Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association
Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association highlights the impressive collection of drawings assembled by Alvin Boyarsky during his pivotal tenure as chairman of the Architectural Association (AA) in London, from 1971 until his death in 1990. During his time leading the school, Boyarsky orchestrated an ambitious exhibition and publication program that situated drawing as not only a representational tool, but as a form of architecture in its own right.
Drawing Ambience features an iconic group of drawings by some of the most prominent architects and artists of our time, including Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Mary Miss, Eduardo Paolozzi, Bernard Tschumi, and Shin Takamatsu. The drawings are complemented by a series of related folios published by the AA representing the work of Peter Cook, Peter Eisenman, Coop Himmelblau, and Kisa Kawakami, among others. Together, these works provide an unprecedented opportunity to explore both the techniques and the imaginative spirit of drawing practices that permeated this time of change and experimentation in architecture worldwide.
Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association is co-organized by the RISD Museum and the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, part of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis; the exhibition was on view at the Kemper Art Museum in late 2014. Drawing Ambience is co-curated by Jan Howard, Chief Curator and Houghton P. Metcalf Jr. Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the RISD Museum, and Igor Marjanović, Associate Professor of Architecture at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University. Exhibition design is by Boyarsky Murphy Architects in London and 3SIXØ in Providence.
A richly illustrated 160-page catalogue, also titled Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association, accompanies the exhibition and is available at RISD WORKS, the Museum shop.
Support for Drawing Ambience is provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA).
Some of the most provocative ideas in architecture have been expressed through drawing, an activity that allows concepts to be discovered, explored, and experienced, and through which the discipline can be expanded. This was the role of drawing at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) in London when Alvin Boyarsky was chairman from 1971 to 1990. The collection of architectural drawings amassed during his tenure coincided with a time of change and experimentation in architecture, both at the AA and worldwide. Assembled from the work of students and practitioners who passed through the AA in those years, the collection constitutes a visual record both of the rapid dissolution of a singular post–World War II modernist canon and the blossoming of varied approaches to the study and practice of architecture. These new ideas engaged history, memory, and urbanism, as well as questions of contemporary culture and advances in technology and new media.
Boyarsky’s collection reveals the breadth of these explorations, as well as the scope of his own pedagogical approach, which placed unprecedented priority on the art and role of drawing through a unique constellation of teaching, exhibitions, and publications. For him, drawing was not only a representational medium, but also a form of architecture in its own right. “We fight the battle with the drawings on the wall”—these famous words of his reflect the climate of resistance, change, and experimentation that marked Boyarsky’s work as an innovative educator.
The prominence of drawing as the primary medium for architectural exploration at the AA relates to the emphasis on representation and display that emerged within the field during this time, as exhibitions, collections, and archives of architectural drawings began to proliferate within an increasingly international system of influence and exchange. Situated at the center of this global ambience was Boyarsky himself, a collector not only of drawings but also, metaphorically speaking, of the people and ideas that passed through architectural history during those productive years.
Bringing together a selection of early prints and drawings by many of today’s leading practitioners, as well as limited-edition folios published by the AA, this is the first museum exhibition of Boyarsky’s collection. This is particularly timely, as the connection between the hand and the imagination is reexamined and integrated anew in the teaching of architecture in today’s digital world.
Support for Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association is provided by the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
The exhibition is co-organized with the Mildred Lane Kemper Museum of Art, Washington University in St. Louis. It is curated by Igor Marjanović, associate professor of architecture at Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, and Jan Howard, chief curator and Houghton P. Metcalf Jr. Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the RISD Museum. It is designed by Boyarsky Murphy Architects, London, and 3SIXØ, Providence.