The two-dimensional surface has always served as a testing ground for architectural concepts such as composition, volume, and the interplay of light and shadow. The same surface also serves a second important function: that of recording, interpreting and disseminating the object and spatial qualities of architecture.
While Le Corbusier’s work is the epitome of the role of sketch as creative experiment of ideas, Hugh Ferris’ charcoal renderings exemplify the latter role of subjective interpretation of space by artist.
Before he went on to become the most prominent protagonist of Modernist architecture – and one of the greatest architects of all time – Le Corbusier, or Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, traveled the world to visit architectural masterpieces and record them in his watercolor sketches. “Architecture,” he wrote, “is the learned game, correct and magnificent, of forms assembled in the light.”
That is exactly what I would like to do. I want to follow Le Corbusier’s path across Europe to experience first hand some of the classic architectural wonders that inspired him as a young architect. I want to encounter and interpret these great buildings in my own sketches in order to give them yet another subjective reading.
I intend to visit some of Le Corbusier’s most significant destinations: in Berlin, the AEG Turbine Factory (1910) which was designed by his employer, Peter Behrens; in Paris, the Bibliothèque Nationale (1860-7), designed by Henri Labrouste, where Le Corbusier spent long days studying the history and theory of architecture; in Florence, the Carthusian Monasteries at Val d’Ema (founded 1341), whose cellular interiors inspired his later work; in Rome, St. Peters Basilica (1506), designed by Michelangelo and others; in Tivoli, Hadrian’s Villa (approx. 200 AD); in Athens, the Parthenon on the Acropolis (447-432BC), built by Iktinos and Kallikrates; and in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia (532-7 AD), designed by Isidore of Miletus & Anthemius of Tralles.
I want to use charcoal as my primary medium of communication: “By using the one medium incapable of depicting the eclectic surface trivia that preoccupy Manhattan’s architects, Ferriss’ drawings strip as much as render. With each representation he liberates an honest building from under the surface excess” (Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York).
Charcoal has the spontaneous, soft quality of watercolor and the roughness of pastel edges. Its monochrome nature allows the artist to explore the subject in terms of tones – highlights and shadows sculpted by light to create psychologically inhabitable space on the 2D surface. I want to create the sort of “perspective poetry” in which Ferriss envisioned a great new metropolis.
The funding from the award will be used to pay for airline, railway and bus expenses; hostel lodging; food; art equipment; and emergency expenses.
My project will culminate in an online blog, a travel notebook with drawings and notes from various destinations, a sketchbook, and 3-5 panels of charcoal renderings, each larger than 4ft x 4ft.