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Other Things Visible on Paper: Architectural Writing and Imaging Craftsmanship, 1960-1987

  • Author(s): Hearne, Sarah Aileen
  • Advisor(s): Lavin, Sylvia
  • et al.

Between the more established media ‘epochs’ of mechanical drafting, on the one hand, and computerization on the other, there exists a short but decisive period during which architectural production was technologized in new and understudied ways. An array of graphic ‘supplies’ found their way onto the architects working surface, from the draftsman’s table to the principal’s desk. These supplies, neither instruments nor tools, were the temporal, replaceable and refillable items that joined the many other machines that came to typify the office landscape. Despite a growing literature on the architect’s toolkit, the graphic supplies chain of the postwar office remain overlooked because of their ephemerality and often gizmo scale. As such their omission risks maintaining the historical binaries between conceptual designers and technicians and autonomous and bureaucratic architectures, intrinsic to the introduction of computation. In order to refute these false oppositions and fill the historiographical gap they have produced I argue that the architect’s desk in this period must be recognized as a technologized theater of production.

This dissertation bridges the divide and examines how the toolkit became a theoretical problem of authorship, shaped by the longer distinctions between models of authorship and anonymity. Rather than focus on one to the exclusion of the other, this dissertation looks in between, and simultaneously examines one of the most formidably entrenched models of authorship of the period, the one constructed by Peter Eisenman, but also the great network of anonymous supplies, actions, and agents with which he is never associated. The dissertation reveals multiple points of contact between architectural drawing practices and a previously unrecognized network of material research laboratories, tool manufacturers and distributors, trade journals and advertising. Not only were these supplies intrinsic to the development and organization of the bureaucratic office as might be expected, but by the 1960s they also formed a substrate for the ideologies surrounding notions of personal expression and originality bound up in that period’s widespread if contradictory discourses on authorial critique. During this period, some architects explicitly foregrounded their drawing supplies and claimed them as essential components of individual authorial expression. Others rarely spoke of their drawing activities and used supplies that were designed to render personal expression invisible when reproduced. Regardless of their position toward the toolset, every architect was entangled in working their way through this unavoidable array of technological artifacts.

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