Not for Construction
Is there anything more crucial to architectural design than drawing? Whether digitally or hand-rendered, it is the first step on any project big or small. These plans are given center stage in a group show at the recently opened gallery-turned-print shop-turned physical archive a83. “Not for Construction” presents never-before-seen architectural drawings by four designers—Bruna Canepa, Sean Canty, Adam Charlap Hyman, and Clement Laurencio. The works were selected not for the final structures they symbolize, but for the sketches themselves. Released from their bounds as a step toward a construction end, these architectural drawings become infinite vessels for thought and visual analysis, and help an audience breach the ever-illusive inner workings of a designer’s pure creative mind.
The exhibition’s four participants will be familiar to those who experienced the gallery’s first show last summer. “Working Remotely” was curated from an open-source call for designs. But the work the architects and designers have on display now feels quite different from their debuts. In tandem to their practices in realized structures, each explores an art: for Canepa, hand-drawings on paper in ink and colored pencil render miniature construction sites where familiar geometries—stone slabs, scaffolding, gridded land—are abstracted; for Canty, serigraph prints explore extruded gables and the protective shapes they could form; for Laurencio, meticulous graphite drawings imagine fictional structures a la the Italian Futurists of the 1910s; and for Charlap Hyman, a series of four intricate cut-paper works envision a monument’s ruin. What they share, too, is their purpose: a want to communicate concepts outside of the traditional realm of architecture.
“Ideas in architecture are often compromised by clients, contractors and gravity,” gallery co-founders Phillip Denny, Clara Syme, and Owen Nichols explain. “The four participants’ representational practices don’t necessarily have budgets, clients or explicit use-values.” Thus, the importance of unbuilt or not-for-construction work lies in its freedom from such constraints, whether the result is physically buildable or not.
The show also underscores an oft-overlooked truth: that the practice of architecture is more than the shiny renderings and the structures that follow them. It is an exercise in creativity and experimental problem-solving. The act of ideation is a radical venture, and putting it to paper where its concept can be displayed, recorded, and archived helps to advance the profession in thought as well as in form. —Elizabeth Fazzare
Bruna Canepa, Drawing 1, 2021. Ink, colored pencil, and dry transfer on paper. 23.6 x 15.5 inches. Photography by Vincent Tullo.