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  • Making plans: Architecture begins and ends in pictures

French, Hilary, 2010, Conference or Workshop, Making plans: Architecture begins and ends in pictures at Spaces of History/Histories of Spaces: Emerging Approaches to the Study of the Built Environment, College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley, April 2010. (Unpublished)

Abstract or Description:

This conference involved participants from Europe, USA, South America and the Middle East, and is described by the organisers as ‘a major catalyst for fostering interdisciplinary research in the field’ (http://escholarship.ucop.edu/uc/ced_haua). It explored the ‘spatial turn’ in the humanities and social sciences and the effect that this is having on the ways in which history of the built environment is theorised and researched.
French’s paper was prepared for the ‘Interrogating theories and methodologies’ strand. As a reflection on method it arose partly from the research for her REF Output 1. It looks at the role that drawings have played in the constructions of histories of architecture in the field of residential design, including 20th-century ‘picture books’ – a term introduced by Yorke and Gibberd to describe their seminal Modern Flats (1958) – reviving Sherwood’s (1978) emphasis on plans and sections as tools of analysis.
For architects, the case study has long been the staple of professional magazines and journals. These fuel contemporary discourse and form the basis of much architectural history. Fundamental to the relationship between practice and history-making, drawings are read easily by most architects, and publications have presented them in a particular way that means architects find them accessible and valuable. During the last few decades, however, case studies have changed, diminishing the role of drawn black-and-white plans and sections. Analytical and descriptive drawings have been replaced by more subjective representations such as photographs. More recently, online, drawings are reduced to low-resolution scans. French argues that changes arising from digital technology pose questions for publishers, collectors and archivists uncertain of the role and value of a ‘virtual artefact’. In the hands of the archivist, drawings originally intended for multiple reproduction, for distribution to builders and other contractors, are designated as art works, unusable artefacts inaccessible to architects or architectural researchers.

Official URL: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/2d26g533
Subjects: Architecture > K100 Architecture
Architecture > K100 Architecture > K110 Architectural Design Theory
Architecture > K100 Architecture > K190 Architecture not elsewhere classified
School or Centre: School of Design
Copyright Holders: Hilary French
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2011 16:34
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2014 15:00
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/463

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