Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Collaboration.....Part One

North Dayton Street Residence, Chicago, Illinois
Timothy LeVaughn, Architect  Rendered by David Barrett McTyre
Micron and Prismacolor Ink Pens and 3H / 4H pencils on stretched Canson yellow tracing paper, rendered with Prismacolor ( pencils and Chartpak AD markers ( with masked edges and cotton ball-applied pastel washes on both sides of paper

Daniel Burnham and Jules Guerin. Daniel Burnham and John Root. Frank Lloyd Wright and Marion Mahony. Walter Burley Griffin and Barry Byrne. Cass Gilbert and Thomas Johnson. Stanford White and Charles McKim. Wonder what all of those partnerships have in common? In each case, a uniquely collaborative relationship between an architect and illustrator, a  dynamic partnership between two designers with mutual goals or, perhaps, just two friends that intuitively got what the other person was trying to do with a particular project through graphic communication. And in each case a design process that had at its core a unique set of graphic techniques and representation that was intrinsic to a unique approach to architecture.

Tim LeVaughn ( and I have been the best of friends for over 30 years. We have practiced off and on together for some of that time, eventually going in our own inevitably different directions but always following what the other was doing with keen interest and mutually supportive ideas about what it means to be truly aware of the sophistication and well informed elegance of historical context in the modern and soulless digital age we live in today. Or, as Tim used to say, "What's wrong with good quiet architecture?" Historically well informed yet still compellingly original architecture? Recently we have begun to collaborate again on some of Tim's projects in Chicago. Here is one of them, a new urban townhouse that Tim's firm is doing on Chicago's North Side. This project combines the methodologies that we started out with together and then separately developed over time into a new design process that combines the sophistication of Tim's digital exploration with the resonance of David's hand drawings into something that is more a purely graphic exercise. Rather, this is an integral part of a collaborative design process where the goal is a continuing refinement of the building's details through graphic exploration. Tim has always been a draftsman of exceptional abilities and this manual drawing skill, his "good hand", makes his compositions snap in a way that overcomes the creepy verisimilitude and author-less qualities of the more conventional digital rendering techniques that dominate today's drafting rooms. The development of classicist architecture has always had at its heart the absolute necessity of representation through the abstraction of line.

Tim used to say that one of the things that made working together so much fun was that we could look at each other's design sketches and immediately grasp what the other person was trying to do. We might not have always agreed with what we saw it but we always got the essential idea behind it. The foundation of this understanding was a shared graphic vocabulary that only became more refined over time and was an essential part of our shared design process, much like the partnerships I listed at the beginning of this post. Because most of our collaborative projects were in Chicago I always thought that our graphic vocabularies had a Midwestern (or Prairie School) sensibility that was just as relevant and critical to our work in the late 20th century as it was in when it was in its formative period in the late 19th century. The rendering above is the first image of a series that I will be posting from our current collaborative efforts as well as some from our partnership in the early 90's. The scan here doesn't do the glowing and vibrant qualities of original drawing justice but such are the limitations of Google Blogger. Click on the image for a better sense of the original drawing.

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