The Architectural Gesture


Noam Andrews

March 2015

Excerpt from Log 33, Winter 2015

Below the heading, “What is drawing and how fine pictures are made and recognized,” in his introduction to the second edition of The Lives of the Artists (1568), Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) appraises the importance of drawing for architecture. “The drawings [disegni] of architecture are composed of nothing but lines, which as far as the architect’s principles are concerned constitute the beginnings and ends of his art; for the rest, by employing wooden models taken from said lines, is nothing but the work of carvers and builders.” The capacity to produce disegni is the result of years of training that enable the hand of the artist or architect to act as a conduit into the recesses of the human mind, drawing out from it forms of graphic representation that directly correspond to its interiority. While disegno is transmitted onto the physical space of the page as “an apparent expression and articulation of the conceit that one has in the mind,” hidden beneath the finished image lies the latent body of its creator.

Since abstract expressionism opened up the practice of reading artwork as the product of the body’s movements, we have become accustomed to medium and (the trace of) gesture as integral parts of any formal critique. Yet contemporary architectural practice has remained firmly wedded to the significations of representation rather than to the materialitiesintegral to the production of architectural drawings. Architects are trained to read an orthographic projection, but the gestures required to produce the drawing in the first place, the material properties of the page itself, even the physical space within which the drawing is composed, are rarely taken into consideration. Materiality, physicality, and corporeality must be edited out of drawings in order for drawings to express themselves.

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