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Drawing on architecture: The Architecture Drawing Prize 2017

The Architecture Drawing Prize 2017, a collaboration between the World Architecture Festival, Sir John Soane’s Museum and Make Architects, is open for entries.

The World Architecture Festival, in collaboration with Sir John Soane’s Museum and architecture practice Make, have launched The Architecture Drawing Prize 2017. The winners of each category – hand-drawn, digital, and a hybrid of the two – will be decided by a jury which includes Farshid Moussavi (curator of this year’s Architecture Room at the Royal Academy), Narinder Singh Sagoo (Foster + Partners), Owen Hopkins (Sir John Soane’s Museum), Ken Shuttleworth (Make Architects), Jeremy Melvin (World Architecture Festival and AR contributing editor) and artists Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell.

AR contributing editor and judge Jeremy Melvin explains below what makes drawing so important to architecture. 

Drawing image 2

Drawing image 2

What distinguishes drawing, as Reyner Banham put it, from other perfectly respectable ways of making buildings?

It is axiomatic that architectural drawing took a decisive turn in the Renaissance. Guido Beltramini, director of the Palladio Museum in Vicenza, notes that the first generation of scholarly Renaissance architectural historians, such as Rudolf Wittkower, Anthony Blunt and James Ackerman (who died last year aged 97), were essentially art historians who became interested in architecture. Their prime interest was in buildings and the ideas they contained – triumphantly confirming that architecture could be on a par with painting and other artistic media. Think of Wittkower’s Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, which outgrew its initial publication in the scholarly Journal of the Warburg Institute and became, aided and abetted by Peter and Alison Smithson, a touchstone for the intellectual ambitions of the New Brutalism. 

The next generation, including Christoph Frommel and Howard Burns, explored new ground, as second generations do. They put drawings centre stage and in so doing caused a historiographical revolution. Buildings, Beltramini continued, are evidence of the ‘winners’, not just of architectural competitions but of politics and power. Drawings open up more private and forgotten territories, the realm of speculative ideas and individual fantasies, which may give deeper and wider insights into the architectural psyche.



But what makes a drawing specifically architectural, as opposed to a drawing for any other purpose? Raphael is quite clear that ‘the way of drawing specific to the architect is different from that of the painter’. He allows that perspective helps architects to ‘better imagine the whole building furnished with its ornaments’, but is firm that ‘this type of drawing … is the preserve of the painter’. It took the next generation and in particular Palladio (who was 11 years old when Raphael wrote his letter), to free architecture entirely from perspective and depend fully on orthogonal projections. The stage was set for the next 400 years of architectural drawing, and the flowering of the Beaux-Arts tradition.

As that tradition has run its course, and new digital technologies challenge anew the conventions of architectural drawing, we look forward to receiving entries that explore the relationship between buildings and ideas still further.

170523 drawing prize logo gif

170523 drawing prize logo gif

Curator logos

Curator logos

Enter now 

Deadline for entries: 18 September 2017

Winners announced at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin on 15-17 November.

The overall winner will receive a WAF delegate pass, and will have travel and two hotel nights paid. The two other category winners will each receive a complementary delegate pass and two hotel nights. Any commended entrants will receive a complementary delegate pass.

Winners and shortlisted entries will also have the opportunity to exhibit at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London next year.

Click here for more information