DRAW: Drawing Space

Text by Frederic Anderson, MFA Fine ArtWimbledon College of Arts
 projection of an architectural drawing of a house
Thursday 22 June 2017, Chelsea College of Arts

Architect Marcus Beale hosted the event, giving a presentation on architectural drawing and its unique approach to the challenges of defining space in two dimensions. Beginning with a whirlwind tour of the history of architectural drawing from its origins up to the present day. We were introduced to the key stages in its evolution, from masons’ marks, through Beaux-Arts, upward axonometrics, choreography, cubism and computer modeling. Rather surprisingly, the talk revealed that our modern conception of architectural drawings as a precursor to and point of reference for the construction of buildings is a relatively recent phenomenon. Before the detailed architectural plans we are familiar with today, buildings were often described in the form of lengthy written texts.

image: Marcus Beale giving his ‘Drawing Space’ presentation

With a background in music, Marcus retains a keen interest in sound. He introduced us to the idea of ‘sound maps’, demonstrating the role they play in architectural planning as well as highlighting their beauty on a purely aesthetic level. One slide I found particularly interesting was a Renaissance town planning map that gave equal weight to positive and negative space for the first time in history – i.e. mapping the spaces between buildings with the same precision and attention to detail as the buildings themselves.

Talking about his own work, Marcus focused on the high-profile project his company implemented at Oriel College, Oxford. He spoke in particular about the breath-taking design feat that is the ‘Origami Roof’ on the Rhodes Building. This is a beautiful, sensitive and highly complex copper-clad roof extension on a Grade II listed building on Oxford’s High St. We were taken on a virtual tour of the complexities behind this project, flicking though the scores of survey drawings and plans that ultimately led to its approval and construction. Speaking eloquently about his firm’s approach to conservation architecture, his passion and sensitivity to the unique challenges it poses were clear to see.

image: Marcus Beale giving his ‘Drawing Space’ presentation

The event also offered Marcus the opportunity to announce a generous new award his company will grant one graduating MA Drawing student each year. A cash prize of £2000 will be awarded to an artist whose work exhibits a particular focus on space.

In the beautiful surroundings of the Green Room, the event concluded with some drinks and a welcome chance to catch up with friends from MA drawing both past and present as well as the opportunity to meet new people from the wider postgraduate community.

More about Marcus Beale:

Marcus Beale is the Director of Marcus Beale Architects (MBA). He founded MBA in 1991. He is an occasional visiting lecturer at various schools of architecture specializing in sound and space and acts as a conservation architect expert witness on major developments in historic settings.