Review

The Architecture Drawing Prize 2021 Exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum

Joanna Kaszubowska 31 January 2022 min Read

A hybrid exhibition that celebrates the art of architectural drawing, you can visit the live portion of the exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum. However, there is even more to explore in the virtual five year retrospective of the prize at Vault of Contemporary Art (VCA) created by Make Architects.

The Architecture Drawing Prize: Olivia O’Callaghan, Memories of the Last Tree, Hand Drawn Category finalist, 2021. Museum’s website.

Olivia O’Callaghan, Memories of the Last Tree, Hand Drawn Category finalist, 2021. Museum’s website.

The Architecture Drawing Prize

The Architecture Drawing Prize was created in 2017 as a collaboration between Sir John Soane’s Museum, Make Architects, and the World Architecture Festival. It focuses on drawing as a unique medium of communicating ideas and exploring the possibilities of architecture. As digital technologies evolve, so does the prize with awards in the digital, hybrid, and hand-drawn categories. It invites us to rethink how we look at architecture, how we experience it, but also honors the long tradition of craftsmanship in drawing. Meanwhile, moving to digital seamlessly integrates this tradition rather than destroying it.

The Architecture Drawing Prize: Zachary Higson, Site[s] of Flux, Winner of the Digital category and the Lockdown Prize, 2021. Museum’s website.

Zachary Higson, Site[s] of Flux, Winner of the Digital category and the Lockdown Prize, 2021. Museum’s website.

What is fascinating about these drawings is how the medium frees architecture from its functional boundaries. In drawing the mind can roam and the imagination is free to explore limitless possibilities. It also allows one to really dive into the responsibilities of architecture and urbanism as arts that directly impact the way we live. A badly designed building or city can have very damaging effects on the quality of life. The authors of the drawings take that responsibility seriously.

The Architecture Drawing Prize: Filippa Dafni, Flood-responsive landscape performance, Hybrid Category joint winner, 2021. Museum’s website.

Filippa Dafni, Flood-responsive landscape performance, Hybrid Category joint winner, 2021. Museum’s website.

The Physical Exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum

At Sir John Soane’s Museum the exhibition is on the top floor accessible to the public. So you need to see the entire museum before you get to the exhibition, which is a treat in and of its own. Soane’s staggering collection is displayed in the intricate interior of his house and completely transports us into another reality. After that, the exhibition feels like a very calm space, with a handful of finalists’ drawings presented. The works are outstanding. They make us think about architecture from a very different standpoint, divorcing it from the bounds of bricks and mortar execution and transporting it into the realm of conceptual discussion.

The Architecture Drawing Prize: Sabina Blasiotti, Outlines of Nuclear Geography, Digital Category finalist, 2021. Museum’s website.

Sabina Blasiotti, Outlines of Nuclear Geography, Digital Category finalist, 2021. Museum’s website.

The Virtual Retrospective at VCA

My one complaint about the physical exhibition is the size of the prints. The drawings are full of fine detail and the size of the prints really doesn’t allow us to appreciate their richness. That, however, is more than addressed in the virtual portion where we can zoom in to our heart’s content. On one hand, the virtual retrospective adds what the smaller physical exhibition is missing. On the other, it lays bare the limitations of our screens: we always see only a fragment and it takes work to move to the whole or another part. Whereas a massive print is so much more natural for us to interact with, the work happens seamlessly in our brain. The hybrid form certainly makes for an interesting experience.

The Architecture Drawing Prize: Boji Hu, (Un)homeliness, Hybrid Category joint winner, 2021. Museum’s website.

Boji Hu, (Un)homeliness, Hybrid Category joint winner, 2021. Museum’s website.

The Retrospective showcases drawings by the winners and finalists of The Architecture Drawing Prize since its inception in 2017. Over the 12 virtual rooms we can explore topics such as utopias and dystopias, architecture’s interaction with nature, understanding the city, or the fascination with ruins. It is amazing from how many angles one can think of architecture; something that can be so ordinary as having a roof over one’s head, but also so transformative to our living experience. The prize finalists and winners tackle these questions with great openness and skill, which is even more impressive if we consider that this year all category winners were students.

The Architecture Drawing Prize: Sachini Jayasena, The Promenade through Enfield Town, Digital Category finalist, 2021. Museum’s website.

Sachini Jayasena, The Promenade through Enfield Town, Digital Category finalist, 2021. Museum’s website.

Exhibition Information:

20 January – 19 February 2022

Sir John Soane’s Museum

13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3BP

Entry is free – details of opening hours/ planning visit:

https://www.soane.org/your-visit 

Virtual Retrospective Exhibition: https://vca.gallery/

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