Superstudio (1966–1978), Infinite mirror model, 1969. Wood with plastic overlay and felt pen, 150 × 300 × 300 mm.
A plan chest quadrupled and supported by two more, with occasional pairs of drawers attached to open as one, this arrangement hints at the constellation’s theme. Atop and at one end of the cabinet sits Superstudio’s Infinite Mirror model, paired with Gian Piero Frassinelli’s 1969 Grid drawing: the mirrored expanse of the cubed grid next to the one-to-one drawing, at once a framed object and a reference to a fifteenth-century viewing device.
Superstudio (1966–1978), Grid, c. 1969. India ink on tracing paper, 427 × 555 mm.
Aldo Rossi (1931–1997), Sketch for competition entry for administrative and cultural centre, Florence, 1977 – 1978. Collage, wax crayon, felt pen and ballpoint pen on paper, 700 × 600 mm.
At the other end is Aldo Rossi’s plan for a Commercial Centre outside Florence, and between these works are two pairings that reinforce the grid even as they deviate from it: first, Shreve and Lamb’s vertical elevator diagrams for the Empire State Building are coupled with Cockerell’s 1813 pavement plan and annotated drawing of the Parthenon, made during his grand tour.
Shreve, Lamb and Harmon (*), Diagram of Elevator Service, Empire State Building, 1930. Pencil on tracing paper, 750 × 473 mm.
Charles Robert Cockerell (1788–1863), Survey of the Parthenon Pavement, 1813. Pen and ink with pencil and grey and orange wash on paper, 820 × 420 mm.
In the former the darkness of the line indicates the floors on which the elevators pass and stop, while in the latter the tone and colour of the ink wash delineates the columns’ various states of ruin or preservation. In the next pairing, Ohmann’s drawing of the Stadthaus in Vienna, with its flâneur-like figures, is coupled with Guy Debord’s Guide Psychogeographique, which effaces the grid in favour of the dérive, a visual wander through the city showing oblique sections of Paris connected by curved arrows – which could be said to represent the curatorial method itself.
Friedrich Ohmann (1858–1927), Competition entry for the City Museum, Vienna, 1903. Ink, pencil and crayon on paper, mounted on card with gold foil framing, 700 × 400 mm.
Guy Debord (1931–1994), Guide psychogéographique de Paris. Discours sur les passions de l’amour, 1957. Lithograph, 595 × 735 mm.
From here one descends drawer by drawer, finding Superstudio’s grids scattered throughout. Originally an ironic proposal for total urbanisation that would extend around the world, today it is often seen as utopian. It ranges in scale from that of furniture in the Istogrammi to the megastructure in Firenze e Ditorni, in which a square blue and silver bar walls off and encloses the city and its environs (yet extends it through reflection).
Superstudio (1966–1978), Istogrammi d'Architettura, 1969. India ink on tracing paper, 620 × 860 mm. © The architects.
Superstudio (1966–1978), Firenze e Ditorni, 1971. Printed map with overdrawing and collage, 690 × 880 mm.
Their collage of the city of Graz, with the superimposed grid, is paired with an anonymous 1870 plan and section of a Citta Capitale Ideata: a mapped territory gridded with coordinates, this visionary drawing includes all the elements – from palace to park – of an ideal capital city, and was used as a teaching device for the instruction of young students of civil architecture. Superstudio’s 1967 Fortezza da Basso project finally breaks from the grid, only to echo the walled structure of Firenze e Ditorni. Fortezza da Basso, designed for a competition, was set within the walls of a sixteenth-century fort designed by Antonio Sangallo the Younger, which itself was situated within the fourteenth-century city walls. Paired with Desprez’s vision of a New Jerusalem, a contrast of technique and intent becomes apparent: in the former, a real project delineated on tracing paper with pencil and ink in plan, drawn at an urban scale; and in the latter, a colourful, detailed strip of watercolour in which the fantasy of a New Jerusalem is imagined and depicted seemingly in miniature.
Superstudio (1966–1978), Graz, 1971. Collaged photographs with overdrawing, 323 × 248 mm.
Anon. (Italian) (*), Pianta topografica di contorni di una Citta Capitale ideata per istruzione della Gioventu studiosa dell'Architettura Civile, c. 1820. Pencil, pen and ink and washes on paper, 605 × 450 mm.
