Maja Säfström's 100 days of drawings


13 June 2013

"Have you seen it?" asks Maja Säfström, a recent graduate from Stockholm's KTH School of Architecture. "It's a diagram going around the internet about the creative process. It's a timeline showing the process. Most of it is labelled 'Fuck off.'"

This week Säfström was announced as the winner of the 2013 Offecct Prize, a 10,000 SEK fund awarded by the Swedish furniture brand Offectt to an architecture student at KTH. Säfström's winning project is 100 Days of Drawing, a century of abstract sketches that stand as a rebuttal to the procrastination built into the creative industries. A fuck you to the creative process' fuck off.

"On all major projects you delay and that's horrible," says Säfström, who produced 100 Days of Drawing as her diploma project. "But I realised that when you do a really short project that doesn’t happen. You need to produce really fast and in that production you find the creativity. I wanted to get the productivity of a short project into a longer one. I had 100 days, so I decided to make 100 daily projects."

Each day of the project, Säfström produced an abstract pencil drawing. The drawings range from measured geometrical patterns, through to more explicit explorations of space and depth, creating an effect that Sci-Arc's Marcelyn Gow, a member of the prize's jury, labeled "messthetics".

The pieces are explicitly analogue, with the movement of Säfström's hand visible in the pencil. "Analogue is brilliant because it’s so direct and you get an immediate result," she says. "Even in this computer-led time we have a love for the hand. What you make with your own hand seems more complex than what you make digitally."

Säfström's project walks a tightrope. Focused on the creative process and dealing in ambiguous forms, the project's status as architectural perhaps comes under threat. In a recent article for the Guardian, architecture critic Oliver Wainwright challenged the detachment of architecture students' works from the real world, criticising projects that are "intent on fleeing the real world of people and places, scale and context; retreating instead into fantasy realms of convoluted forms with no seeming purpose."

It is a challenge that could be perceived as applying to Säfström's drawings. Yet their creator - who since graduating has formed her own practice Arkitekturfabriken - provides an elegant defence of their architectural worth.

"Before I started I was really nervous I wouldn’t end up making an architecture project. But I think the fact that you can look at them and see spaces within them, and start thinking about that environment, makes it architecture.

"When Santiago Calatrava was making Turning Torso in Malmö, he said, 'This is a sculpture, now we need to make it a building.' When you take out elevators and things like that, you're left with the essence of a space. That's the closest you come in school to architecture and the built environment: images and 2D representations of something yet to be built."