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Architectural Drawing: From Wright to Goldberg
Architectural drawings ranging from homework assignments to presentational renderings to tissue sketches never meant to be seen by clients
Architectural drawing is not just for architects. The cubists of the early 20th Century may have thought they were onto something new when they abstracted reality in that manner but architects have known for centuries that their technical drawings can show an object from all sides.
Isometric perspectives can picture a building's various planes as a transparent jigsaw puzzle. "Shop" drawings sometimes overlapped elevations and plans onto one sheet of paper. Conceptually speaking, a building's actual plan will never again be seen when the building is finally built.
20th Century architectural drawings range from idealized perspectives made to sell the project to flattened elevations and abstracted plans. Frank Lloyd Wright and his renderers used all these to both sell the idea to the client and communicate to the workmen how to assemble all the parts.
Abel Faidy, long one of Chicago's most eccentric modernists, created dozens of pencil drawings in his Villa Dionysos designs to express the "Golden Section" while inadvertently picturing the extreme class differences of those who were to work and live in that magnificent embassy.
And long before computers changed an architect's tools forever, Bertrand Goldberg built some of the most astonishing and complex buildings of the 20th Century using the same methods that countless builders have used for thousands of years.
ArchiTech Gallery, Chicago's only commercial gallery of architectural art, has assembled works by Wright, Goldberg and other masters of the medium to tell this story of 20th Century architecture.
This exhibition and sale of important works on paper begins Friday, September 9th and runs through Saturday, December 31st, 2011.
Notes on the Exhibition:
Since it was architectural drawings that put ArchiTech on the map, that's what I'll do for awhile. And since, no matter what exhibition I'm showing on the walls, my clients still seem to want to see what's hidden away or in the file drawers so that's what I'll actually exhibit for a change.
When I started to plan this show, it seemed only logical to go back to the fundamentals of my collection. So I pulled drawings from vaults and files that I hadn't seen for years. Some of the drawings are among the first I'd acquired. Some are relatively new acquisitions. All of them are splendid examples of both the modern approach of the times and the type of work of the firms.
The astonishing 1939 colored pencil drawing that Frank Lloyd Wright and his main renderer, John H. Howe drew for Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Armstrong of Ogden Dunes, Indiana is the major draw in this show. Wright and Howe also drew the great "Fallingwater" perspective a few years earlier that wound up on the cover of Time magazine. That is one of the most iconic architectural drawings ever created but as that drawing will never leave the Wright Foundation's hands this one for the Armstrong House may be the closest I'll ever get to that kind of greatness. As graphic symbols go, this drawing has "Fountainhead" written all over it.
Abel Faidy, God bless him, was a strange but stylish bird. Gifted with a tremendous drafting skill, he spent his last clientless years holed up in his studio drawing scrupulously detailed projects based on Le Corbusier's and his own mathematically rigorous "golden section." His Villa Dionysos was a modernist design for an ambassador's hollywoodesque imaginary residence. Peopled with an array of cigarette-smoking, cocktail sipping, riding crop gripping well dressed fashionistas served by an endless parade of servants unencumbered by their lower class status, the Villa Dionysos pencil works are prime examples of "Polemical" architectural drawings.
In 1921, before Chatten & Hammond merged with Burnham Brothers, they designed a perfect Georgian mansion for Maurice Fox. Drawn in ink on linen, as most "record sets" were. These 28 drawings (the entire roll) were photographed for sets of "cyanotype" blueprints from which the house was actually built. The elevation drawing on the wall, like all the other drawings in the record set, would never be seen again until this show.
In the 50s, an architect named Edward A.L. Cox of Camden, New Jersey designed "Kay's Pharmacy Fountain and Grill." He treated the perspective rendering as a kind of collage with cut-outs of stylish people walking around his dense graphite drawn building. I only got that rendering but it's one of the most interesting sales tools I've ever had. I hope he got the job.
Some of the Goldberg pieces I'm showing were created, mostly, as developmental drawings never to be seen by the clients. They clearly indicate just how architects used to communicate in house before computers changed the practice forever. Those days are long gone. The creative process will never be the same.
In fact, now that architects seldom draw at all (on paper, at least) this exhibition may be the only way to actually see a "hard copy" of the creative process.
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Chicago, IL 60654