Drawing on Architecture: The Object of Lines, 1970-1990

How architectural drawings emerged as aesthetic objects, promoted by a network of galleries, collectors, and institutions, and how this changed the understanding of architecture.

Investigator

Architectural drawings enjoyed a golden sunset of appreciation in the 1970s and early 1980s in the glow of postmodernism and on the eve of CAD's conquest of architectural offices and schools. Kauffman offers a snapshot of that vital, if now largely forgotten, episode in the history of architectural representation when the world of art museums, commercial galleries, and private collectors briefly focused on architectural representation.

Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Columbia University

Prior to the 1970s, buildings were commonly understood to be the goal of architectural practice; architectural drawings were seen simply as a means to an end. But, just as the boundaries of architecture itself were shifting at the end of the twentieth century, the perception of architectural drawings was also shifting; they began to be seen as autonomous objects outside the process of building. In Drawing on Architecture, Jordan Kauffman offers an account of how architectural drawings—promoted by a network of galleries and collectors, exhibitions and events—emerged as aesthetic objects and ultimately attained status as important cultural and historical artifacts, and how this was both emblematic of changes in architecture and a catalyst for these changes.

Kauffman traces moments of critical importance to the evolution of the perception of architectural drawings, beginning with exhibitions that featured architectural drawings displayed in ways that did not elucidate buildings but treated them as meaningful objects in their own right. When architectural drawings were seen as having intrinsic value, they became collectible, and Kauffman chronicles early collectors, galleries, and sales. He discusses three key exhibitions at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York; other galleries around the world that specialized in architectural drawings; the founding of architecture museums that understood and collected drawings as important cultural and historical artifacts; and the effect of the new significance of architectural drawings on architecture and architectural history.

Drawing on interviews with more than forty people directly involved with the events described and on extensive archival research, Kauffman shows how architectural drawings became the driving force in architectural debate in an era of change.

Drawing of Architecture: The Object of Lines, 1970-1990
The MIT Press, June 2018
ISBN 9780262037372
384 pages, 7" × 9"