Richard Briggs


With my background in architecture, my approach to better understanding public space is to use a process of exploration, observation and drawing on location, or as it’s called in some forums as “urban sketching”. With observation I try to understand the elements of the built environment which contribute to the vitality of a city. My drawings become comments on either the political landscape or social context of a particular place. Before I start the drawing process, I explore, observe, and talk to local people, gathering information on the layers complexity that exist in order to better understand place.
This observational approach forms a framework to work within and enables me to begin the process of making an interpretation, through drawing, of a place. A key aim of this approach is to distill what I see into a simple form.
Whether it be a large expansive wall drawing, or a small scale drawing in a sketch book, my artwork has the aspirational aim to provoke a wider discussion about our cities, public spaces, and the built environment. It also tries to look at how people use these spaces, and document what’s important to a “soul” of a place and how this approach resonates with its characteristics. Using drawing as a tool to highlight a message has enabled me to express ideas on how public space can be improved and enhanced from a social, political and experiential point of view.


How to Cite
Briggs, R. (2018) “Using drawing as a tool to explore public space”, The Journal of Public Space, 3(2), pp. 115–148. doi: 10.32891/jps.v3i2.1112.
Art and Activism
Author Biography

Richard Briggs

Richard Briggs is a practising artist and UK registered architect based in Sydney, Australia.  After graduating from the Manchester School of Architecture in 1999, Richard worked for architects such as SOM in London, and SJB in Sydney before forming his own design practice in 2010. Working on a mixture of small scale residential and art projects, he also teaches design at University of New South Wales in Sydney. Richard’s artworks and drawings encourage a different way of looking at our built environment. He looks at how we can describe our cities, streets and laneways, by filtering what we see to produce focused sketches which can portray a strong social, political or environmental message. Using this approach, he has completed several large scale murals for clients such as DEXUS Property Group, Lend Lease and Sydney councils. 
Richard is also part of urban sketchers (USK), a worldwide organisation which encourages drawing on location, and ran workshops and lectures at the USK Symposium held in Manchester, England in 2016. With his architectural background, his interest in the built environment, and way of conveying a sense of place through drawing, Richard co-runs a course called Street Life Studies: Cambodia, at the faculty of the Built Environment, University of New South Wales in Sydney. This course encourages students to use drawing as a tool to understand and compare public spaces in both Sydney and Phnom Penh in Cambodia. As a past director of Emergency Architects Australia (EAA), Richard also has a strong interest in social and community based projects. He has worked on projects in Timor-Leste and spent a year working in the field as part of a rehabilitation and reconstruction program for over 100 schools in the Solomon Islands. This grassroots experience focused on the construction of a prototype school, which won the International category at the 2010 Australian Timber Design awards and the World Architecture Community award in 2011.
This varied range of experience enables Richard to cross the boundaries between, architecture, art and community based design, with collaboration being a key driver in how projects and ideas are realised.