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Daniel Hedglin fell in love with buildings while living in China for three years.

“When I was in Shanghai, I was fascinated with riding buses and subways and navigating the streets. It was an exciting place and I wanted to know how it worked,” he said.

Hedglin’s newfound interest brought him back to the United States where he enrolled in the UNC department of city and regional planning master’s program, housed in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“UNC has a strong approach on why people do what they do and design policy around that,” he said. “It was a good fit for me.”

Hedglin graduated from the program in 2014. He was applying for jobs daily but he wanted something else to do to pass the time.

So he decided to flex his creative muscles.

“I thought it would be interesting to go out and draw buildings and get a better sense of the physical space where I lived,” he said.

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And so the #DrawThisTown project was born.

Every day, Hedglin would travel to a different location in the Triangle with his iPad. Using his stylus, he would make a digital sketch and post the finished product to social media with the hashtag #DrawThisTown.

Hedglin had three ground rules for all his sketches:tumblr_ndhs8iSppq1ti5d8xo1_500

1. Do all drawings on location.

2. Focus on drawing local businesses and buildings.

3. Be outside to interact with people and immerse in the community.

“When you’re drawing, you have this intense focus on what’s in front of you. I got to learn how people operate on Franklin Street, where people go in downtown Durham and Raleigh,” he said. “I got to tie together planning and drawing.”

And just as Hedglin was learning about the people, the people began to learn about him.tumblr_nduue8IMjg1ti5d8xo1_500

“I had done about two or three drawings and people started retweeting my work and sending me feedback,” he said. “I decided to create the hashtag as a way for people to come back and see all of the drawings.”

Hedglin’s hashtag has gone beyond the Internet. A different #DrawThisTown piece is featured monthly in the Triangle Downtowner magazine and Hedglin has begun selling prints, with all proceeds going to buy art supplies for local children’s charities.

Despite the popularity of his project, Hedglin firmly refrains from identifying as an artist.

“I do these for fun with the idea that they’re not perfect. I think people would judge me less if they think my work sucks if I say I’m an urban planner that just likes to draw.”

Heglin’s goal is to draw every building in the Triangle; so far, he’s covered about 75. He currently works with the Town of Chapel Hill planning department, assisting potential builders with understanding local regulations and ordinances.

The #DrawThisTown project reminds him why he decided to pursue a career in planning in the first place.

“As a city planner, you study things like how does homelessness occur. But it’s almost scientific and can feel mechanical and distant,” he said. “But when you’re on the street, it becomes personal. It’s not some abstract policy that affects people’s lives.”

 

Click here for a link to more of Hedglin’s prints.

By Parth Shah ’15

 

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