Scolari exhibit captures spirit of architecture

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Photo by Kamaria Greenfield.

A new exhibit explores the artistic canon of renowned School of Architecture professor Massimo Scolari by highlighting the beauty possible in architectural drawings.

“Massimo Scolari: The Representation of Architecture” opened at Rudolph Hall on Monday. With the goal of emphasizing the school’s focus on the importance of freehand drawing, the exhibit was timed to coincide with the spring symposium on the same subject that will take place later this week, Architecture School Dean Robert Stern ARC ’65 said. The show, open until May 4, traces Scolari’s work chronologically through the gallery while revealing motifs that unite the 54 images, said Director of Exhibitions Brian Butterfield ARC ’11, who curated the show in partnership with Scolari himself.

“The prevalence of computer design raises the problem of whether or not we need hand drawing in the design process,” Scolari said. “But I think freehand drawing is a very fundamental step.”

Scolari explained that digital drawing requires the architect to impose precision on a design, which detracts from the gradual process of elaborating on an incomplete impression. If architects lack paper and pen to flesh out their ideas, he said, the bounds of creativity are limited.

Stern said he thought displaying Scolari’s work would successfully showcase these ideas, since Scolari’s drawings are “incomparable” in quality and concern themselves with the artistic representation of architecture, rather than purely technical concerns.

Unlike the two shows held by the school earlier this year, “Massimo Scolari” involved the featured architect heavily in its design and curation, Stern said. The close relationship between the architect and the exhibit resulted in a different final product than the school would have created on its own, Butterfield said.

“So much of his work is abstract and has historical themes that are represented in his drawings but are absent from his text,” Butterfield said. “So the fact that he can go through and group everything, creating whatever narrative he intends, is fantastic.”

Scolari was insistent that his drawings be displayed consistently throughout the show, Butterfield said, with each image mounted on a uniform black background fixed to a gray mount. With a large, open room, two side platforms and rough walls mimicking Rudolph Hall’s exterior, the second-floor exhibition space is flexible, Butterfield said, allowing curators to construct a variety of display structures within each show. The architect, however, chose the singular display method to convey that his work over the past 40 years has been part of the same thread and ought to be viewed as one set of images.

The first wing of the exhibit contains Scolari’s first drawings, including several pictures he created for competitions. On prominent display is an issue of Skyline Magazine for which Scolari drew the cover — about 20 rough sketches of buildings. A set of adjacent architectural models based on the sketches and created specifically for the show bring Scolari’s drawings to life, Butterfield said.

The middle and largest section of the show considers the main body of Scolari’s work. An enormous black glider — a smaller replica of one of Scolari’s sculptures in Venice — hangs above gallerygoers’ heads. As one of several motifs that shows up repeatedly in viewing the entire set of drawings, the image of the glider appears several times in the middle portion of the show, Butterfield said.

The final wing of the exhibition contains drawings from the last two decades, which feature more futuristic themes. Butterfield said that many of the pictures are dominated by space-age imagery.

Scolari will give a talk in conjunction with the exhibit titled “Representations” in Rudolph Hall on Thursday evening.

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