The Developed Surface

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The Developed Surface

Max van der Westerlaken


The project revolves around the translation of the social conditions of a self-invented extended family into a house. In this, the studio – themed the Art of the Plan – focussed on the relation between the plan as a two dimensional abstraction of space and the actual spatial experience itself. The type sof drawing (a plan with ‘laid out’ walls and an axonometric plan) are inspired by Robin Evans’ essay The Developed Surface and are specifically chosen above ‘regular’ plan or elevation drawings to elaborate on this relation.


Who influences you graphically?
In this particular project I got influenced by The Developed Surface, an essay by architect Robin Evans: “The power [of an architectural drawing] to represent is always partial, always more or less abstract. It never gives, nor can it ever give, a total picture of a project.” (Evans, (1989). The Developed Surface, An Enquiry into the Brief Life of an Eighteenth-Century Drawing Technique). This is to say that plans, sections, elevations, etc. are always abstractions of a three dimensional spatial condition. This was one of the central themes in the project. Evans discusses drawing techniques of numerous eighteenth-century architects who combine plans and sections, folded plans, ceiling plans and other orthogonal projections to elaborate on this relation between the abstraction of a drawing and the real spatial condition. This inspired the selection of projections explaining my own project, focussing on communicating the atmosphere and materiality quality in the design with a combination of drawings.

In general I prefer (collage-like) images that focus on communicating certain atmosphere and materiality. Offices that inspire me in this (and otherwise) are: Caruso St. John, OMMX, David Chipperfield, Office KGDVS, Fala Atelier and Dutch firms as Monadnock Architecten, Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven Architecten and Office Winhov.

To what extent do you trust in the notion of architecture as also a form of representation itself (of an idea etc)?
I believe architecture (in physical or drawn form) is always the representation of a certain idea, landed in a context and formed by the many boundary conditions that come with any commission or project. The problem with architecture today is, however, that we seem to have become more interested in the virtual than in the experiential. This results in the fact that a lot of architecture is known through image anyway. To me, architecture is fundamentally about how a building feels.

What is your take on the regular architectural drawing as expressing the qualities of a space?
In an age in which virtual techniques seem to have taken over – or at least become equally important as – a ‘regular’ plan/elevation/section, I believe these drawings still contain something fundamental: the notion of composition, order and proportion. It was very interesting, though, to think of a combination of drawings and techniques to show spatial qualities that could not have been read in a single two-dimensional plan or section. Think of materiality, atmosphere, spatial relationships and, again, the relation between the two-dimensional organisation and the three-dimensional spatial condition.

How does the use of texture imply a certain materiality and/or establish a certain atmosphere?
In the images of this project, the use of texture is key. I experienced the use of texture as both obvious and dangerous. Dangerous because the seemingly infinite source of texture images on the internet makes it easy to simply select and apply, evoking the danger that an image becomes generic – like applying regular wallpaper on a wall’s surface. Instead, you want to achieve precisely that atmosphere you have in mind. The use of texture to imply certain materiality and establish a certain atmosphere in this project therefore required specific attention and helped in developing some crucial skills for every designer: to carefully consider the atmosphere you want to imply; to be critical to the work you draw and to question what you exactly want to convey with the image.

What dictated your choice of colour palette?
Early in the design process, I decided the main material would be masonry. This was to be supplemented with other natural materials in the interior like wood and (natuur)stone and defined a palette of earth tones accordingly. I preferred clear and sober drawings. The colour palette was fundamental in the coherency of the drawings, presented on 7 separate 200 x 800mm banner-like posters. I started thinking about the palette and presentation very early in the proces, because I aimed for a continuous atmosphere throughout the design itself as well as the presentation.

How significant and relevant is the use of people within the images?
That is a sharp question. In general, I use people in the images to add a notion of scale of the spaces in the image. Furthermore, they can make explicit and emphasize the relationships between people who live in that space. I think you can question if the people used in these images significantly contribute to the quality of some images. In the perspective collage, the black and white realisitc people contrast with the neutral colours of the more abstract image itself. Furthermore, I think the section is too full of people. I see this as an often overlooked, yet useful point of critique and discussion.


Max van der Westerlaken is a Dutch master student in architecture at the Eindhoven University of Technology (the Netherlands). After an internship at West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, he started graduating at the chair of professor Christian Rapp. He strongly believes in permanence, material quality and character of place as key terms in architecture and aims to create a distinctive architecture that is firmly rooted in its social, historical and physical context.



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