Drawing Space: Disclosing Architecture; Lines, Surfaces, Volumes

Project

(ab)Normal for for ‘drawing space: disclosing architecture’ Exhibition @ Boston Architectural College

Ideas are simpler when expressed by lines rather than words. An idea is blurry by default, and it populates as a foggy entity the mind of whom is thinking. Thus, it becomes a struggle to express ideas by means of texts. Instead, drawing is much more direct at expressing thoughts to bypass easily the barrier imposed from the logical construction of a text. Drawing and writing are complementary activities, often two tools that are exploited to reach the same goal: dressing the Imaginary. Yet, in most cases, drawings and texts are constructed in autonomy, as fragments informing partially about an idea; both are gates that open to parallel dimensions, existing in the moment that a line is traced or a word is spelled. There is a sort a revelatory satisfaction in creating a drawing or generating a text, since it appears that the topic is unveiled rather than created out of nothing.

In the case of Architectural representation the above formulation might be even more evident, since a drawing acquires value of projecting a space into the two dimensional realm. Drawing is instrumental in Architecture more than in any other discipline, and needs to respect a very rigid set of rules. Whether is a plan or a section or any other type of orthogonal projection, or evena perspective, architectural drawing is often about something else, telling the logical or illogical construction of a three dimensional space. For instance, looking to the planimetric scheme of the British castles sketched by Louis Kahn, it is quite impossible to forget about the volumetric masses of the walls. Yet, these drawings are much more revealing than a three dimensional drawing, exactly for the ability to synthesis certain aspect, forgetting about texture and consistency in general. In other words drawing means understanding, analysing and choosing informations about a topic, in the case of architecture about a space. It is so powerful that Architects of the postwar abandoned the activity of building projects and mostly focused on drawing scenarios. Not mentioning the foremost, Costantino Dardi or Maurizio Sacripanti, GRAU had curtailed their actions outside the realm of the physical engagement in order to have the possibility of describing much more compelling itineraries. Archizoom exploited very schematic orthogonal projections to describe an entire society, drifting towards consumerism; the No Stop City was drawn as a scansion of the colourful simplification of life in category of consumption, a city that does not exists and yet, is tessellated in every brick of every shopping mall, and today bricks of every fulfilment centre. To make a comparison, one could say that Archizoom stays to Victor Gruen as Hilbersaimer stays to Mies.

Manfredo Tafuri wrote:

“[ ]Recently, architects have spilled in their projects all the curiosity about problems that they are not called to engage in fulfilling their profession, giving the impression […] of an absolute abstractness and utopism. Nonetheless, Utopia is not a polemical or evasive answer to the blindness of institution regarding the claiming of the architectural debate”

Whether in disagreement or not with the generation of the Radicals, Tafuri expressed perfectly what architecture, and the representation of architecture had become in the unravelling of modernity. A tool to describe societies by means of space.

As a young group, we believe that this is still the ultimate goal of Architecture.

‘Second Generation Graveyard’ will be on show at the McCormick Gallery, Boston Architectural College until January 2nd 2019.

Interview

What is your most important tool?

As we all know, in recent years 3d modeling softwares gained an incredible importance not only in terms of architectural representation, but also in how they managed to affect design itself.

As young designers we have always found interesting how we think more easily through the use of these tools, rather than the physical ones. It is for this reason that we started experimenting with these typologies of softwares, trying to find alternative uses to the conventional ones. Initially our intention was to use the user interface as direct output of production (no render and no post-production). Later, we started experimenting in using the 3d space as a 3d canvas, with an approach closer to a collage or to a mis-en-scene.

How would you define your practice?

(ab)Normal is a graphic novel without chronology. Instead, obsolete 3ds and rejected timelines are reconfigured in spatial narratives. Iconographic images describe the allegory of a culture that revolve obsessively around Internet, Gaming and Religion. (ab)Normal is a multidisciplinary collective set to explore different realms – i.e. design, architecture, scenography, illustration, novel – with a particular focus on Architectural Representation.

