Opening Lines: Sketchbooks of Ten Modern Architects

Opening Lines: Sketchbooks of Ten Modern Architects, installation view
Installation view, upper gallery, showing sketches by Le Corbusier (foreground) and Adolfo Natalini (background).
Opening Lines: Sketchbooks of Ten Modern Architects, installation view of sketches by Marie-José Van Hee
Installation view, lightbox, showing sketches by Marie-Jose Van Hee.
Opening Lines: Sketchbooks of Ten Modern Architects, installation view showing vitrine of NIall McLaughlin with listening devices
Installation view, upper gallery, showing sketchbooks by Niall McLaughlin (with listening devices).
Opening Lines: Sketchbooks of Ten Modern Architects, installation view
Installation view, lower gallery, showing sketches by Álvaro Siza (foreground), Hans Poelzig (middle ground) and Alberto Ponis (background).
Opening Lines: Sketchbooks of Ten Modern Architects, installation view of sketchbooks and film with Álvaro Siza
Installation view, lower gallery, with film of Álvaro Siza and his sketchbooks (left and right).

Sketchbooks are characterised by a particular combination of qualities: portability, informality, tactility and privacy. Often of a size that fits into a pocket or a bag, they are as mobile as the architect, their casual status permits the impromptu and incomplete, they demand to be touched, and their closed covers do not presume any viewer other than the creator. The role of sketchbooks within an architect’s practice varies from individual to individual. They are used for both observational

sketches in which drawing is a way of looking and understanding, and for design sketches in which drawing is a way of thinking and problem-solving. At times the sketch is overtaken by the textual: notes, a train schedule, a financial log, an appointment missed or kept, a phone number, portraits of friends. The sketchbook can also accommodate ephemera and found objects: an exhibition ticket, a business card, a receipt, a pressed flower. Sketchbooks have a hybrid nature. In the broadest sense, they are a place for drawings. Yet they distinguish themselves from the drawing board and plan chest by being a site for both the making and keeping of drawings. The sketchbook is an object in its own right – a tool with its own material specificity that has an effect on what is created and on the creator. Yet it is perhaps most revealingly understood as the site for a practice, one that assembles itself on the pages and which travels within the binding.

The sketchbooks exhibited here, largely selected from the Drawing Matter collection, explore architectural sketchbooks, their possibilities and limits. They present the different sketchbook practices of ten modern architects: Le Corbusier, Hans Poelzig, Adolfo Natalini/ Superstudio, Álvaro Siza, Alberto Ponis, Peter Märkli, Tony Fretton, Marie-José Van Hee, Níall McLaughlin and Riet Eeckhout. The sketchbook practices range from impromptu sketches in a pocket-sized format to the transformation of the sketchbook on the drawing board, and from the systematic sketching of details in numbered volumes to the complete replacement of the bound book by a simple folded sheet carried on site. In parallel, the exhibition explores the parameters of displaying sketchbooks, considering how an object designed to be held and leafed through can be presented within the requirements of a museum setting. The challenges include conveying what is in fact a sequence of consecutive pages through a single page opening; transforming what is often a private object into a public one; and re-introducing the voice of the architect that narrates the marks on paper. We have employed a variety of approaches here, including film and audio, each chosen to correspond to the sketchbook practice of each architect. The project therefore considers the content and materiality of sketchbooks both within an architect’s oeuvre and in the context of institutional display. It is one manifestation of an ongoing Drawing Matter research project into the architectural sketchbook.

Olivia Horsfall Turner
Niall Hobhouse

This exhibition is on view at the Tchoban Foundation Museum for Architectural Drawing in Berlin, through 7 October 2018.