Picture of Gary Erickson

Gary Erickson

Toronto Architect

The first architect NFT

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RED laneway house concept.

NFT’s are accelerating the electrification of the arts and architecture in the information age, or some say, the experience age. In 2021 I joined Opensea.io as an exploration into the new world of non-fungible tokens. 

If you know about Ethereum, or ETH, the operating system of these so-called 3rd layer internet assets, you will know that Opensea minting operates on this cryptocurrency. Since 2017 I’ve been interested in ETH and BTC and the crypto space, after reading Satoshi Nakamoto’s groundbreaking white paper on blockchain technology.

Opensea.io was my way of connecting finance, architectural drawing, fine arts, and advanced web tech into one project. These 4 things were longtime strangers. NFT’s married my interests together with my investments under one website, for better or for worse. Sadly, at the time, ETH was hella expensive, with gas fees for any smart contract update around 150 USD plus. I would wait until spring 2022 for the price to come down, and the innovative Polygon token to remove most of the cost of creating NFT’s. Now I’ve created my site with almost 100 NFT’s to date, most with 5 minted copies.

All items are for sale for those with a like for the fine arts and architectural design. My first degree was in Fire arts, with a specialty in figure arts and art history. As architecture, my main gig, is an extremely cruel and jealous master, the only artwork over the decades I could bring off was an archaic but essential art called figure drawing. Figure drawings could be made in 5 minutes to an hour, and executed in an inexpensive group studio, such as Toronto’s OCAD open classes. This I could keep up sealed away in a box.  Anyway, I have a thing for it. I think it’s essential for artists and architects to be able to see, and life drawing is about active seeing. Thanks to my drawing professor and Canadian sculptor Gunter Nolte, for his kind guidance when I was his student at 19, going to CEGEP in Montreal. Professor Nolte’s generosity and professionalism over an art long ignored, passed the hopeless ball to me.

The architectural drawings happened after and were built on the foundation of a fine art practice. What does a drawing of a thigh have to do with a facade? In some Baroque churches, you may see them together in the ceiling. Yes, they are completely different things, one constructed and one directly perceived. But both are fused in one mind, the part that calculates graphic codes. The mad see contours and draw them. Today the mad create AI’s that replace those calculations in neural networks, GPT-3 for example. AI may replace us, but we’re still doing the perceiving, for now.

One thing with Opensea.io you should know, is that copy-write has to be fully owned by the creator so that it can be transferred. It would be fraud to sell something, not yours, not that there aren’t art fakers out there, AI being the greatest faker.  Opesea.io is rightly tough about authenticity. NFT buyer beware. That is one of the reasons I’m writing this blog post. It’s to back up my claim to my work, possibly the only surviving use case for NFT’s.

Most of my architectural drawings and designs to date have been in the employ of large architectural firms, HOK, SOM, and IBI. That means they own the copy-write, not me, under an employment contract. I can’t use those decades of drawings. No matter, I’ll make some more. If you are curious you can see all that earlier sketch architecture and planning in the BEHANCE PORTFOLIO tab on this website https://ericksong.com. Essentially those weren’t my ideas anyway. It’s a service. I steal for Corpo’s.

Today I own a professional corporation, ERICKSONG ARCHTECTS INC., so I own the full copy-write on my work, finally. NFT’s title transfer can happen.

As drawing technology has moved on, from sketch board to iPad and tablet, digital art is now a focus within the NFT space. This allows animations of drawings, executed with an Apple pencil, and Procreate, an iPad drawing application. Opensea.io allows the .mov format, so now you can see line by line, and by color area, and the development of the drawing, sped up. An architectural idea can appear in time, with logical calculation, before you on your screen, large or small, anywhere on the planet. A link can be texted into social media, and tagged for distribution to a larger audience.

Fine art and architectural drawing are relatively obscure subjects, the land of the driven. Not many are interested, so a larger audience is necessary to find those few souls on the planet who may care to view or purchase the rights to an image or animation of an expression or idea. Ywent to museums and libraries in Montreal as a boy to view the originals, and read the lore. Of course, it has to be searchable. Tags.

I like the variety on Opensea.io, the obscure artists who have finally found a way of connecting with so many. Yes, the technical hurdle of ETH use is high, but not impossible. Soon I hope it will be adopted, to open the showcase to many more artists, and even the few architects who draw, the dead art it is fated to be.

I say this as hand-drawn design in the profession is seen as some kind of gentlemanly affection, cute like a faded watercolor.  Architectural ideas often exist as abstract concepts alone, words on a screen, lost in a sea of language. Architects often hire an artist, like me, to make their ideas into images. They are called architectural illustrators, a real occupational category. With the arrival of REVIT and other 3-D CADD software that step is now often skipped, in favor of a cheaper, more flexible, immediate realism. That’s what my firm uses, daily. It’s just too efficient. We specialize in REVIT databases, drawing sets, and renderings. Now with Unreal Engine Twinmotion added, with full animated views and walkthroughs. It is explosive.

So what is this Architect NFT? The mad still see contours and draw them. Inspiration comes in typically multi-sensory packets. The concept of authorship is also a problem in the arts, with so much stimulation and memeing ongoing. Between GPT3 and soon GPT4o from Microsoft, challenging the calculations of authenticity, a last vestige of the human could be in the mark of the drawing hand. Like cave paintings, such contours could be collected as NFT’s in some future online museums, a curiosity for still curious humans, some still students of art and architecture.

See my NFT collection at https://opensea.io/ERICKSONG.

May 22, 2024. Toronto.