When computerized architectural drawing came along in the 1980s, Nelson designer David Dobie kept on using paper and pencil.
He continued this act of resistance while designing hundreds of homes, buildings, and renovations in Nelson until his retirement in 2021.
A new exhibit, entitled Shifting Design, in which Dobie explores this pre-computer practice, runs at the Capitol Theatre Jan. 3 to 10 with a gala and artist talk on Jan. 7.
In this paper-and-pencil practice, the first drawing is made, then a sheet of translucent paper is overlain, onto which newer and better ideas are drawn, to be overlain again and refined again.
Dobie says no designer uses this technique any more.
“This is about hand-eye co-ordination,” he says. “Putting mind to paper through our bodies and our movements and our perceptions.”
The translucent panels in the exhibit stand in the Capitol lobby, in the foyer above the theatre seats, down each aisle of the theatre, and on the stage. The panels are backlit, but the lighting is not static. It has a slow rhythm or pulse that changes the appearance of the panels as the viewer walks past them down the theatre aisle.
“I wanted to use all this paper to create something sculptural,” Dobie said. “Big enough to emphasize scale, a structure that a person could walk around or even through.”
The exhibit is not a chronicle of all the buildings Dobie has designed. It is more random and abstract than that.
“In this field, everyone who retires wants to do a portfolio of all the great work they did,” he said. “But all of the things that got built are out there, you can go look at them.”
This exhibit is an artistic installation about the design process. The various drawings on each panel may have little to do with each other and we may not even see the finished drawing.
Dobie took the hundreds of drawings in the exhibit from his archives – he has saved all those translucent layers for 40 years – but in the exhibit they are arranged neither chronologically nor in a linear fashion.
Dobie says he wants to show that his design ideas were not restricted to one project but have left their imprint in multiple drawings over the years.
“There is a progression of ideas and compatibilities that develop and grow over time,” he says.
Everything is temporary
Dobie says the exhibit reflects the temporary nature of everything we do, including the construction of houses, which actually have very short life spans.
“You can poke your finger through this,” he says of the translucent paper on his panels. “We build all this stuff hoping to create solidity and really we are here for a short time, and much of what we do gets trashed, thrown away, rejected after a very short period of time.”
He says we are destroying our environment so quickly and so dramatically that we are getting close to having nothing left to save.
That’s why this exhibit is “temporary, light, and fragile,” Dobie says.
Shifting Design is open at the Capitol Theatre Jan. 3 to 10 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. with admission by donation.
Tickets to the Jan. 7 gala evening are $10 and can be purchased at the theatre. The event will feature a performance by a trio of Nelson musicians: Juno Award-nominated vocalist Melody Diachun, bassist Doug Stephenson, and Juno Award-winning guitarist Mike Rud.