I have a clouded memory of encountering a large architectural drawing of a cathedral in Italy. As much as I can recall, the drawing was composed of thousands of delicate lines illustrating, in impeccable detail, the front façade of the building. The drawing occupied an entire wall in a narrow room that required that I be in close proximity to it. From this intimate distance the density and precision of the line work was revealed, along with the seamlines where patches of paper had been stitched into the enormous sheet. Perhaps the architect made a mistake or changed the design and the patch was a correction, or had the ancient drawing been damaged over the years and later repaired? The drawing presented the passage of time; the feeling was similar to walking on a marble cathedral floor that craftsmen constructed over centuries. The experience of the immense drawing was overwhelming; it saturated my peripheral vision and invited me to occupy the drawing as I would the architecture it represented.
In the subsequent decade, motivated by the memory of the drawing, I made several attempts to locate it, uncover the architect and learn what building was depicted. My unsuccessful inquiries cast enormous doubt on my memory, did I dream this drawing? Does it even exist? I don’t know. And yet, the memory of this elusive drawing, the feeling it evoked, and the longing to experience it again is the inspiration behind my recent work.
In the memory of a drawing I discovered that the size, composition and the ability of a drawing to occupy the viewers’ peripheral vision provokes a unique viewing experience, and one that draws upon and parallels the feeling of architecture. Through the exploration of this idea I have produced a series of graphite wall drawings that investigate the intersection of architecture and its drawn representations.
Abrahamic Architecture Drawing Series
Abrahamic Architecture No.1:1, completed in 2014, illustrates interconnections among the built traditions of the three Abrahamic religions. The drawing displays a collection of over 180 Jewish, Christian and Islamic buildings constructed between 970 B.C.E.-1679 C.E. The process to create the drawing began with identifying and researching hundreds of buildings. Floor plan drawings were acquired for selected buildings and scaled at 1:400. The floor plans were then arranged based on their geographical locations and redrawn within the composition. The scale and orientation of each individual structure have been portrayed accurately, while the geographical distance between the buildings has been collapsed. Among the many buildings depicted, 29 are unique co-authored and converted buildings that I term ‘Abrahamic’ architecture.
Abrahamic Architecture No.3:1 is the second wall drawing in the series. The drawing was completed in 2016; it explores a comprehensive collection of exclusively ‘Abrahamic’ buildings. The graphite drawing is rendered to identify which religion built the particular components of each building. Jewish constructions are drawn using 2B graphite (black), Christian components are rendered with HB graphite (grey) and Islamic structures are represented with 2H graphite (silver). The specific rendering technique creates a code with which the drawing can be read and complex authorship revealed.
Mark Baechler is an assistant professor at Laurentian University School of Architecture where he teaches graduate and undergraduate architectural design studio and architectural theory courses. He holds a Bachelor of Architectural Studies and a Master of Architecture professional degree from Carleton University in Ottawa. Mark is a Registered Architect with the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) and principal at Mark Baechler Architect.