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Category Archives: Art

Maximum Pressure Area, Plug-In City Project (1962-64) by Peter Cook (Archigram), Ink and colour on photomechanical print, from McQuaid, M. (2002), Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from the Museum of Modern Art,New York: The Museum of Modern Art

The work of the architect extends far beyond the goal of achieving some programmatic end: their work surpasses the conception and construction of a building as they are charged with the tasks of conceiving of and manipulating space, and thus the experience of that space’s occupants.

Architecture is more than building. The work of the architect extends beyond. The understanding of emotion, occupation, movement, and empathy, set architecture apart from building. Architecture is conscious of its surroundings, the implications of its impact on an area, and its general context. And it is the task of the formal architect to conceive of and implement this grand enterprise. The architect is constrained not only by the limitations of construction and budget, but an inability to realize the project on their own at a 1:1 scale. Thus, they must draw.

Paul Rudophh_Yale Architecture Building

Yale Architecture Building by Paul Rudolph, Ink on paper. Courtesy of dezeen.

 

It is true that architectural drawing is first and foremost a tool; it has ideas, diagrammatic and analytical information employed for the purpose of coordinating the labor of building a building beyond mere image. This is to say that the architectural drawing is not solely for viewing pleasure, but is a carrier of useful information. This is what distinguishes architectural drawing from fine art. Architectural drawings are systematic, generated using a decodable visual language and accessible to a wide range of audiences. They are meant to be understood. This may be obvious with regard to architect’s technical drawings, but less obvious in the case of drawings where the line between art and architecture is finer. 

https://www.google.com.sg/search?q=paul+rudolph&espv=2&biw=1188&bih=619&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjPzMKL5dHNAhWJto8KHeKWD5oQ_AUIBigB#tbm=isch&q=steven+holl+drawings&imgrc=MjeuUfg2igLvUM%3A

Edge of a City: Spiroid Sectors (1991) by Steven Holl,  watercolour on paper. Courtesy of DrawingArchitecture.tumblr.com

 

Yet what is the value of these apparently hybrid illustrations? Why do architects often employ artistic techniques of representation in their architectural drawings? In his short essay “What is Architecture? (Art)”, Steven Holl defines architecture under four headings; Abstract, Use, Space and Idea. He asserts that a work of architecture harbours an idea and that “the phenomena of space, light, material/detail …. convey the art, whether or not the organizing idea is fully grasped.” 1

LouisKahn_SalkInstitute Sketch

Salk Institute for Biological Studies (1962)  by Louis Kahn, Charcoal on tracing paper, from McQuaid, M. (2002), Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from the Museum of Modern Art,New York: The Museum of Modern Art

In the above drawing, Louis Kahn was tasked to design a space his client, Joseph Salk “could invite Picasso” to, a place where masters of all disciplines could come and work together.  Though the formal details of Kahn’s design are barely visible, the drawing aptly portrays the building’s grandiose and exhaustive form. The tiny structure commands the page; an empire in the distance.  

 

As consumers of this piece, we are able to understand this project, untainted by the constraints of construction or any other factors that might come into play as the project moves further along. This drawing is Kahn’s idea, on paper. It is an artifact of his vision, insight into the coda that drove the constructed result. The conceptual drawing is the first object to distinguish architecture from building. It is the carrier of the emotion, occupancy and human empathy that underscore the project and this is what makes it awe-inspiring. 

Architecture must first exist as an idea, and the drawing is its conduit. 

PerryKulper_FastTwitch

Fast Twitch (1996-7) by Perry Kulper, mixed media on mylar/paper. Courtesy of Archinect.

 

1 Holl, S., “What is Architecture? (Art?)”, The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics and Culture, September 4 2013 (July 8 2016)
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A while back, I took some fisheye photos in in Lucknow. I have written a few posts about Lucknow, but this one is all about the snaps. The titles of the photographs come from real memories of my ancestral home but I also think they sound like they could be names of perfumes. (Smell and memory are, of course, closely linked, and recently I have been reading a lot about fragrance.) For example, ‘Happy in the Annexe’ refers to tenants who lived in the annexe whose son’s name is ‘Happy’ and ‘Home For Morris’ refers to my grandparents’ vintage Morris that sat in the garage.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH   Where Once Was A Fiat Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH Mali’s Garden (Mali = Gardener in Hindi) Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH   Happy in the Annexe Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH Guarding the Garden Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH Bananas on the Side Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH Tricycles in the Drive Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH Door Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH Guava Tree Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH Home for Morris Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH   Taar (Taar = Wire in Hindi) Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH   Shadows in the Aangan (Aangan = Courtyard in Hindi)

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My latest newsletter takes you on a visual tour through natural photography, architecture and fashion. Stops on the tour include London, Singapore and Montego Bay.

 

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My solo exhibition entitled Laksa in the Summer of My Childhood opened last week at SPR MRKT. The opening night was fantastic thanks to a great team of sponsors and collaborators and of course all the people who turned up. There was also a write up about it in The Business Times Singapore and a couple of pieces are featured in the ‘gallery’ section of Catalog Magazine’s April issue.

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Seasons IV; Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

Architecture can seem permanent and static, yet the seasons impact it visually, transforming its appearance over time, and technically, affecting materials and inhabitation. The seasons represent change and are a reminder that architecture can’t be conceived of as purely static.