Photorealism is carefully deconstructed and rearranged in illustrations based on Normal vectors, avoiding the traditional structure that builds the contemporary visual description of a space. Hence, this project is both scientific in its method and evocative for its thematic background.

We all have a professional background that definitely has a role in the development of (ab)Normal. To some extent this project, which is for now purely explorative, gave us the chance to unleash some unexpressed fantasies haunting our carriers as designers, thus helping us to experiment formal approaches, to learn by composing or simply by making mistakes. It is a sort of training without constraints.

What is for you the value of the drawing?

Drawing and writing are complementary activities, often two tools that are exploited to reach the same goal: addressing the Imaginary. Yet, in most cases, drawings and texts are constructed in autonomy, as fragments informing partially about an idea; both are gates that open to parallel dimensions, existing in the moment that a line is traced or a word is spelled. There is a sort a revelatory satisfaction in creating a drawing or generating a text, since it appears that the topic is unveiled rather than created out of nothing.

Ideas are simpler when expressed by lines rather than words. An idea is blurry by default, and it populates as a foggy entity the mind of whom is thinking. Thus, it becomes a struggle to express ideas by means of texts. Instead, drawing is much more direct at expressing thoughts to bypass easily the barrier imposed from the logical construction of a text.

What is your workflow?

First and foremost, the inspiration usually comes from the unconscious and autonomous recollection of references and visual stimuli from the news feed, social media platforms and so on. Despite splitting the work among the four of us, in the creation of a new image we never decide a strategy a priori, but it comes from the stratification of the work of all in different moments.

We make use of the 3d software space as a canvas, where the image is conceived as a collage occupying a real space. For this reason, the objects in this space are logically non-organized, with the intention of recreating a fictional setting. They are forcedly placed from the point of view of the camera, varying their scale and size only according to the needs of this point of view.

Our images are almost entirely built upon the “Normals” channel of a rendering software, and a great amount of fine-tuning of meshes and textures (and the scaling of both) is required to give the “normals” their due crispness.

What is the difference between a drawing conceived digitally or within the physical?

Conceiving an image digitally is fundamental for our approach. It is not only a matter of ease and speed in using softwares. In fact, a huge part of the work comes from the collection of 3d scraps, old material we produced for our own competitions or projects, or low quality freebies from the web. These elements are often combined with objects we build on purpose in order to define a finite but rich environment.

Moreover, the gradient of colors given by the normals (that determines in a abstract way a surface’s orientation toward a light source), is some sort of interface/filter to see the objects and therefore make compositional decisions that would not be replicable in a physical way.

What value does the exhibition hold for you?

Taking part in an exhibition has given us the opportunity to intertwine the digital realm that we picture in our images with the physical world. A recurrent aim and intention in our exhibitions is to go beyond a simple showcase of the work, but to create immersive experiences in which the ambiguity of this non-human world that we depict could appropriate the physical one.

What can be for you a digital exhibition?

An exhibition today confines the spectator to the physical materiality and information present at the event. We’ve been focusing on ways to expand the possibilities of the spectator to “navigate” throughout the exhibition. This could happen by connecting the experience of the exhibition to its making-of in real time or by enhancing what can be seen or felt by the use of some device.

What are your thoughts on digital platforms, as that of KooZA/rch?

Digital platforms on architecture, especially the ones focused on drawings and representation like KooZA/rch and RNDRD are today an incredible source of knowledge and sharing for students and professionals.
Architectural speculations, once confined to the drawing realm and therefore easily forgotten, can today vehiculate and become far more accessible, allowing direct exchange between ways of doing and ways of thinking architecture. To our point of view, this trend somehow managed to break the walls of the different schools of Architecture: to build an image is becoming a tool as powerful (as it has always been) but also as easy to vehiculate as text was in the past.

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