Every now and then when the concept for one of CEBRA’s projects gets finished, founding partner Mikkel Frost sits down and draws a cartoonish concept drawing with water colours. It is sort of a visual summary that describes the idea of the whole project on just one small piece of paper. We usually say that if you can´t tell the story on an A4 sheet (21 by 29.7 cm) you are either doing too much or too complicated stuff.
So the “Toons”, as they are called, are not really sketches. They are done after the sketches when most of the basic architectural decisions are made. In this sense, they serve as reminders of what the project is all about. Sometimes we tend to forget that when we start detailing and then going back to look at the Toons can be very helpful. That is also why you´ll find evident traces from the Toons’ visual universe in the completed buildings, e.g. facade geometries, wall graphics, carpet patterns etc.
Even though there isn’t a Toon of each and every project and they only show parts of CEBRA’s architecture, we believe that they quite clearly communicate the spirit of the office and our work. You will find some of the Toons published here and there on websites and in publications but seeing them all together in a book would be something else – almost like a drawing manifesto.
In a time, where architecture inevitably becomes ever more digitalized and dominated by parametric thinking and “realistic” 3D visualisations, the Toons are an unusual way of presenting and communicating architecture. They form visual pauses for thought that sum up a project’s story in a humorous and playful way. Water colouring is an ancient technique but here it is used in a contemporary way with elements of pop, graffiti and cartoon styles.
The Toons are bridging the gap between abstract/complex problem-solving and poetic intuition. They combine rational decisions with lyrical ambition – logics with emotions. They remind us that architecture is an art form – and that architects need a sacred place: an artistic playground for thinking and experimenting, which is unreachable for clients’ demands, budget restraints etc.