The Art of Architecture

People often think of architects as “building” the structures they design, but the reality is far more complicated and interesting. Even a small house would be difficult for a single person to create solely on his own. Architecture is in fact a collaborative process where many people are brought together as a team to execute a single concept. The tools by which this happens are generally architectural drawing and model building.

Art and architecture have been allied fields since the beginning of time; the act of planning requires the process of drawing. Whether on a clay tablet in ancient times, on vellum with ink in the Middle Ages, or by computer today, the process of thinking through an architectural project or problem remains in many ways much the same. The forms of those designs, however, has changed radically as advances in technology, economics and client demand have continued (and will continue) to evolve over time.

Architecture is unusual and special in that it is an art form that must be built by many hands and is often as much an expression of its time and place as it is of the architect who gives it form. The architect’s true art is in creating a vision and elaborating that vision in such a way that others can give it the form and substance that he or she imagined for it. This is the realm of architectural drawing and representation.

Redwood Library west facade by Ross Cann 2015. (Photo by Jack Kelly)

The Redwood Library, the country’s oldest lending library, will be hosting an exhibition in the Van Alen Gallery from March 5 through April 30. Organized jointly by the Redwood Library and the Newport Architectural Forum, this show will be an exemplification of the many ways that architects and designers use art to envision and create architecture and, conversely, the ways in which architecture continues to inspire artists and craftsmen.

The works exhibited include historic pieces from the collections of some of Newport’s institutions, including the Preservation Society of Newport County, the Tennis Hall of Fame, and more. The exhibition will also include drawings and computer renderings that are hot off the drawing boards (and computers) of architects working in Newport County today. The opening reception for the show will be held on Thursday, March 10, at 5 p.m.

If you love architecture, come see the tools and some of the delineation and modeling techniques by which the architects are inspired to create, refine, and communicate their visions and ultimately turn their raw ideas into real structures where we live, work, play and enjoy as part of the built world around us.

Ross Cann