Federico Babina: building with drawings

By Nico Fedi & Paolo Oliveri

July 2019

Federico Babina graduated in architecture but sketches and draws plans for his projects. His work is often set up as a series of drawings whereby the concept is presented with strong dreamy individual sketches caught in a state of imbalance between vintage and contemporary moods. He firmly believes that sketching a project is in itself a project.

Federico Babina – Self portrait

Do you work as a full-time illustrator or do you also devote yourself to architecture?

For years, I worked as an architect and sketching was a hobby and a passion; little by little the balance shifted and at the moment I find myself drawing most of the time. I would say that my full time job is being an illustrator and the architecture is my hobby. I however still have some work but these projects are on a random and occasional basis so most of my time is dedicated to the drawings.

Federico Babina – ARCHISUTRA

Do you feel that being an illustrator also means to be an architect?

Yes, absolutely! I fully agree with this statement. Creatively speaking, there isn’t a big difference between a drawing and an autocad; as far as I am concerned the process is similar because it’s like developing architectural micro projects using sketches and drawings. When I draw I am working as an architect.

Federico Babina – ARCH SNAPSHOTS

What do you do when you are about to start working on a new project?

Most of my projects are personal so not on a commission basis and they stem from the desire to express my view on the project itself. Sometimes the ideas come naturally like taking a trip and talk about it with drawings. Some other times it is a winding journey in which I get lost but I always try to work on an idea. Inspiration doesn’t fall from heaven, one must work very hard and study the project well; the overall process is a constant development. I draw every single day because I like it a lot and thus this is an ongoing job.

Federico Babina – ARKHUT

Do you draw directly on PC or first on paper? 

It depends on the project but in principle I always sketch first. My technique is a mixture of various techniques among which I try to find the right balance. I first sketch ideas and then I work them on the computer where I mix different techniques, like for instance AutoCAD, 3D drawing and rendering so as to achieve what I have in mind. As far as my work is concerned, it is always a mix of techniques.

Federico Babina – Notebook

Your work is a compilation of individual drawings, a series and each one of them illustrates the most important points of the concept. How do you tackle this kind of approach? Do you have a specific method or do you take new steps depending on the project?

I always look for new ways to tackle every project and how I do it pretty much depends on the project itself. Creating a series of drawings for the same job started by chance. When I began working, I found the idea of having one drawing per concept limiting so I drew several and this is how my method of work was born. To me each project is like a puzzle where every rendering is a piece and all are equally important to fully represent the concept. Furthermore, this way of working helps me to visualise how the idea evolves over time, from the first drawing to the last one. Often when I get to the middle of one project, I go back to look at the first proposal and I often see differencies so I frequently amend the drawings I am working on. At the beginning, I always try to keep my proposals simple but as the project evolves I tend to complicate everything; so going back and forth helps me to recover the original flavour of the project which would otherwise be lost. I very much like working this way but drawing series for the same concept isn’t the only way I work because sometimes it does happen that I make just one drawing. Although I really like making series  I don’t feel bound by it, mine is not an obsession.

Federico Babina – ARCHDAILY (for)

Many of your illustrations are striking for their almost noir dreamy visions, no bright colours and clever use of textures. Why this style?

It is a personal aesthetic research; everyone has their own language and I express myself in this kind of way. I like to use colours in moderation as well as white which I feel makes the other colours stronger while textures allow me to make almost timeless drawings, balanced between the past and the future where vintage meets contemporary. This is how I express myself and my aesthetical sensibility. I don’t like to conform with a specific style, I prefer to research and experiment fully without having any restrictions whatsover therefore sometimes I find myself having to go back to be able to move forward. Nowadays, I tend to use colours but I have also made black and white drawings so it really all depends on the moment as well as on the concept I am drawing; the techniques, the colours, the features can all change.

Federico Babina – ARCHIDESIGN

How do you see the future of the pictorial representation on the general architecture? 

It is a good question and something I often think about because I have always been drawn to architectural drawing and feel it is essential to depict a project and develop an idea. I have been working on the subject for a long time now and the evolution has been constant: from sketches to computer generated drawings to photorealistic renderings which are better and almost more realistic than an actual photo. I am not a fortune teller so I am in no position to know what will happen next in terms of which direction we will take; in fact I am not really interested in having perfect and photo realistic looking drawings because they leave little to the imagination and the fantasy. In my opinion, an architectural drawing must represent the concept of the project itself but equally it should make you travel with the imagination; when the drawing is too realistic, we loose the ability to be taken into a different world, a world of hidden treasures to be discovered using the imagination. I believe that at some point we will drop the photorealism in favor of other ways of telling projects.

Federico Babina – INKONICITY

I agree and I feel this downturn has already started…

Yes, it’s true. As of late, the renderings you see are more interesting and are brought about by a different approach; the aim isn’t depicting the reality but to create a specific atmosphere. Drawing up the concept of the project utilising 3D renderings and other drawing tools, it is a fundamental aspect of the project and it allows you to discover rooms, shapes, the light. This is the reason why I have never demeaned the people whose job is to do 3D modelling as this is an integral part of the project! In addition, through this process you can also test the flexibility of an architect and this is why I am a firm beliver of the fact that all architects should also be capable to draw because it is an additional tool for making architecture.

Federico Babina – TOWERS
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