EXHIBITION: Drawing Codes

DRAWING CODES: Experimental Protocols of Architectural Representation
January 17 – February 4, 2017 at the CCA Hubbell Street Galleries, San Francisco
July 8 – August 20, 2017 at the WUHO Gallery, Los Angeles
January 10 – February 9, 2018 at the Banvard Gallery, Knowlton School of Architecture, Ohio State University, Columbus
March 6 – March 28, 2018 at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
Curated by Andrew Kudless & Adam Marcus


Drawing Codes at CCA Hubbell Street Galleries, San Francisco
January 17 – February 4, 2017

Drawing Codes at WUHO Gallery, Los Angeles
July 8 – August 20, 2017
Photographs of LA opening by Mikey Tnasuttimonkol

Emerging technologies of design and production have opened up new ways to engage with traditional practices of architectural drawing. The twenty-four experimental drawings commissioned for this exhibition explore the impact of such technologies on the relationship between code and drawing: how rules and constraints inform the ways architects document, analyze, represent, and design the built environment. 

Each drawing engages with at least one of the below prompts that begin to expand the notion of code as it relates to architectural design and representation:

  • Code as generative constraint. Restrictive codes often govern what is permitted and what is prohibited. Examples of this include building codes, urban codes, zoning codes, accessibility codes, and energy codes. How can such constraints become generative, opening up opportunities for design and representation?
  • Code as language. A code can be understood as a set of rules, conventions, and traditions of syntax and grammar that structure the communication of information. The discipline of architecture similarly has its own language of typologies, taxonomies, and classifications. How can drawing engage with such architectural languages?
  • Code as cipher. Encoded or encrypted messages are intended to hide or conceal information. Likewise, architectural geometries, forms, spaces, and assemblies are embedded with invisible organizational, social, political, or economic logics that may not be immediately evident. How can drawing engage with these latent meanings and messages?
  • Code as script. A code can be understood as a script or a recipe: a set of instructions to be executed or performed by a computer, a robot, or (in the case of theater or film), an actor. Scripts often produce unexpected discrepancies between the intent of the code and how it is executed. How can drawing explore these open-ended processes that may not have a defined outcome?

The invited architects were asked to conform to a set of strict rules: consistent dimension, black & white medium, and limiting the drawing to orthographic projection. The intent is for this consistency to emphasize the wide range of approaches to questions of technology, design, and representation. Yet within this considerable diversity of medium, aesthetic sensibility, and content, several common qualities emerge. First is the unsure link between code and outcome: glitches, bugs, accidents, anomalies, but also loopholes, deviations, variances, and departures that open up new potentials for architectural design and representation. Second is a mature embrace of technology not as a fetishized end game, but as an instrument employed synthetically in concert with other architectural “tools of the trade.” And finally, these drawings demonstrate how conventions of architectural representation remain fertile territory for invention and speculation. 

At the show's initial run at CCA in San Francisco, an adjacent gallery featured work by CCA Architecture students in Kinematic Code, a course taught by Clayton Muhleman that has been exploring procedural and robotic drawing techniques.

Project Credits:
Curators: Adam Marcus & Andrew Kudless
Exhibition Assistant: Gina Bugiada
Acknowledgements: Jaime Austin, Stephen Beal, Mark Donohue, Nataly Gattegno, Jason Kelly Johnson, Jonathan Massey, Karina O’Neill, Amanda Schwerin, Dustin Smith, Justin Smith, Cathrine Veikos, Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter