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Monday, September 29, 2008

Book Review: Graphic Anatomy

Graphic Anatomy by Atelier Bow-Wow
Toto, 2008

Most architectural monographs favor photographs and computer-generated renderings over the architectural drawings that make the finished building possible. Ironically, where photographs tend to remove people from their idealized compositions, renderings in the age of Photoshop do the opposite, but rairly in the manner in which a space will be used; People are used as scale figures rather than an influence on the design of the spaces. What's surprising, and amazing, about the latest book from Japan's Atelier Bow-Wow is the way it gives architectural drawings the appeal of renderings, by giving them the depth of perspectives and populating them in a way that it is clear considerations of the space's -- as well as the construction's -- function are of the utmost.

This post on my daily page gives a few examples of the drawings included in what the Japanese firm calls its "graphic anatomy." Wall sections and plans become spatial investigations as well as construction details. Perspectival space extends from the cutting plane where the latter's information is carried; the former shows us how the make-up of the floors, walls and roofs shapes the domestic spaces. Additionally the spaces are shown with figures in surprisingly realistic positions, especially given their simplified appearance. For example, to show somebody smoking on a stair, rather than just walking up or down it, somehow rings true, giving the space a vitality but also making it clear to the reader that such a thing was considered in the design.

This way of "reading" architectural drawings makes the book a unique experience. Sure, an essay and project data finishes the book, but the bulk of the pages are devoted to the extremely rich sections, plans and details. A greater understanding of the projects can be gleaned from the drawings that Atelier Bow-Wow has created than words and even photographs that only give a partial view of a space. Given the time and effort the architects put into giving the drawings depth (most likely not done to help contractors), they can be "read" by more than just architects, part of their immediate appeal. They are like a "slice of life," if you will, not just slices through floors, walls and roofs.

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