Architecture in Print: New Approaches to Graphic Design

by Michael Rock and Susan Sellers
Jan 29, 2016

Abstract 2015
Jan 29, 6:30pm
Wood Auditorium

Architecture in Print: New Approaches to Graphic Design

Yoonjai Choi, Glen Cummings, and Neil Donnelly
Response by Michael Rock and Susan Sellers
Presented as part of the Graphics Project

Architecture is born and dies as graphic design. Think of the work you do in architecture school: how much of it is printed, written, illustrated, diagrammed, photoshopped, collaged, animated, and ultimately presented. All graphic. Think of the buildings you know: how many of them are from books, magazines, catalogues, websites, blogs, collages, photographs, and, ultimately, drawings. Again, all graphic. You design, and you know, things primarily through their graphic representation. But while there are clear parallels between the two disciplines, they remain divided, the border between then heavily policed and jealously guarded. The graphic is still seen in service to some higher purpose, perhaps that's the built, or simply the spatial. But building, and spatialization, is increasingly graphic in itself: with pop-up and pavilion on one side, and film, interactive media, and virtual reality on the other. 

When we started our practice over 25 years ago we worked in a concerted way to blur that boundary, to see the graphic act as essential to, and inseparable from, the intellectual act of architecture. Of course that was before personal computers, or desktop publishing, or PhotoShop, or Rhino, or world wide web, or whatever. Now we use the same tools and work in the same media and broadcast through the same channels and we don't need to blur it, the divide is now beyond recognition. What's fascinating for us is the way that in the generation behind ours – all three of these designers studied at Yale during our tenure there on the faculty – the relationship has grown so close and so generative. 

Ultimately we think the thing that ties us together is not form, or technique, or platform, or channel, but a general approach to narrative: the way things, spaces, and experiences, tell stories. Every project encompasses multiple narrations: the myth of their origins, the process that yielded them, the sequence of designed experiences, a hoped-for future life beyond the design. The graphic is simply a way of organizing, shaping, and broadcasting those stories and using them to generate the new ones that sustain our ongoing work.