Architectures of Hiding

Kristin Washco

Black and White Lines Conceal Multitudes

In Toward an Architecture, Le Corbusier speaks of the “illusion of the plan” which kills architecture.1 To make a plan is to have had ideas, he states. Yet, the making of a plan often conceals the very ideas one claims to represent. This optical illusion is common practice; under the guise of clarity and precision, architects systematically strip plans of that which gives a building life: its lived experience through time. Visual snapshots of “finished” buildings, conventional plans conspire to hide from view three critical architectural processes: designing, building, and dwelling. Must these fundamental processes be excluded to produce coherent drawings? Is the resultant architecture impacted by these acts of concealment?

This paper argues against the concealment of time in architectural plans through the investigation of drawings produced by Carlo Scarpa for Tomba Brion in San Vito d’Altivole. Scarpa’s drawings illustrate the continuity of designing, building, and dwelling, and in so doing engage directly with the embodied experience of architecture. His drawings live in a thick present that begins even before the germ of an idea has formed. They slowly, porously, morph into inhabited form, leaving traces through time which invite interpretation. Most notably, Scarpa’s plans are rarely plans, but rather unique compositions at once section, plan, sketch, and detail. Thus, this investigation explores the potential of extending the definition of “plan” beyond simple horizontal section.

The discussion centers around drawing 15154/58 recto, which utilizes graphite and crayon to develop the design for the pavilion on the water. The drawing simultaneously addresses the design idea, building process, and embodied experience. This drawing, and others produced by Scarpa for the padiglione sull’acqua, can provide unique insight into the centrality of time in Scarpa’s drawings. Unearthing these traces embedded in Scarpa’s lines – black, white, and otherwise – can provide vital insight for contemporary practice, shattering the illusion of plans to reveal the experience within.

Keywords: architectural representation, embodied experience, sarlo Scarpa, time

1 Le Corbusier, Jean-Louis Cohen, and John Goodman, Toward an Architecture, (Los Angeles, California: Getty Research Institute, 2007), 216.

KRISTIN WASHCO is a PhD Student and Sessional Instructor at the ASAU, Carleton University. She received her Master’s in Architectural History and Theory from McGill University, and her professional degree in Architecture from Virginia Tech. Kristin is a Registered Architect in New York and practiced professionally in New York City before relocating to Canada. Her professional work with NOROOF Architects, DXA Studio and MADERA has won multiple awards, including the AIA Award of Excellence. Her research interests are centered around the synesthetic experience of architecture, methods of architectural representation, and the translation from page to built work.