Exploring spatial construction of the European city through photography and drawing

Architecture and photography are similar in that they both depend on light for effective expression. The two media share the need to contain space, define surfaces, textures and materiality, and convey a sense of place. Although these two forms of expression have similar objectives, I find that often times their interactions are dilute and one-dimensional. Photography is commonly used as a way of documenting a place rather than giving a sense of an individual’s experience there, leading to a flat, undeveloped understanding of space.

Photography can be used in a similar way that drawings and models are used to describe an architectural idea. I’m interested in exploring how a combination of drawing and photography can be used to describe space in a more representational way that allude to unique qualities of a space. In initial experiments, I’ve used the double exposure effect on film cameras. This effect allows you to expose two images on one negative. Using this effect has produced interesting and unexpected images. The results are serendipitous juxtapositions of spaces that show scalar changes, shifting axis, layering of space, and figural negation, among other things. The setting for this exploration will be in Vicenza, Italy, so my research will be about exploring and representing certain typologies of the European city. I plan on using photography to describe more fully the experiences of a traveler in the city, not as a way of pure documentation but in a way that expresses an experiential understanding of the city.

My goal is to express spatial perception in a certain context through photography and drawing. I will use photography to create a series of layered images that describe my experience of the city. After these images are compiled, I will create analytical drawings to further explore spatial relationships of the European city.

Double-exposure photographs I made in Paris and London- these were my initial inspirations for this project

Enmeshed experience: Partial Views

“Unlike a static view or an image, the dynamic experience of our perception develops from a series of overlapping urban perspectives unfold according to angle and speed of movement… the partially described paths through urban geometries remain in doubt, always changing. A series of views from a stationary position is constructed between horizontal, diagonal, or vertical movement. No single view of a building or urban space can be complete, as the perception of a built object is altered by its relationship to near and far, solid and void, the sky and the street.”

-from Urbanisms: Working with Doubt by Steven Holl, pg. 26

from Retrospecta

Inspirations found in Italy:
Julie Mehretu (seen at the punta della dogana museum in Venice)

visual vocabulary of maps, urban projects, and architectural plans.

superimpose elements such as columns, facades and doors on graphs, plans and elevations

added geometric forms

compression of time and space

photographs of an imaginary reality

personal collective “identity”

Preliminary studies in Vicenza- the Basilica. circulation, proximity, promenade, piazza

Venezia (edge, in-between, open space. light and dark)

11.11.11 the new plan- combine USP and sketching class. make perspective drawings of urban space/life with experiential vignettes…

11.12-goal-spend at least 2 hrs drawing everyday. These drawings will focus on the basilica, the edge conditions around it, forms of circulation it creates.

today’s drawing- paths to the piazza, trying to show the basilica as a porous facade…

13.11 Today’s drawing- the basilica’s unusual edge condition on its southwest corner, its function as circulation to the piazza

btw, these are really bad photographs of drawings, I need to find a scanner bigger than 8.5×11

14.11 Today- received my film photos


19.11 Today’s drawing

25.11 Today’s drawing: Sketch for drawing of paralax tower

 += analysis of compression/expansion

30.11.11 Oggi: Ho prendato i miei foto. How to integrate photos with drawings: interpret suggested spaces from perspective/photograph to plan/axo. Sketches from photos taken in Belfort, France:


massive suspended volume


repetitions, juxtapositions, intrusions

the coolest photo I took.

February 6, 2012- update

Obviously, I haven’t been working on this project enough. I’m feeling guilty about it because I wanted this to be a really cool project, and I’ve been dropping the ball. I guess there’s still some time… The last time I made a big effort to draw everyday I was still in Italy. Then I got sick and way to busy with studio… I have plenty of excuses I can make now but I’m not going to. I’m just going to dedicate time at least 3 times a week to this project, to try to scrape something together. Now that I’m back in Gainesville, this exercise can be more like a reminiscence of my time in Italy. Which will be good not only for my drawing skills and also as a way to de-stress. And hopefully meeting some of my commitments will make me stop feeling this feeling that I don’t really have my things together.

Step one: Scan drawings made in Italy

Perspective in Castelvecchio- made on the day I lost my voice

The basilica seen from Piazza dei Signori. While I drew this, lots of Italian children were running around watching me draw, and asking me, “Conosci Lady Gaga?”

The back of the basilica, my favorite part. I like the strange way it juxtaposes the buildings next to it. In that building was bar venticinque, where you could have a spritz upstairs and practically touch the basilica from the window.

This is the more measured version of the previous drawing.

When I look at these drawings, I think they seem pretty boring. When I was in Vicenza, I realized what type of drawing I was interested in making, and so far these aren’t them. I want to have drawings that are about the spatial experience of the city. I’ve already stated that in my proposal, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Now I know that I need to combine these measured drawings with a bigger variety of drawing elements that describe the light, surfaces, ways people inhabit the urban space of the city, and all these more fleeting aspects of the experience of the city. I still haven’t used the photographs I’ve taken in my drawings, I need to start combining them and other types of architectural information into my drawings. Ok, enough talk, time to start making something.

This drawing is a maquette for a drawing I would like to make about the two main faces of the basilica- their differences and connections. I think these drawings should be more layered to have a sense of moving through a city- the overlapping perspectives, change in relationship from sky to street, qualities of light, etc.