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Childhood Dreams; Rose 2013, Rose ca. 1988, Bush 2013, Bush ca. 1988, Flowers 2013, Flowers ca. 1988, Tree 2013, Tree ca. 1988

In the timeline of a design project, photos are more or less the first and last step. As a child I took these B &W photos at a school and developed the film in a dark room, soon after which I decided to study architecture. Revisiting the site last year, I captured the same locations in full colour with a digital camera. Recalling pre-digital photographic processes, both sets of photos are presented as enlarged negatives.

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Blue Topoi; Laksa, Biryani

Cyanotype, the photographic process used to make blueprints, intrigues me as a way of studying light and shadow. In this series, the raw ingredients from two dishes-laksa and biryani-are composed to form imagined landscapes, using skills similar to those used in model-making. The pieces are intended to explore the disconnect between agricultural processes and city-dwellers in relation to food.

 

Lately, I seem to keep noticing circles and squares, but not on their own, rather circles within squares. They somehow seem to be a recurring theme, in my jewellery design and photography and I keep imagining them as larger scale structures. I have seen a lot of circles within squares around me, or perhaps I am just noticing them more. Here are a few I have been playing with:

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Guava Tree, Fisheye, 35mm, an almost-circle in a square

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Sketch for jewellery

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Ring and Bangle

What if this bangle and ring were models for larger scale structures? There are often circular windows in square buildings such as The Maritime Hotel in Chelsea, New York

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And of course you see this recurring in album covers. It makes perfect sense, referring back to the circular object (the LP, the CD) within a square (ish) sleeve like this EP Cover for Tennis’ Petition/My Better Self

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Now, onto my next circle/square project.

 

The new iPad Air ad got me very excited, but not for the reason Apple is hoping to get me excited. The visual centerpiece of the video is the pencil, the humble pencil. I have had a passionate love affair with this tool since at least 1995. But alas, the fantasy, the set up of the pencil as the centre of our universe, is destroyed by the retrieval of the iPad Air from behind the pencil. The premise? The iPad Air is as thin as this pencil. Like I give a f***. I am more interested in the pencil. I really mean it.

In 2007, a former professor enticed me to take his studio with one simple act. He picked up a pencil and held it in the air. He made it the centre of our universe. He reminded us that this was the forgotten tool that had been at the origin of so much great architecture. That we needed to go back to basics. That we needed to reconnect the mind with the heart with the arm with the hand with the pencil. The physicality of this tool is what really turns me on. But also the impermanence. We use it to jot down our ideas. These traces fade over time, but if we’re lucky enough, the real deal might be built by the time the pencil drawing fades. There is poetry in this. The dream slowly fades as the real, physical form manifests itself.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-tech. I am both lo- and hi-tech. My students know this well, and that’s my point. Why wouldn’t I still use a pencil? Why can’t I use both my pencil and my laptop? We’re extremely privileged to have the opportunity to use both, all, in fact. And does Apple really think that I am going to get more excited about their iPad Air and laugh at the humble pencil? Sure, it’s good that tech-tools are getting lighter, but I still want lead. And the pencil is still smaller, lighter, and more likely to make it to a deserted island.

 

WORKING ON:

LucknowSurvey

Survey drawing of The Mayur

MAKING:

Peacock

Lasercuts for jewellery 

APPEARED IN:

Well copy

Well, lomograph, 2011

WEARING:

JasMB Bag copy

Jas MB Bag

LOOKING AT:

FDR Park Dedication

Four Freedoms Park designed by Louis Kahn (recently completed)

THINKING ABOUT:

Library of Bagel

Illustration from Borges’ Library of Babel

LISTENING TO:

Vampire-Weekend-MVOTC copy

‘Step’ by Vampire Weekend

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Scholar’s Suite-Floor Plan

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Scholar’s Suite-Section through bedroom looking at boundary wall

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Scholar’s Suite-Front Elevation

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Scholar’s Suite-Room Elevations (Living Room)

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Scholar’s Suite-Room Elevations (Bedroom)

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Scholar’s Suite-Room Elevations (Kitchen/Dining)

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Scholar’s Suite-Room Elevations (Bathroom)

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Scholar’s Suite-Axonometric-Furniture (Bed)

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Scholar’s Suite-Axonometric-Furniture (Sofa)

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Scholar’s Suite-Axonometric-Furniture (Dining Table)

This is my final post in the series. It is really just a visual summary of the project.

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Plan of Suite and Courtyard

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Courtyard looking towards front facade (courtesy of Bea Jauregui)

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Courtyard looking towards boundary wall (courtesy of Bea Jauregui)

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Living Room looking towards entrance

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Living room looking towards boundary wall

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Bedroom looking towards wall shared with Room 11

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Bedroom looking towards bathroom doors
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Bathroom looking towards rear exit
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Bathroom looking at wall shared with kitchen
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Kitchen/dining looking towards rear
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Kitchen Cabinetry

Over a year ago, I blogged about an art project I had been working on; Noise. I have resumed work on it and am trying to include it in a hotel project as part of the interior architecture. It is still a work in progress but for some reason I don’t mind sharing it as an unfinished work.

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