Percier – A Clean Mess

Charles Percier, Frontispiece Palais, Maisons, Edifices Modernes, 1798, DM 2777 IN SET

At a time when an earlier generation of successful architects such as François-Joseph Belanger and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux had been imprisoned, broken, and embittered by the new politics of the Revolution, Percier and Fontaine offered something new. They created an alternative image of a (mostly fictitious) Renaissance Rome, filled with neatly reconstructed modern residential buildings and magnificent palaces that drew their inspiration from antiquity. The publication was significant for Parisians, who were recovering from the violent excesses of the Terror, rampant property speculation, horrific inflation, and little in the way of new building projects. Paris needed a new style. Percier and Fontaine’s book provided the neat solution: something modern – from Rome.– Iris Moon

Constant's New Babylon

Constant, New Babylon, 1963, DM 1472.9 IN SET

Shown here is a 1963 drawing of New Babylon. There is almost nothing there – no walls, floors, doors, taps, faucets, toilets, or anything from the world of architecture. Constant has to simulate the role of architecture by producing drawings that resemble architectural drawings only until you look more closely and realise there's nothing architectural in them. So he assembles a variety of non-architectural effects into a sort of simulacrum of architecture. The one thing he will allow himself to draw is these thin panels. He argues that citizens will rearrange a series of panels in the middle of scaffolding to produce the kind of spaces they want to inhabit. New Babylon is a post-revolutionary society, a society of no work, no labour, no exploitation. Production is automated and happens underground so all you have to do is live. – Mark Wigley

MIRALLES – LA GRAN CASA

Enric Miralles, La Gran Casa 2 - plan, 1978 DETAIL 2 IN SET

Each region of the drawing represents something that qualifies the space in its most singular manner. This is, therefore, not a precise exercise in descriptive geometry, but rather a plan of instructions, an exercise in giving a graphic form to the most crucial information. This is a comprehensive and economical system of representation that includes only those drawings that are strictly necessary to the understanding of the overall design. This principle, whereby the drawing system is transformed depending on the architecture it contains and not vice versa, would accompany Miralles for the rest of his career. – Javier Fernández Contreras

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