Sympathetic World-making: Drawing-out Ecological-Empathy




drawing, empathy, sympathy, projection, architecture


This article reflects on an experiment in drawing, titled Surrogate Drawing, in which an assemblage of people, materials and artefacts engaged in a live, improvisational process of co-production. The group was interested in how empathy might be cultivated through architectural drawing.

The article develops an argument across three main parts. The first part offers a brief overview of the drawing experiment, situated relative to some key assumptions and conventions of architectural drawing, via the work of Robin Evans and others. In particular, this involved unsettling the idea of translation and its underlying premise of projection—a premise that resonates with the concept of empathy. The second part moves into a series of first-person accounts, one from each author. This experiential access reveals degrees of complexity that question the model of projection as a primary operative principle for either drawing or empathy, calling for an alternative conceptual framework. The third part offers such an alternative, via Jakob von Uexküll’s work concerning the Umwelt, or perceptual life-worlds. Via Uexküll we come to better understand drawing as less of a process of translation or transmission, and more of a process of creative world-making. Through Uexküll’s depiction of the Umwelt as a ‘bubble,’ the paper offers an alternative diagrammatic to that of projective geometries: that of a foaming.

The manifestly collective world-making inherent in this drawing experiment leads us to conclude by opening up something we discuss as ‘ecological empathy’—or sympathy. It is proposed that drawing, if conceptually liberated from projective models, may be an important technique to cultivate ecological-empathy, or sympathy. This points toward a way that architecture might be reoriented toward sympathetic world-making.

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How to Cite

Ednie-Brown, Pia, Beth George, Michael Chapman, and Kate Mullen. 2020. “Sympathetic World-Making: Drawing-Out Ecological-Empathy”. Idea Journal 17 (02):121-43.