September 10, 2014

St. Louis Exhibit Begs Designers to Keep on Drawing


We recently heard a tableful of designers bemoaning the increasingly rare ability of architects and designers—especially the younger ones—to express their ideas via paper and pencil. Their words echoed an article published earlier this month in The New York Times, by Interior Design Hall of Fame member Michael Graves of Michael Graves & Associates. Graves likened drawing to musical improvisation and to a shared language between creatives, but argued that the skill is slowly fading. “Buildings are no longer just designed visually and spatially; they are ‘computed’ via interconnected databases,” wrote Graves. In an increasingly digital world, this can hardly be disputed.

With this in mind, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis is staging “Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association,” opening September 12. Boyarsky, a former chair of the Architectural Association, which is the United Kingdom’s oldest independent architectural school, was a longtime collector and supporter of architectural drawing. He amassed a veritable anthology of works on paper from some of the most prominent architects of our time: Gehry Partner’s Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid Architects’s Zaha Hadid, Studio Daniel Libeskind’s Daniel Libeskind, and Office for Metropolitan Architecture’s Rem Koolhaas. The drawings encompass site plans, design proposals, and theoretical investigations, showing what Graves might term “intention and speculation,” as he says in the aforementioned article.

We think Boyarsky’s collection, seen for the first time, will support Graves’s argument. Through these works, we see the progression of individual architects as well as the craft as a whole. What’s more, the exhibition pushes Boyarsky’s long held belief that architecture is not only a trade, but an art. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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