The practice of architectural drawing has changed dramatically over the past twenty-five years. The traditional pro forma of the sketch (or parti) that would eventually lead to a plan, section, and elevation has given way to exploratory forms of representation. Similar to many postmodern visual arts, architectural drawing has sought to challenge or engage existing paradigms. It often obfuscates or blurs the norms of didactic drawings through inversions, transgressions, and multiplicities of scale, thickness, clarity, measure, shading, and composition. Unlike studio art, however, architectural drawing is defined through its conventions. It conforms to certain rules of presentation—in particular, the use of the line as delineation (a boundary); the preference for flatness, even when drawing in advanced computer-aided programs; the labeling of elements; and the use of representational syntax such as directional arrows, alpha-numerical call-outs, and highly developed decorative and or applied textures.
The drawings in the show are not very alike, similar only in that they are situated between the conventions of architectural drawing and the terms of engagement in the arts. While many students of architecture are familiar with this kind of creative exploration, it is less common within an architect’s practice. The works shown here are all from architects who employ exploratory drawing as part of their practice, identifying and furthering their work through these media. This exhibition is only a small sampling of the many works that fall into this relatively new category of exploratory drawing, and because few of these drawings result in “buildings,” these works are often not seen.
The concern over the perceived divide between drawings produced by hand and those rendered by computer can be effectively subsumed by the much larger problem of representation in drawing. While the newer tools have been instructive (for example, in turning the line into more of a spline), the computer ultimately does not kill the ambitions of the continuing drawing project. Instead both traditional and digital methods contribute to larger issues: plan-ness instead of plans, sectioning as a dynamic activity, thickening the dimensions of the plane, modeling as a form of drawing, and lightness and shadowing as techniques to produce new fictions rather than techniques of truth-telling.
—Dora Epstein Jones