on common topics.


The topic of the month is HOMECOMING or LOOKING BACK.


Please take a moment to read what others have written about these topics:

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Coming Home to Architecture

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
looking back i wonder

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Coming home as an architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
homecoming, and looking back: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
9-11 — A Look Back

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Michael Riscica AIA – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Homecoming & Looking Back

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Homecoming Memories

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Letter to a Younger Me

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Looking Back…Was Architecture Worth It?

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Homecoming, in 3 Parts

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Just give me a reason : Homecoming

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Is It a Homecoming If You Never Left?

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Gabriela Baierle-Atwood – Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
My Ode to Fargo

1 Comment
  • Lora Teagarden (@L2DesignLLC)

    August 8, 2017at5:28 pm Reply

    Awesome post! I wish I had been better about cataloging these things. It will be interesting to see how the digital world impacts this idea of saving all of our sketches and ideas.

Post a Comment