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.