Undisciplined Drawing in Archaeology and Architecture

In 2013 I wrote a paper called The Undisciplined Drawing.[1] It developed some thoughts and some practice which became a chapter in, and a key aspect of, my PhD.[2] Intrinsic to these thoughts was, and still is, the work of archaeologist Lesley McFadyen (a previous post here describes some current research I am doing with Lesley and others).

Last week, at the Bartlett School of Architecture, Lesley brought together a group of like-minded researchers at an event she called Archaeology – Drawing – Architecture. In addition to me, we were (by order of presentation):

Dr Rose Ferraby, Cambridge. Dr Emma Cheatle (not able to attend but we viewed and discussed the drawings she sent in her absence), Sheffield. Dr Marianne Hem Eriksen, Cambridge. Dr Huda Tayob, UCL. Kevin Kay, Cambridge. Dr Lesley McFadyen, Birkbeck.

Must FarmLesley McFadyen, Alessandro Zambelli with Lizzy Middleton at Must Farm. 2012, Digital photograph.

The photograph above was the first slide of my presentation and depicts an important moment of transdisciplinary practice during my PhD research. It was also enormous fun.

Ferraby_Thwing, Screenprint, 2009Rose Ferraby. Thwing, Screenprint, 2009

Rose Ferraby’s beautiful landscapes recalled Henry Moore as she pointed out, but Ben Nicholson and Paul Nash were there too, I think. Intriguingly these paintings and prints are rendered from sources often thought of and used as archaeological data (aerial photographs and geophysical surveys for example). Thus, they become analogous objects removed from their source, the landscape, but also, somehow, simultaneously connecting back to it, “slow, temporal formation of layers of landscape on the paper reflects the stratigraphies we unpick and decipher in the ground”[3] as Rose puts it.

final.inddEmma Cheatle. Dust Dissection A2, Maison de Verre, collections and photocopies, 2010

With Pierre Chareau’s Maison de Verre as one locus of Emma Cheatle’s drawings there is a palpable sense of loss; for the building that was, for the people that were, for some fugitive means of representation which often, reluctantly it seems, is drawing, all to gain some kind of purchase upon this storied and often misrepresented building. Drawing, Cheatle warns “as a practice […] is a foe where writing is a friend.”[4]

House 1 from Håbakken, Rogaland, redrawn and amended by MHE after Hemdorrf 1987)Marianne Hem Eriksen. House 1 from Håbakken, Rogaland, redrawn and amended by MHE after Hemdorrf 1987)

There is an enjoyable tension in Marianne Hem Eriksen’s work. One aspect of it painstakingly documents a multitude of Scandinavian three-aisled longhouse plans, establishing a remarkable persistence of form despite profound social and political changes. Shown together, the plans become abstracted; a form of notation or writing. But this tendency is cunningly and abruptly halted by the superimposition of the vanished buildings’ ‘shadows.’ Shadows of the vanished buildings, but crucially shadows of the inhabitants too, “the inhabitants forged critical moments of their lives (deaths, marriages, childbirths, etc) into the materiality of the house, through construction, deposition, rebuilding, and abandonment.”[5]

TayobHuda Tayob. Drawing of Fatima’s shop in Huda Tayob (2018) Subaltern Architectures: Can Drawing “Tell” a Different Story?, Architecture and Culture, 6:1, 213

A typology of the accidental and the contingent, the meticulously observed plans and sections of Huda Tayob speak to the lives of the otherwise voiceless.[6] Absent representationally but very present in the force of their occupation; they seem to have just left, or are about to arrive. The passage of time is brief (what are centuries in Marianne’s work and millennia in Lesley’s and Kevin’s, are implied moments in Huda’s) but marked and felt. Huda, following Gayatri Spivak, suggests that “researchers should learn to ‘speak to’ as opposed to ‘speak for’ the subaltern where ‘speaking to’ is an active gesture, which involves a transaction between a speaker and a listener”[7]

Kay_Kevin Kay. Space with depth. (a) Human burial below house floors, dug by following theedge of an earlier grave cut so as to expose the earlier burial’s skull (b) embedding ofthinning flakes in a wall, with later burial of the end-product (obsidian blade) nearby.

If drawings conventionally understood within their respective disciplines struggle to engage with the temporal, the inhabited, then what other kinds of representational practice are available? Kevin Kay’s beautifully legible charts eloquently describe the ebbs and flows of things and space in time. He argues that “extruding time from conventional representations allows me to push beyond worn-out archaeological treatments of buildings as passive scenery or arbitrary signifiers of social order, and instead to think about the process of making and knowing the social world through buildings.”[8]

McFadyen_Section through the Barleycroft ring ditch, CambridgeshireLesley McFadyen. Section through the Barleycroft ring ditch, Cambridgeshire

The passage of time and the otherwise imperceptible movement of objects in time are described and made present through the force of gesture and mark-making in Lesley McFadyen’s archaeological drawings “I try to draw time in the material,” she explains, “that is the speed/duration of movements/actions.”[9] McFadyen works broadly within the discipline of archaeology but strives to fundamentally disrupt its normalising representational practices; its propensity to render temporally complex and inhabitationally rich prehistory as static deadened space. More than this Lesley understands the drawing practices of archaeologists “as creative, and […] adventurous.”[10]

Marking the passage of time through drawing; it’s speed and duration, even its inversions, is important to all of these practitioners and in my work. But what struck me most of all was a general feeling of the inadequacy of disciplinary, disciplined drawing. So, this is what I wrote for the seminar:[11]

Do architects and archaeologists draw differently and do the instrumentalities implicit in their drawings stand opposed to one another as is often casually assumed – one future-facing and the other orientated towards the past?

It has been argued that archaeology is like architecture in reverse.[12] If architecture looks to the future by making drawn propositions then archaeology designs also, but in the form of reconstructions of the past. I would argue further that design and reconstruction are simultaneously central to both disciplines and are forms of propositional making; archaeologists have no direct access to the past and so their reconstructions are compelled to be propositional, and that equally, architectural propositions are reconstructive. As Nicholas Stanley-Price has put it, “a reconstructed building – if based primarily on excavated evidence – must be considered a new building (reconstruction as a creative act).”[13] Archaeology reveals for architecture a form of making based on practice whose connection to the past is not, as with architecture, predicated on quasi-mysterious canons of ancient form-making and monographic histories but which makes available both evidence-based and interpretive practices (for example; particular excavation techniques, assemblage, finds interpretation, all of which will be discussed in more detail below). But the reliance of mainstream archaeology upon, in particular, empirical evidence to the exclusion of more speculative reconstructive design, should not replace the playfulness central to conventional design disciplines. Because for archaeology, architecture in its turn, can reveal precisely that invention and speculative engagement with, often, ambiguous or contradictory evidence (for example; site, programme, technology) which defines and provokes the design practice latent within it.

These disciplinary inversions make available to archaeology, but also to architecture, a shift in understanding of what a reconstruction or a design might be for – what it is capable of doing. What for the architect are fragments of brief (proposals from a client for a building), context (the physical, historical, political and economic environment from which a design and any subsequent building might emerge) and tectonics (the way a design and any subsequent building might be put together), for the archaeologist, this thesis argues, are analogous fragments of evidence. And although it is something of a truism that the collection and use of these fragments for the archaeologist faces the past (what did the building look like to which these fragments belonged?) and for the architect faces the future (what will the building look like to which these fragments belong?), I would argue that this has little effect other than to occlude the over-arching propositional character of both design and reconstruction. That is, at the moment of enquiry – in the present – there is no building, but the design, just like the reconstruction, proposes one.

I am interested in drawing practices and tools less strongly associated or, in some cases completely unassociated, with any putative parent discipline (in particular architecture and archaeology), but which might nevertheless be used meaningfully within those disciplines. These types and techniques might be called undisciplined.

Main Image: Alessandro Zambelli, Session 6, Archaeological Illustration and Imaging Unit­, Institute of Archaeology: Photograph and ventral drawing of a rabbit cranium. 2010.

