New Book | Survey: Architecture Iconographies

Posted in books by Editor on June 11, 2022

Distributed by The University of Chicago Press:

Matthew Wells, Survey: Architecture Iconographies, edited by Sarah Handelman (Zurich: Park Books, 2021), 176 pages, ISBN: 978-3038602507, $50.

An exploration of the history and significance of the architectural survey drawing through focused studies on John Soane, Charles Robert Cockerell, Detmar Blow, Louis-Hippolyte Lebas, Henri Labrouste, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, and Peter Märkli.

When architects visit a building and want to record or identify what they see, they take out a bundle of folded sheets in search of a blank piece of paper. These sheets may be ground plans, diagrams, sketches, or ordnance maps. In one way or another, all are survey drawings, operating as both documentation and analysis, enabling an architect to examine certain conditions of the built environment, whether geometric, relational, material, or technical.

This book explores the history of the survey and its multiple forms in order to understand how the methods of recording what already exists can also be used to imagine what might be. Lavishly illustrated, with works from the collection of Drawing Matter and beyond, it addresses the multiple forms of the survey through focused studies—on John Soane (1753–1837), Charles Robert Cockerell (1788–1863), and Detmar Blow (1867–1939); French architects Louis-Hippolyte Lebas (1782–1867), Henri Labrouste (1801–75), and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814–79); and Swiss-based Peter Märkli (born 1953)—and an extensive section of plates with commentaries by contemporary architects. In doing so, it maintains that while all surveys begin with the site, the outcomes are as idiosyncratic as their authors—and their methods have much to offer as tools in design practice.

Survey is the first volume of Architecture Iconographies, a series that considers architecture through its typologies and unique approaches to drawing, aiming to open up further possibilities for their contemporary use in design and teaching. The series is published in collaboration with Drawing Matter, based in Somerset, England, which is committed to exploring the role of drawing in architectural thought and practice.

Matthew Wells is a lecturer and postdoc researcher at ETH Zurich’s Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture. The focus of his research and writing is on representational techniques, environmental technologies, and professionalism in the built environment of the 19th and 20th centuries.

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