Sir John Soane’s Museum’s Curator of Exhibitions Louise Stewart has joined forces with Make Architects to stage a five-year virtual retrospective of The Architecture Drawing Prize. The Prize was initiated by Make’s founder Ken Shuttleworth to celebrate the art of drawing in architecture and the range of media used to illustrate and explore design ideas. Entrants to the Prize – managed by the World Architecture Festival – can submit their works in three different categories: hand-drawn; hybrid; digital.
Over the years, the winning and shortlisted entries have been exhibited at Sir John Soane’s Museum. As this was not possible in 2021, Make explored a digital option for exhibiting works. This evolved into the Vault of Contemporary Art (VCA), tested over the summer in collaboration with the V&A and its exhibition of artist Ben Johnson’s work.
For the virtual retrospective, Curator of Exhibitions, Louise Stewart, has selected drawings to shed light on themes currently emerging in architectural presentation. These include: (1) Light, Space, Shade; (2) Utopian Cities; (3) Dystopian Visions; (4) Harmony with Nature; (5) Studies in Monochrome; (6) Drawing with Thread; (7) This Crowded City; (8) Works by Jerome XinHaoNg (9) Understanding The City; (10) Ruins Re-Imagined. Each theme has its own room within the digital exhibition and is explored through a series of works entered for The Architecture Drawing Prize from 2017 to 2020.
The 2021 winning and shortlisted entries will also be the subject of a dedicated exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum in January 2022.
About the Retrospective:
Works in the retrospective illustrate the range of different approaches to architectural drawing, the breadth of techniques used and the abundance of imagination in thinking about how we might better inhabit our cities, towns and the countryside. Some of the works are politically charged, others observational, while many demonstrate the expressive potential of drawing in both communicating and developing architectural concepts. Drawing is expressed as a tool for both celebration and invention.
Louise Stewart describes the drawings in ‘The Utopian Cities’ Room: “Some artists explore the potential of the city to improve the lives of its inhabitants, while for others their utopian visions provide an escape from the problems of contemporary society. Some drawings, meanwhile, are intended to tangibly impact the world by demonstrating alternative models of urbanism, and urging us to put them into practice.”
And ‘The Dystopian Visions’ Room: “In this group of drawings, artists grapple with future threats. In doing so, they take account of issues such as climate change, overpopulation, and energy provision. Their unsettling imagery demonstrates architecture’s impact on people and planet, and its potential to underpin, exacerbate and solve the problems faced by society.”
A popular theme since the inception of the Prize has been ‘The Crowded City’ and, as Louise Stewart says, the drawings depicting this topic …”look at the city in tandem with human relationships to explore problems of overcrowding along with ideas of citizenship and civil society.”
Greg Willis from Make who led on the design of the VCA and worked closely with Louise Stewart on the retrospective exhibition design says,
“The Vault of Contemporary Art uses our placemaking skills to create a digital platform that plays with materiality, light, sound and sense of place in an innovative and distinctive way giving great care to how objects are displayed. The idea has been to improve our experience of digital space, making it more memorable and distinct. For example, the latest exhibition, for The Architecture Drawing Prize, has a seasonality to it with its autumnal light and leaves changing colour outside the gallery set in London’s Lincoln Inn Fields, the home of Sir John Soane’s Museum.”
With the endless possibilities made possible through virtual experience, Make has emphasised the positive aspects of grounding the virtual experience in the real world and in particular ensuring that works of art are treated as artefacts rather than pure imagery in the VCA.
These are the types of questions that working on the VCA with the V&A and Sir John Soane’s Museum have raised and that should be addressed through the art of the curating virtual exhibitions of the future.
The Architecture Drawing Prize exhibition is a perfect case study as well as a unique way to experience architectural representation from around the world with over 30 countries of origin represented amongst entrants over the years.
The Architecture Drawing Prize is organised by Make Architects, Sir John Soane’s Museum, and World Architecture Festival.