Arquitectura Viva
Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Drawing Buildings and Data

Luis Fernández-Galiano

Coffee table books have bad press, but these two volumes deserve attention. Drawing Architecture gathers almost 300 drawings, from a Sumerian sanctuary floor plan engraved over 4,000 years ago on the sculpture of the architect-king Gudea to H&deM’s Elbphilharmonie. The author, Helen Thomas, a British architect who after teaching in London and collaborating in the drawing archives of the RIBA and the V&A became a researcher at ETH Zurich, offers an informative, intelligent write-up on each of the drawings, two-thirds of which are 20th- and 21st-century and include all the leading modern masters, among them the Fuller who illustrates the cover with a geodesic sphere. The presentation, however, is not chronological (although a useful timeline is included at the end of the book), but juxtaposes drawings of different periods to stimulate the reader’s imagination; an exercise that proves convincing when Kahn is put in dialogue with Palladio, or Moneo with Choisy, but is harder to grasp in other cases.

Equally dazzling in the visual aspect is The Minard System, a publication of the statistical graphics of Charles-Joseph Minard, a French civil engineer who after retiring in 1851 from a distinguished career serving the State devoted the almost two decades that remained of his life to the visualization of data, producing 61 extraordinary drawings preserved in his alma mater, the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées. These are now presented by Sandra Rendgen, a Berlin-based editor and author whose interest in the graphic representation of statistics was manifested in her two previous books, Information Graphics and Understanding the World. We were already familiar with some of Minard’s mythical drawings – such as the one of Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps and Napoleon’s Russian campaign, reproduced on the cover – through the classic books of Edward Tufte, a Yale professor who has been a pioneer in the field of data visualization, but a complete collection of Minard’s graphics is a bibliographic gem.

Architects and engineers seem to use different visual languages, but many drawings of the former obey exacting technical and structural laws, while those by Minard deserve to be admired like works of art. The Sumerian who in an exact diagram depicted a sanctuary with walls reinforced by buttresses and narrow entrances protected by towers gives an exemplary lesson on the wisdom of merging artistic appeal and technical precision.

Helen Thomas
Drawing Architecture
Phaidon, Londres, 2018
320 pages

Sandra Rendgen
The Minard System
Princeton Arch. Press, NY, 2018
176 pages

Arquitectura Viva 214

AV Monografías 226 - SOU FUJIMOTO AV Monographs
analyzes in each issue a theme related to a city, a country, a tendency or an architect, with articles by leading specialists complemented by commentary on works and projects illustrated in detail. Published bilingually, with Spanish and English texts placed side by side.
Arquitectura Viva 227 - KAAN Arquitectura Viva
covers current topics, taking stock of recent trends in set sections: cover story, works and projects, art and culture, books, technique and innovation. From 2013 on, monthly and bilingual, with Spanish and English texts printed side by side.
AV Proyectos 99 - FOSTER+PARTNERS AV Proyectos
is the third member of the AV family: a bilingual publication essentially focussed on design projects (with special attention on competitions and construction details), heretofore only laterally dealt with in the other two magazines.
Arquitectura Viva SL - Calle de Aniceto Marinas, 32 - E-28008 Madrid, España - Ph: (+34) 915 487 317 - Fax: (+34) 915 488 191 -
Política de cookies - Aviso Legal - Condiciones de contratación - RSS