Proportion, distortion, geometry, distance, power, the infinite, the divine – perspective traverses truth and illusion, linking the disciplines of art, architecture and mathematics. For this new exhibition, sponsored by Arper and Colt, RIBA has commissioned Sam Jacob Studio to explore how perspective drawing has been applied to the art of building for centuries and used as a tool to evoke illusory architectural spaces.
The Disappear Here installation will include original drawings and early writings by some of the most talented designers in history. Visitors will become active participants within the space where deceptive murals, playful architectural structures and a newly commissioned film will trace the lineage of perspective from the Renaissance to present day. In a further twist, the system of perspective will dictate how everything in the gallery is arranged.
Speaking about the commission, Sam Jacob:
“Since its invention in the 15th century perspective has been a fundamental tool in the way we imagine space and design architecture. But perspective is also a kind of tyranny too, forcing its own logic onto the worlds we create. This commission gave us the opportunity to explore how perspective has not only been used to illustrate the world but also how it creates and organises the world. This continues the studio’s longstanding interest in how ways of drawing shape the architecture we create. For this installation we wanted to create a space where visitors can experience the essentially illusory nature of perspective and question the making and breaking of rules.”
Sam Jacob Studio was invited by RIBA to draw on RIBA’s historic collections for inspiration to create a site-specific installation. The Studio has selected a diverse range of items, from rare books dating back to the Renaissance to contemporary works. Highlights vary from John Smythson’s early 17th Century Jacobean designs to a colourful modern interior by Max Clendinning and from Sebastiano Serlio’s architectural treatise ‚Seven Books of Architecture‘ to Etienne-Louis Boullee’s intricately drawn perspectives of neo-classical buildings. Other original drawings on display include works by Andrea Palladio, Edwin Lutyens and William Talman. Additional material on loan from Drawing Matter include modern works from the radical Italian architecture firm Superstudio, French-born American industrial designer Raymond Loewy and British architect James Gowan.
The material on display represents some of the most distinguished examples of perspectival drawing, depicting vast imaginary spaces and imposing mega structures on a single sheet of paper. Alongside these textbook examples, the show will reveal imperfect versions; drawings that more easily reveal their constructed nature and provide an insight into the strategies employed to achieve an illusory space.
The perspectival system plays an important role in how the collection objects are shown. Spanning two walls in the gallery, the drawings are displayed according to their vanishing points and perspective lines. Geometrical shapes drawn from 16th century publications and modern era drawings are used to design new furniture and a quarter of a structural shape will in part be completed by three-sided mirrored panels, referencing the work of Robert Smithson.
To end the exhibition, the specially commissioned film takes the theme of perspective into a contemporary reality. Sam Jacobs Studio has worked with game developer Shedworks to devise an algorithm that places 50 deconstructed architectural assemblies, taken from various architectural treatises, within an endless moving grid. The film, with no beginning or end, challenges ideas around perspectives in a digital age and interrogates notions of space, infinity and vanishing points.
Images: Andy Matthews
Free exhibition in The Architecture Gallery, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London, W1
Till October 7th