_____________________________________________________________

Cheatle, Emma. “‘Seeking Drawings’ – Drawing-or-Writing as Practice.” Paper presented at the Archaeology – Drawing – Architecture Seminar/Workshop, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London (15th Feb.), 2019.

Ferraby, Rose. “Drawing Practice.” Paper presented at the Archaeology – Drawing – Architecture Seminar/Workshop, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London (15th Feb.), 2019.

Hem Eriksen, Marianne. “Imbuing Shadow-Houses with Life: Late Prehistoric Scandinavia, 1600 Bce-1000 Ce.” Paper presented at the Archaeology – Drawing – Architecture Seminar/Workshop, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London (15th Feb.), 2019.

Kay, Kevin. “The Textures and Times of Prehistoric Houses: ÇatalhöyüK, Turkey, 7000—5950 Bce.” Paper presented at the Archaeology – Drawing – Architecture Seminar/Workshop, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London (15th Feb.), 2019.

McFadyen, Lesley. “Time in Materials, Movement in Lines – Archaeological Architectural Drawing.” Paper presented at the Archaeology – Drawing – Architecture Seminar/Workshop, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London (15th Feb.), 2019.

Shanks, Michael, and Christopher Tilley. Re-Constructing Archaeology: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, 1992.

Shanks, Michael, and Christopher Witmore. “Memory Practices and the Archaeological Imagination in Risk Society: Design and Long Term Community.” Stanford University.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Can the Subaltern Speak?”. In Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, 271-314. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

Stanley-Price, Nicholas. “The Reconstruction of Ruins: Principles and Practice.” In Archaeological Sites : Conservation and Management, edited by Sharon Sullivan and Richard Mackay, 514-27. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2012.

Tayob, Huda. “Drawing the Field.” Paper presented at the Archaeology – Drawing – Architecture Seminar/Workshop, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London (15th Feb.), 2019.

Zambelli, Alessandro. “Do Architects and Archaeologists Draw Differently….” Paper presented at the Archaeology – Drawing – Architecture Seminar/Workshop, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London (15th Feb.), 2019.

———. “Scandalous Artefacts: Visual and Analogical Practice between Architecture and Archaeology.” UCL: unpublished PhD Thesis, 2016.

———. “The Undisciplined Drawing.” Buildings 3, no. 2 (2013): 357-79.

_____________________________________________________________

[1] Alessandro Zambelli, “The Undisciplined Drawing,” Buildings 3, no. 2 (2013).

[2] “Scandalous Artefacts: Visual and Analogical Practice between Architecture and Archaeology” (UCL: unpublished PhD Thesis, 2016).

[3] Rose Ferraby, “Drawing Practice” (paper presented at the Archaeology – Drawing – Architecture Seminar/Workshop, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London (15th Feb.), 2019).

[4] Emma Cheatle, “‘Seeking Drawings’ – Drawing-or-Writing as Practice” (ibid.).

[5] Marianne Hem Eriksen, “Imbuing Shadow-Houses with Life: Late Prehistoric Scandinavia, 1600 Bce-1000 Ce” (ibid.).

[6] Huda Tayob, “Drawing the Field” (ibid.).

[7] Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987).

[8] Kevin Kay, “The Textures and Times of Prehistoric Houses: ÇatalhöyüK, Turkey, 7000—5950 Bce” (paper presented at the Archaeology – Drawing – Architecture Seminar/Workshop, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London (15th Feb.), 2019).

[9] Lesley McFadyen, “Time in Materials, Movement in Lines – Archaeological Architectural Drawing” (ibid.).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Alessandro Zambelli, “Do Architects and Archaeologists Draw Differently…” (ibid.).

[12] For example: Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley, Re-Constructing Archaeology: Theory and Practice (London: Routledge, 1992). and; Michael Shanks and Christopher Witmore, “Memory Practices and the Archaeological Imagination in Risk Society: Design and Long Term Community,” Stanford University.

[13] Nicholas Stanley-Price, “The Reconstruction of Ruins: Principles and Practice,” in Archaeological Sites : Conservation and Management, ed. Sharon Sullivan and Richard Mackay (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2012), 522.

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