As an artist, Ben Staves has an interesting way of seeing the world - one that'll take you by surprise if you spot his prints on a friend's wall or at a local market.
Ben creates 3D globe reconstructions of his favourite cities, which allows him to accentuate each popular landmark and explore the shapes made by green space or sea.
You’re training to become an architect and you’re also an artist. How do these two halves of your life intersect?
I think there are a lot of overlaps between my architecture studies and the artwork I do. The university course I am on has always encouraged a creative approach to design, particularly with hand drawing and sketching so it has been a big factor in my style of artwork. In fact, the globe style maps that I draw was originally part of a task set in my first year at university in which we had to map a journey through Newcastle in an unusual way.
In my rather limited experience in practice (I have worked for two years in architecture practices in Yorkshire during my Part 1 placement), the ability to come up with creative designs and ideas has been really important, particularly as a lot of the work I did was at the concept stage of projects.
There are more challenges with architecture though - so a lot more to consider! When I’m drawing cities I don’t need to worry about things like disabled access, number of parking spaces or complex construction details! Problem solving and coming up with creative solutions is a big part of practising architecture and something that I really enjoy however I don’t need to worry about that with my artwork - thankfully.
How does your perspective on cities change when you start drawing them globe shaped?
When I first started drawing cities in the 3D globe style it was simply to try and draw the facades of the buildings as well as the roofs. I wanted to get more of the architectural detail into the maps but still try and make them as accurate as possible.
My style has changed as I have drawn and practised more; I think it has improved, too. I’m no longer focused on being as accurate as possible, but instead try to highlight the key areas and landmarks in cities. The size of the skyscrapers on the London Globe or the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle have been exaggerated so they stand out. It’s what people look out for and try to spot, plus they’re interesting for me to draw too!
Do you think architecture is changing because we’re a lot more digital?
I think technology in architecture is a fantastic thing. It’s allowing us to design more efficiently with stronger, lighter materials, it helps to create more interesting and unusual designs as well as improve the way we visualise architectural designs and projects. In practice we used 3D rendering software which allowed us to design and build digital models of buildings quickly and easily. We could also drop these models into photographs of the site so that we could see the building in context. Once past the concept stage, technology has improved the way we create construction drawings. It speeds up the process and allows architects and designers to do more.
That being said, I think being able to draw and sketch is one of the most vital skills an architect can have. The ability to be able to doodle and scribble ideas down on paper quickly by hand in order to convey ideas and solutions to design problems is incredibly important.
Whilst technology has taken over large parts of the design process - and rightly so in most cases - hand drawing and sketching is still a major part of design, particularly in the early concept stages. Much of my time spent in practice was producing hand drawn sketches because you can quickly draw a series of options that would take hours to build in a 3D modelling software. You can be more creative too, less restricted by the limitations of whatever software you’re using (or your ability to use it).
At university, too, we are encouraged to keep drawing and sketching. My final undergraduate project was presented with entirely hand drawn images. For me personally I prefer the freehand style; it’s a simple and honest way of conveying your ideas.
While I am thoroughly enjoying my studies and I look forward to a career in architecture, I will of course continue to draw my city maps! I currently sell my work at Tynemouth Market as well as in a few shops in Newcastle city centre but I hope to grow this in the near future. It would be fantastic to have my work up in galleries or art exhibitions.
You can find and purchase Ben's work online at www.stavesart.etsy.com
How do you view your city? We'd love to hear intereresting perspectives on the built environment for this series. To get involved, email info@theNBS.com