absent rounds


butterflies / farfalle, 2022

A project is something with a short but intense life, from which a couple thousand drawings usually emerge. Fabricated by a dozen hands, these drawings outline a vast number of aspects. They are diverse, both in aim and scope, and appear in waves.

They include brutal ‘proofs of feasibility’ assuming what the authorities will allow to build, purposely boring or misleading descriptions for the bureaucrats at said authorities, slightly less boring or misleading drawings for the clients, ridiculous ones to annoy colleagues, landscape plans and site plans that are royally ignored, demolition drawings for the municipality, demolition drawings for the builders, diagrams to show the client where the South is, plans with dimensions, and without, with furniture and scale figures, and then without, or the other way around, with the pavement pattern, or without, drawings of options, of options of options, of options of options of options, of option 4E combined with option 27C, attempts to start from scratch, to ‘try something radically else’, drawings showing the clients that their old blue car actually fits in the garage, plumbing and electrical drawings with lots of colours, structural drawings with fewer colours, drawings that serve as legends to execution packages, drawings of the kitchen cabinets, of the kitchen counter, of the kitchen shelves, of the kitchen backdrop, of the kitchen colour scheme, partial drawings breaking the whole into parts, and then the parts into smaller parts, and then the smaller parts into raw essences, which are then reassembled into precisely crude details to be rethought on site anyway, drawings done with lasers or chalks on the surfaces of an unfinished carcass, last-minute corrections because the new grey car doesn’t fit in the garage, half-poetic collages in dozens of variations, fingertip-doodles on iphone photos of construction sites, syrupy drawings explaining proportions and invisible rasters, drawings attempting to bring together everything, but that end up describing shades of confusion, hand sketches and sketches made by many hands, maps and measurements of lines meeting in certain points, or not meeting at all, resolutions found in curvatures, tangents, obliques, alignments, and missed alignments.

Obviously this vast, composite family doesn’t come without hierarchies. Some drawings are meant for the trash-bin, some to prove a point, some end up in a frame. Still, one of the essential values of a project is that it can’t be reduced to any single drawing or image. It is untamed, multi-faceted, and the diversity of drawings is just a reflection of this fact. None of the drawings is enough, and none of them is superfluous. They form an archipelago, along with other images of the project. Ultimately, what we conceive flows in between the islands. It is a mental construction, something that is grasped through a certain kind of abstraction and compilation process, even if from just a couple of views or drawings.

Furthermore, anything belonging to the archipelago of the project should be understood as drawing. Physical models, digital models, photographs, writings, construction sites and finished buildings are all reflections of the mental construction, a certain way to look at it. Edgar Degas said it better: “The drawing is not the form. It is the manner to see the form.” Each mode of representation is both a tool (something that is used to let the project emerge and develop) and a lens (something which provides a viewpoint on the project). Forming and informing are not dissociable. They are a single act.

So, within the architecture atelier, the following can be said: As long as this act takes place – as long as drawings appear – the project can be diagnosed as ‘alive’. It retains a certain naivety towards itself, a capacity to transform, an openness. Each line starts somewhere and seeks itself along the way, holding a variety of possible endings, informed by the entire trajectory and that of neighbouring gestures. The process should not (and truly cannot) be reduced to a recipe, nor to pure randomness or whim. Foggy weathers make for the best runs. The tension between the given and the unknown is a necessity, the only hope for some sort of relevance. Drawings, in the broadest sense, are therefore crucial. Through the fabrication tools that allow to see (or the seeing tools that allow to fabricate), the results capture traces of the process, and of its indeterminacy. One could say that a project is never fully there, given. It retains something of the drawn lines’ search. It is inconsistent in the original sense of the word, lacking full presence, even when perfectly ‘resolved’. Borrowing an image from Alexandre Kojève:

Let us consider a gold ring. There is a hole, and this hole is just as essential to the ring as the gold is: without the gold, the "hole" (which, moreover, would not exist) would not be a ring; but without the hole the gold (which would nonetheless exist) would not be a ring either. (…) The hole is a nothingness that subsists (as the presence of an absence) thanks to the gold which surrounds it.

Likewise, architecture projects could be understood as absences which form and deform what surrounds them, via reflections that one could call drawings (and which, once again, include the building themselves). For better or worse, these effects are impossible to apprehend in full. They participate in a relationship of mutual dependency which is itself complex, multi-faceted, immeasurable.

The one hundred and five drawings of the previous pages were produced specifically for the present publication. They are bi-dimensional assemblages of lines distilled from some projects – a variety of figures blooming from the precise handling of a limited set of gestures. However, the projects might seem somewhat absent. The drawings are not preparatory nor explanatory. They are not exactly meant to be studied, nor to be enjoyed as art. They have no higher meaning. They do not truly belong anywhere, so we thought that a book might be a good place for them to live (or die) happy.