Linee Occulte at New York’s Citygroup explores the unseen in architecture

Lost Lines

Linee Occulte at New York’s Citygroup explores the unseen in architecture

Linee Occulte: Drawing Architecture at Citygroup in New York. (Courtesy Daisy Ames)

“In a time when we are contending with many shared and lost histories, what importance do the lines of the past, hidden out of view, have on our process?” This question, posed by designer, educator, and curator Daisy Ames, forms the basis of an ongoing exhibition at New York’s Citygroup, a collective space dedicated to challenging “the structural and cultural forces that shape the normative practices of architecture.” 

Linee Occulte: Drawing Architecture, as the show is titled, takes cues from the writings of Italian Mannerist architect Sebastiano Serlio, who grafted vector-based lines onto perspective projections to reveal hidden geometries. Serlio’s prompt to consider the inconspicuous in architectural representation inspired the experimental drawings by Linee Occulte’s nine participating designers, including Iman Fayyad, Lindsay Harkema, Kevin Hirth, Alfie Koetter, Stephanie Lin, Melissa Shin, Lindsey Wikstrom, Mersiha Veledar, and Ames herself.

The drawings are discrete explorations of Serlio’s “hidden lines” concept, each taking a distinct approach to how the unseen might help us conceive of certain architectural surfaces, spaces, or forms. For Digital Fresco No. 2, Lin took inspiration from the shrouded contour lines of Renaissance frescoes, applying a series of parallel lines to a wet block of plaster and allowing the layers to diffuse, distort, and dissolve on contact. Fayyad’s Lignes Blanches subdivides familiar geometric volumes (cones and cylinders) into two-dimensional representations of their surfaces, creating an outwardly misleading set of lines that highlight “perceived ambiguity in the flat drawing surface.”

Interior of a grey gallery with lines covering the walls
Linee Occulte: Drawing Architecture, currently on display at Citygroup in New York. (Courtesy Daisy Ames)

Displayed on panels of homogeneous scale, the works in Linee Occulte are presented as part of a visual environment that undergirds their thematic focus. Citygroup’s exhibition space is tightly bound by low ceilings and walls that narrow towards the back, sandwiched between a hair salon and an art gallery in a nondescript basement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Ames used these as canvases to create a highly architectural form of trompe l’oeil, covering the walls in precise linework and grayscale coloration to suggest geometries that don’t actually exist. Volumes appear to recede from the darkened floors, providing illusory, rendered wall space for the display of the nine small drawings and an exhibition text.

As Ames told AN, the wrap-around mural on Citygroup’s walls signals an attempt to reimagine viewership itself: “This exhibition provided me with the opportunity to put what were ideas in my head, words that I have written, and pedagogical approaches that I have taught, into not only a 2D representation, but also representation that pushes beyond the 2D to test how someone might literally occupy or inhabit a space that encourages one to hold in mind what one might not be able to see.”

For Ames, whose eponymous studio has contributed to past exhibitions at the Storefront for Art and Architecture and the Venice Biennale, the approach reflects a career-long focus on the unseen aspects of architectural production: “At the core of this project, and what has been most rewarding, is the gathering of colleagues around a line of thinking about our built environment that drives my practice, the hidden elements that so deeply impact how we live.”

Linee Occulte will be viewable by appointment through mid-July in Citygroup’s exhibition space at 104b Forsyth Street, New York, NY 10002. Email for scheduling and inquiries.