Phase Two Work : Jeffrey Xu

Depthy Architectury by Jeffrey Xu

Is a drawing two-dimensional or three-dimensional? Obviously the answer one would immediately assume is two-dimensional because a drawing is inherently flat. However, the answer is not so clear when three-dimensionality is classified as a perception. How can something flat appear to occupy space? Many things can be done such as adding tone and perspective. Then a drawing lacks the perception of two-dimensionality and the possibilities that go with it. Can the two be balanced? That is the pursuit of the drawing.

Initially, the drawing was an isometric projection of flat portions of a model of an actual building. The model did not exist three-dimensionally yet had many properties to be recognizable as spatial. The isometric quality and the portions were kept in the current drawing so it lacks the depth associated with converging lines. Depth is instead created through variation in tone of the lines. Some lines are darker than others because they would be closer if the drawing was changed to a perspective. Not only that, the lines (especially further away) can be seen as areas of complete and partial enclosure. Volume is also introduced through the surfaces being copied and rotated about their centroids. Thus, while volumes themselves are not present, the surfaces coupled with the spacing between rotations imply volume.

Space is balanced by flatness. The lines are not thick enough to be interpreted as constructible. Some lines appear neither in front nor behind others. Depth dissolves due to tone variation becoming less the further away the lines are. That is comparable to Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s “The Staircase with Trophies” in which the far spaces have less variation in hatching than the close spaces.1 Furthermore, the entire surface of the paper is covered with a pattern to further lessen depth.

The question remains going ahead, can the drawing be made into a building? Perhaps what should be asked first is it is an architectural drawing (as that type of drawing allows for a building to be constructed). The answer is yes and no as was the answer to whether the drawing has depth or not. Its hatch pattern and arrangement of the pattern was achieved through coding. That is comparable to how knitting is, “…a notational system based on the knotting and looping of threads or strings,”2 to create a pattern. Systems of codes, as with systems of knots, are used to generate. Thus, the drawing is architectural because notation is also required when making drawings that must be translated into buildings.

The drawing is not architectural because it is not, “…an assemblage of spatial and material notations that can be decoded, according to a series of shared conventions, in order to effect a transformation of reality at a distance from the author.”3 It is not intended to be a set of instructions for how to construct. It lacks the information to be built with accuracy such as measurements and scale. It can be used to help construct a building through utilizing the forms. However, the vast amount of interpretation required separates it from an architectural drawing.

The drawing cannot be classified as belonging to a single group and so is autonomous. Those qualities are what make it abundant in generative diversity. The ambiguity allows it to be changed, even slightly, into something new without appearing as if the new was based on it. The translation to building can be hinted at by analyzing Kengo Kuma’s “GC Prostho Museum Research Center.”4 The building appears to lose clear articulation along the sides because the grids are no longer enclosed and mere lines fade into the background. In addition, a degree of flatness is present because the grids are all oriented the same. The goal would be to change the drawing into a building while still maintaining the balance of qualities, as just trying would allow for new forms and ways of organizing to emerge.

  1. Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Staircase with Trophies, 1745-1750. Etching on laid paper, 53.8 x 39.9cm. Siskind Center / Minskoff Center.
  2. Ingold, Tim. “Chapter 2 Traces, Threads, and Surfaces.” In Lines: A Brief History (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007), 64.
  3. Allen, Stan. “Mapping the Unmappable on Notation.” In Stan Allen Essays, Practice, Architecture, Technique and Representation with Commentary by Diana Agrest (Amsterdam: The Gordon and Breach Publishing Group, 2000), 32.
  4. Kengo Kuma and Associates, GC Prostho Museum Research Center, 2010. Wood, 626.5m^2. 2-294 Torii Matsu Machi, Kasuga-shi, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.

This is a RISD Architecture advanced (aka "option") studio conducted in the spring of 2016 by Assistant Professor Carl Lostritto. The students reserve copyright for all work. Email Carl ( who can put you in touch with students for permission to re-publish elsewhere.