Several distinct voices emerge from the collection. Some show a sense of innovation by bringing architecture and literature together, as seen in Peter Eisenman’s Moving Arrows, Eros and Other Errors: An Architecture of Absence, Box 3 (1986), in which he constructed a series of layered maps narrating the story of Romeo and Juliet. Other drawings clearly inform the formal and conceptual language of current built work by the same architects, such as Zaha Hadid’s. The architect had her first winning proposal, according to academic Kester Rattenbury, “in part because of [her] spectacular drawings and paintings, which are featured in this exhibition.
This leads to the educational value of this exhibition. Being shown at two museums inside educational institutions, this collection of drawings, with such rich variety and stories, truly enriches a student’s notion of architectural drawings. To truly understand architectural drawings as not merely of diagrammatic nature, but rather as a form of expression through ink, collage, pigment, watercolor, and other media. It’s an architectural history or theory class in action, on site.
By looking at these drawings in person, the audience experiences them on a personal level, picking up both the virtue and occasional minor flaws (like smudges or even coffee stains) of a handcrafted drawing. Seeing these drawings alive is something that cannot be matched in print or on a computer screen.
The exhibtion also features a collection of the AA Catalogues, which documented many of the drawings in the exhibit, set up side by side with the actual drawings. This allows for a direct comparison and appreciation for the difference in visual experience, between seeing the printed representation and seeing the physical drawing. For example, viewers can observe the evolution of series of Lebbeus Woods’ drawings both in print and in their originals, tracing from his renderings of fictional cities and political landscapes to a hybrid of artistic and technical representations as seen in his drawing Center for New Technology, Montage 1 (1985).
Following the show’s opening, there has been a series of academic lectures and discussions revolving around the theme of drawing and architecture in today’s education, with lectures by Peter Eisenman, whose work is featured in the exhibtion; Dennis Crompton, a founding member of the Archigram movement; and Bernard Tschumi, who will give a keynote lecture at RISD.
In this day and age where it’s all (or mostly) about CAD, Rhino, Grasshopper, BIM (and selfies, which according to Peter Eisenman, became relevant to architecture as a type of expression) this exhibition perhaps makes us re-realize the virtue and personal value of architectural drawings, both through its visual presence and richness, and through a variety of lectures, discussions, symposia, and conversations that unfold around this important exhibition.