Louis Jean Desprez (1743–1804), Fantasy of the New Jerusalem, c. 1800. Pencil, pen and ink, and watercolour on wove paper, 111 × 620 mm.
Other divergences, other digressions become apparent across and through the drawers: Constant’s anti-architectural and utopian New Babylon, which, in eschewing the place and space of the grid, is devoid of architectural elements – all except the irregularly placed panels that can be reconfigured at the whim of the inhabitant, who is finally freed from work. Meanwhile, in two drawings Alberto Ponis has developed unique notational devices, used on site to map the rugged, rocky topography of Sardegna, locating the architecture within the topography of the drawn mark itself.
Constant (Anton Nieuwenhuys) (1920–2005), Frontispiece for New Babylon, 1963. Lithograph, 155 × 200 mm.
Alberto Ponis (*), Study for Casa Heintzschel, Punta Sardegna, 1986. Pencil, pen and ink and felt pen on paper, 900 × 780 mm.
Moving on: the print of Siza’s 1987 urban plan of Malagueira, shows, in a hard-line drawing, the post-Carnation revolution housing project, situated just outside the city of Evora, with the grid forming the organisational system for the houses. This is juxtaposed with Asprucci’s bucranium and swags, a stucco decoration for the Stanza da Sole in Rome’s Villa Borghese. Such juxtapositions resonate, oscillating between the personal scale of Asprucci’s detail and the urban scale of Siza’s drawing; between a bird’s eye view in plan and a detail in elevation; from the entirety of the urban scheme to the single ornamental element which could be said to convey the entire room; from a social housing project to a private commission by Marcantonio Borghese, one of the most important patrons of his time.
Álvaro Siza (*1933), Plot plan, Quinta da Malagueira, 1987. Photographic print with ink and gouache, 625 × 1195 mm.
Antonio Asprucci (1723–1808), Stucco decoration for Stanza di Sole, Villa Borghese, Rome, c. 1775 – 1780. Charcoal, pencil and grey wash on paper, 377 × 736 mm.
Still there are other hidden musings: the environmental play of repeated trees in Dumont’s cruciform garden, designed after the plan and piazza of St. Peter’s Basilica, possibly for a Cistercian abbey, where the gridded arrangement of individual trees and their shadows gives way to curves derived from the intersection of two ellipses.
Gabriel Pierre Martin Dumont (1720–1791), Garden design following the ground plan of St Peter's, Rome, 1769. Pen, ink, pencil and watercolour on two joined sheets of watermarked laid paper, 710 × 402 mm.
Robert Mylne (1733–1811), Powderhall, near Edinburgh, c. 1780. Pen and ink and watercolour on laid paper, 465 × 315 mm.
Next to this, the Powderhall by Robert Mylne, situated just outside of Edinburgh, that reveals in letters and dotted lines the flow of air throughout the house, reflecting a derivation from grids to immaterial atmospheres.
Anon. (North Indian) (*), Khesi Ghat, Uttar Pradesh, c. 1823. Ink and washes on paper backed on linen, 820 × 740 mm.
Anon. (Italian) (*), Scheme for a temporary tournament structure, Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1650. Brown ink and wash on paper, 275 × 835 mm.
The next drawer down is full of movement – in different situations, of different types, from piazzas and courtyards to stairs, ramps and rivers: walking, driving, stepping, bathing, flowing.
Zünd-Up (*1967), The Great Vienna Auto Expander, 1969. Pencil and red ink on tracing paper, 300 × 490 mm.
A design for a temporary tournament structure for Florence’s Piazza Santa Maria Novella, sits close by a plan drawing of Kheshi Ghat, Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, one of the most sacred sites in India, with steps leading from the gridded structure of the temple complex down to the Yamuna river. Movement is implied in the speed of the car in Zund-Up’s Auto Expander and Michael Webb’s Sin Centre, and even made visible, in Poelzig’s design for a monument, with the gesture of the drawing hand itself.
– Tina di Carlo
Michael Webb (*1937), Sin Centre, Leicester Square, London, 1961. Photocopy with yellow tracing paper and red pantone overlay mounted on board, 210 × 280 mm.
Hans Poelzig (1869–1936), Denkmal im hof der Friedrich Wilhelms Universität, Berlin, 1919 – 1920. Charcoal on tracing paper, 255 × 325 mm.