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  • Drawing and Representation II

    Katie Zaeh
    new york NEW YORK

    Drawing and Representation II, Spring 2012
    Columbia University GSAPP

    Coordinators: Babak Bryan & Michael Young
    Instructors: Kutan Ayata, Frank Gesualdi, Jennifer Leung, John Morrison, Bryan Young
    TAs: Kyle Hovenkotter, Emily E. Jones, Dan Lee, Bo Liu, Eliza Montgomery, Owen Nichols, Luis Felipe Paris

    Students: whitney BOYKIN, xiaoci CHEN, sarah HABIB, melodie YAHSAR, & katie ZAEH.

    From the Renaissance through the 20th century, the discipline of architecture sought to define the act of design as the central problem in architecture, design often seen as equivalent to the act of drawing. It was on the plane of the paper page that geometry and mathematics could be combined with artistic techniques of representation. The project was a projection, both literally and metaphorically; drawings opened the possibility of an experience of three-dimensional depth through the two-dimensional page as well as regulating the measured translations required by construction. The architectural drawing was a social, political, and aesthetic act that differentiated the practice of architecture from related building crafts while enmeshing it within the humanist culture of the Renaissance.

    The architectural drawing has undergone several revolutions since this period, the modernization of the medium (ink/graphite/light) and its support (paper/vellum/pixel), the codification of descriptive geometry in the early 19th century, the incorporation of axonometrics in the early part of the 20th century, expanded diagrammatic notations through the second half of the 20th century and most recently the computational and representational possibilities offered by digital drawing. All of these developments may be seen as part of a continuum bringing us to our current situation, but this would require a skewed view of the impact of digital techniques.

    The changes that digital techniques are presenting to our drawing traditions can be viewed in several ways. At the extremes, they can be condemned for a breach with former methods, or they can be exalted as new, exciting and powerful. To avoid both of these generalizations, this course seeks to reconsider, investigate and experiment with the possible connections that exist in representational technologies.

    The course is divided into two projects each with a specific emphasis on an aspect of drawing that is undergoing radical change in light of digital mediation. Each project seeks to understand these changes in representation and hopefully provide a new ground from which to experiment with alternate possibilities for the architectural drawing.

    Project 1 will extend from the digital model that each student produced in ADR1. Taken this model as a given, or a found object, the digital model will be mined to see what can be extracted. The specific questions that will be asked concern the nature of how representations are used to make conceptual arguments and provoke aesthetic responses. Project 2 will work in the opposite direction. Beginning with a film clip involving spatial motion, each student will explore the potentials of digital representation to articulate filmic motion, depth, light and atmosphere in a static drawn representation. Both projects are tied together by similar questions regarding the transition to digital mediation.

    The Modeled Drawing or the Drawn Model ///
    One of the grounding necessities of orthographic projection is the flat plane for the act of measurement. In order to organize and regulate the true proportions of a building design, the measurements on the plane were made to coincide with the projected construction of the buildings representation on that plane. In other words, the two-dimensional drawing was required to regulate the three-dimensional construction.

    Every entity that is generated in a digital model is measured automatically as it is drawn. This measurement happens through vectors in a three-dimensional space. This affects the generation, interaction, and output of the drawing. Plans and Sections often occur after the model as opposed to before, thus changing their status in the design process. Furthermore, in relation to construction it is now possible to move from model to fabrication without the intermediary of the traditional drawing.

    In a digital model, the plane of projection is no longer necessarily coplanar with the act of measurement.

    The Abstraction of Scale – Zoom ///
    Manual drawing requires a controlled reduction in scale. Furthermore, drawings are done at multiple scales in order to resolve a building’s articulation from site to detail. As scale shifts, the creation and interpretation of line varies as well. This gives the hand drawing a level of abstraction that delays the determination of the object of design as questions of signification and scale are initially unstable.

    Digital modeling happens at full scale. Each line refers to a surface of an object. Specific detail is put into every element as the digital model becomes a simulation of the real building.

    The abstractions of various scales are now transferred in a digital realm to the abstractions of pixel, zoom, resolution and polygon count.

    The Articulation of Iteration – Movement and Depth ///

    The movement of a physical material such as graphite on paper leaves a residue on the support medium. These traces can provide both an index of the iterations of design drawing and can also become the representational techniques of shade and shadow that suggest depth in the flat plane.

    The entities in a digital model are parametrically represented simulations. As an element is transformed, its former existence is erased from graphic visualization on the monitor. Even at the level of construction, (the control polygons that build the line), are never given graphic presence.

    In a digital model, the removal of the material index shifts toward simulations along the domain of a parametric representation, which in its full expansion becomes animation.

    As has been hinted at, each of the transitions has pragmatic, conceptual and aesthetic issues at stake. The assumption is not that the change is negative or positive, but that it is naive to believe it is neutral. The goals of the course are to begin to understand these transitions in order to determine the nature of the change, and to aggressively experiment with the potentials to push digital representations toward novel potentials.

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