Building Portraits, on view at Industry Gallery, is a suite of elevation studies developed by Atelier Manferdini over the past two years. The show is both architectural research and an autonomous artwork and explores of the potential of intricate scripted line work at the scale of a building. The LA Forum spoke Elena Manferdini about the role of facades and representation in architecture.
The title of the show, Building Portraits, alludes to two distinct disciplines, the field of architectural drawings—building—and the one of fine artistic pictures—portraits. This body of work tries to claim a territory where these two attitudes find a common ground, where pixels and vectors get closer to the scale of perception.
Over past six years, the status of the abstract drawings versus the photorealistic pictures has been under close scrutiny in [my] artistic and architectural practice. After four years spent experimenting on how the realm of the painterly can be scaled to architectural spaces, the research moved to find modes for abstracted drawings to create literal pictures of building facades.
Half of Building Portraits are drawings, which are printed on powder coated aluminum and afterwards coated with a glossy finish, came from a series of elevation studies of Mies van der Rohe buildings in Chicago and New York for the Art Institute of Chicago’s 2015 show Building the Picture. The other half of the drawings are printed on watercolor paper and are studies for actual Atelier Manferdini projects.
Historically, architectural drawings have always been the product of an inherent dichotomy, because they are usually conceived as the expressions of “artistic” ability combined with “technical” savoir-faire. In the past twenty years of digital revolution, the dual nature of the drawing became even more polarized. On one hand there are technical drawings, on the other photorealistic renderings, giving rise to a perceived division between drawings made for a professional audience and those created for the general public.
The show suggests that “drawings” and “pictures” are [no longer] poles of a spectrum within which architectural production might be placed, but that they are getting closer and closer. This show supports the continued practice of thinking through drawing and suggests that they are not only didactic instruments, but are able to trigger imagination and convey a sense of immanence, which directs the mind to a reality not yet in existence.