Friday, August 28, 2009

Tree shadows and architectural drawings

click photo to enlarge
The library of books that my wife and I possess is fairly wide ranging, reflecting our diverse interests. One category, however, is significantly larger than the rest, namely the history of architecture. And, within that genre are a few books that concentrate on an aspect of architectural history that fascinates me - architectural drawing. I find the preparatory sketches, elevations, perspective views, etc. that accompanied the design of buildings always interesting and often very beautiful. From the early notebook drawings of Reims, Laon or Cambrai by Villard d'Honnecourt, through the Renaissance detail and drama of Borromini and Boullee, the C19 washes of Elmes, Viollet-Le-Duc and Voysey, to the C20 pencilwork of Aalto and the pen and ink of Venturi, architects have produced work that compares with much that is found hanging in a gallery. But, in the last twenty years, as the computer has increasingly usurped the pencil, the output of drawings of this kind has declined substantially. It's true that in the hands of gifted architects the computer has produced striking, even artistic, drawings. But they lack the qualities, if not the quality, of work produced directly by hand.

The conventions of modern architectural drawing came to mind yesterday when I was in a garden. At one end is a stand of medlar (Mespilus) trees that produce a fruit that isn't widely eaten today. On my first visit to the garden a couple of weeks ago it was noticeable that some of them were distressed and losing their leaves, whilst others were flourishing. Yesterday the sickly trees were largely bare, and in the strong sunlight, on recently cut grass, their nets of branches were throwing quite sharp circular shadows that reflected the strongly rounded pruning that they had received. Those shadows immediately put me in mind of the 2D deciduous tree symbol used on some computer-drawn architectural and locational plans - a circle with irregular lines radiating from the centre. So, I tried to use these in a composition. Initially I converted the colour to black and white in order to emphasise the qualities I liked. But then the shadows around the trunk made it blend with those on the ground, and I reverted to colour to keep an element of separation.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On