CTL Faculty E-Newsletter

Building Community: Sketch Night at Houghton House

By Ingrid Keenan, Program Coordinator

It was the night before Halloween, and Architectural Studies students were still hard at work at Houghton House. Many students stayed late for an information session about registration, and as they left the room, the smell of Cam’s Pizza wafted up the stairs, and drew them down to the library where the Architectural Studies Teaching Fellows had planned a special workshop on sketching techniques.

The theme of the night was diagrammatic expression. “In the world of Art and Architecture, diagrams are an excellent way for an individual to express certain traits or concepts which they find interesting when looking at a particular structure, painting, or even a random household appliance,” says Teaching Fellow Andrew King. Students worked on exercises originally designed by Assistant Professor of Architectural Studies Kirin Makker for her Rome program. “Students had to experiment with different ways of drawing foliage, for example,” explains Teaching Fellow Ana Garcia, “or they would have to work to understand the logic behind a certain sketch in order to duplicate it.”

For the fifteen students who attended, it was an opportunity to learn from one another. Mike Kwilos (H ’16) attended a workshop in his first year, and was eager to return as a sophomore. “It turned out to be a great way of meeting upper class students in the major, and getting help from them… I wanted to provide the same kind of help to anyone currently taking Introduction to Architecture.” Garcia explains that this collaborative model is what drives the Teaching Fellow program in general, and these workshops in particular: “The more you get to see other people’s work, the more ideas you get.”

And as the students collaborated, they also built community. “It was nice to have older students there to help with sketching,” says Annie Langlois (WS ’16), “and I was able to ask general architecture questions after we had a meeting discussing courses for next semester. It was a good space to hang out with each other outside the stress of the studio, and discuss things other than our projects.” Garcia agrees: “There was a real sense of community, and a lot of students had questions about the major that they were able to discuss with other students.”

The Architectural Studies Teaching Fellows work with students several nights a week at Houghton House, and this was the third time this semester they have organized a special skills workshops. In September, students were invited to a “Sketch-In” to practice their drafting skills, and a few weeks later Teaching Fellows King and David Kloos led students on a “Sketch Crawl” around campus. For this workshop, they took advantage of the diminishing light from the sunset to focus on loose sketching rather than precise drafting. Garcia explains that low light reduces the amount of detail you can see, and helps students develop their loose sketching technique: “It is really interesting to see what you come up with when your field of vision is limited.” Plans for future workshops include a session on watercolor technique.

Colin Pomphrey (H ’16) visits the Architectural Studies Teaching Fellows regularly: “It's definitely a subject where it is helpful to receive advice from people who have been through the class processes. It’s very useful to have them look at your work and critique it, since they know what the professors expect and can prevent you from possible mistakes.”  Max Gorton (H ’16) agrees: “They really have made the architecture department feel like a community—and the pizza doesn’t hurt!”


Architectural Studies Teaching Fellows are available for drop-ins at Houghton House Sundays from 7 p.m. to midnight, and Mondays through Wednesdays from 7 to 10 p.m. For more information, please contact Ruth Shields (


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