A friend of mine once sent me a postcard of Poussin’s “The Triumph of David” and on the back he wrote “I can’t see David’s Triumph anywhere – he must have parked it behind the picture plane.”
Subsequent to this, I imagined David’s Triumph as an older model, a little run-down, with a dent where he backed into a pedestal. The car’s slightly disreputable aspect necessitated parking it behind the picture plane. Perhaps if David drove a brand new Prius, he might have parked it in front of the picture plane.
A few years ago, I was studying the Weybosset Arcade in Providence, RI and I decided to watercolor a view of its main facade. A couple of guys were unloading plants from a local nursery from a big yellow truck parked right in front of the entry. I waited a while for the truck to go away, realized that they were there for the day, and decided to paint the truck in. Afterwards, architect colleagues said I should have left the truck out.
There’s a schism between the perception of architecture as a pure formalist art piece and its pragmatic role in accommodating some of the more messy and prosaic aspects of human existence. Architecture is really only a backdrop – just as the Weybosset Arcade’s facade is the backdrop for a couple of guys to unload and replace some planting.
I was reminded of this schism again while listening to Eric de Broche des Combes’ terrific talk at the annual American Society of Architectural Illustrator conference in Hollywood this October. The renderings by Luxigon in their portrayal of architecture are more exciting to us because of their inclusivity of all types of people and their representation of the messier elements of our environment, like a rainy day.
The people that occupy typical architectural renderings today tend to veer towards the more perfect representations of our species – handsome men and lovely women in crisp suits, chatting on their mobiles while striding purposefully towards an entrance. It’s interesting to compare them to Letarouilly’s 19th century engravings of Roman palaces that show beggars, peasant girls, priests and noblemen. Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of the fact that all kinds of people inhabit our world and we have relegated those that don’t measure up to behind the picture plane.
Article by Melissa Weese
Melissa Weese has led a peripatetic life, living in many cities in the US and abroad, practicing architecture while employed at firms such as SOM, Woods Bagot and Gensler, and teaching at various universities. She currently practices architecture at TLCD Architecture, in Santa Rosa, California, where if it isn’t under water, it’s on fire. Melissa continues to draw for work and for pleasure (isn’t it the same thing?) and is currently working on a comic series about the life of a middle-aged female architect.