Presenting Urban Life
Drawing Architecture Studio
Who influences you graphically?
In terms of architectural drawings, we are very much influenced by the earlier drawings by OMA, Zaha Hadid, and Peter Cook in which we find their own artistic value besides presenting a design idea. We also like works by Jean-Jacques Sempé. His sense of humor and insightful observation on human activities in metropolises have inspired us to look at our daily surroundings from a different perspective.
To what extent and how does colour have the power to transform the meaning and power of an image?
To us, the use of color always plays a significant role in creating atmosphere in an image. Black-and-white images tend to seem more neutral while different colors might convey different moods and characters of a place. So by adding colors in the drawings, we add more information to the image which might help the viewers to better understand the areas that we depict.
How do you construct an image, what are the main driving factors behind your compositions?
There are two factors we always have in mind when we work on the composition of a drawing. One is to make sure we are presenting the most exciting and unique part of an area. The other is to show the urban texture of the area.
From cartoons like people to black/pink silhouettes, what shapes the means through which you show people. How would the images be perceived differently in their absence?
The cartoons-like people are used when it is a drawing of small scale in which we depict a specific venue. In that proportion, it is natural to show more details of people’s faces, clothes, and movements so that the figures fit in the surroundings. The silhouettes are mostly used in our large-scale panoramas in which the viewpoint is much far away and our focus is to present an essential relation between human and space. But in both cases, the human figures are done by hand and then combined with computer-generated architectural backgrounds. As our aim is not to present architecture itself but to present the urban life, the human figures are indispensible in either types of drawings. Without including human activities, we don’t think “a city” is truly represented.
From the axonometric to distorted perspectives, what dictates the way you render an object and/or scene?
We only work with axonometric projection in our drawings as we think it is a unique perspective that other forms of presentation cannot achieve, for example photography. In each drawing, we try to explore different projections, e.g. oblique and isometric.
How has Beijing influenced and effected the way you chose to draw and represent?
Being a metropolis that is undergoing huge changes in a very fast speed, Beijing offers a great deal of surprises every day which stimulate our urge to record in the means of drawing. We can find different stages of urban development simultaneously in the same city, which deeply inspires us. There are many phenomena that look unreasonable at the first sight but turn out to be very reasonable on the second thought. Such excitements are our great sources for creating our drawings.
Nan Luo Gu Xiang
Nan Luo Gu Xiang is one of the oldest and best preserved hutong areas in Beijing. It history goes back to Yuan Dynasty. Today Nan Luo Gu Xiang has become a famous tourist desdination. The houses along the hutong have be converted to shops, restuarants, bars, and theatres. This piece is a documentation on the current scene of Nan Luo Gu Xiang with an axonometric panorama. Because the area is quite huge and some important venues scatter rather far from each other, the drawing assembles those important building in a smaller area and selects real background architecture to fill in the space. In other words, this piece is created by disassemble Nan Luo Gu Xiang first and then reassemble it with a higher density. The color scheme takes reference from the rich colors of traditional Chinese painting and architectural decoration to create a delightful and prosperous atmosphere.
Located in the province of Victoria, Australia, Rainbow is a small town with continuous decrease of population. The key aim of the research is to suggest solutions for saving these disappearing small towns. After the study, my final answer was led to one word – homeland. In this remote small town with smaller and smaller population, urban public facilities will for sure decrease, but not necessarily disappear. They might be merged into a stronger and more dynamic carrier – family. Based on this idea, I made a scenario for a community in which modernized urban facilities are returned to families. All the families remaining in Rainbow are given some urban functions. For example, a kindergarten is built in a family who likes kids; a library is housed in a family who enjoys reading; a home theater is established in a movie fan’s house, and so on. The composition of Rainbow continues to construct a utopia, which is a traditional way for architects to be involved in urban issues. But I realized the limit of an architect’s contribution to the society. Making a drawing out of my research is not to emphasize on how to realize utopian ideas, but is to analyze and present the city’s unlimited possibilities.
Xi Ba He
Xi Ba He depicts a typical Beijing-style residential community built in the 1990s. Old buildings and simple facilities do not prevent the residents from living a happy life. Every day people walk their dogs in the garden, fly their pigeons on the balcony, or hold their cats in the sun. At that time Li was going to take part in an international city concept design competition with Environmental Zoo as the theme. So he decided to make the daily life around him as the subject for his submission. He imagined a boundless zoo inside the city. It is a paradise for animals and a city for human at the same time, without the fence between animals and human in the regular zoos. In this new community, all the facilities are not only built for human, but also take into consideration the need by animals living in the same community, e.g. the shelters for pigeons, cats and dogs, animal hospitals, and animal control center. He even planned shelters for horses and goats and made a mini farm for them. The real environment of Xi Ba He becomes the base for this scenario where reality and imagination are merged with each together. This looks as if a beautiful fairy tale, but we shall never underestimate the potential of “stories”. As commented by architect Wang Xin, “(story) is always a long-term fulcrum for a city…is a invisible city structure…With stories, we will see life.”
Qilou Old Street in Haikou
Invited by the 2nd Haikou International Youth Experimental Art Festival which was opend on September 19 2014, DAS created two large-scale drawings for the Qilou Old Street in Haikou in the forms of axonometric projection and map.
Founded by architect Li Han and designer Hu Yan in Beijing, Drawing Architecture Studio (DAS) is a creative platform integrating architecture, art, design, urban study, pop culture,and aiming to explore the new models for the creation of contemporary urban culture.