The AJ Manual

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The AJ Manual

DIS Copenhagen


The “AJ Manual” is the outcome of the elective course “Detailing and Sustainability in Scandinavian Architecture” held by Angela Gigliotti, co-founder and co-director of the practice U67 ( during the two semesters of 2016 within the Architecture and Design Program at DIS Copenhagen ( The first one-year plan is related to the architectural production of Arne Jacobsen in Denmark from 1926-1958.


How influential was Jacobsen’s aesthetic and modus vivendi when thinking of how to fragment the building and represent it?

Some of us drew the diagrams through the lens of Jacobsen’s design method. This included studying the plan as well as visiting each one of these sites. For instance, in terms of the Rødovre Library, Jacobsen’s organization of the project deals with indoor vs outdoor spaces. We communicated our drawing visually through the courtyards of the building in both axonometric (illustrating their placement) as well as in section, to show this constant change between interior and exterior. Studying Jacobsen’s material choices also proved to be influential in conceiving our diagrams, representing not only specific moments but communicating the thought process behind his design. (Hana Lemseffer, Kirill Volchinskiy and Kevin Martin Altunian, DIS students)

You talk about having to represent architecture, but isn’t architecture a form of representation in itself?

With the premise that architecture is a form of representation, one could imagine the architect’s mind’s eye. Architecture is simply the material outcome of what the architect envisioned and communicated to his/her client and builder. What architects produce are not buildings but rather descriptions and drawings of ideas. These ideas often are about process, construction tectonics, or principles inherent to the organization of the project. Architects communicate with contractors, clients, and one another in varying degrees of abstraction, from models and technical details, to renderings that illustrate an atmosphere or perception. The value of representing architecture lies highly in the architect’s ability to effectively interpret thoughts, emotions and words into visual communicators. (Hana Lemseffer, Kirill Volchinskiy and Kevin Martin Altunian, DIS students)

Starting from the assumption that everything could be represented, the challenge for the students during the course was: understanding how. Technically speaking, a good representation is obtained through what is called “Ensuring perception”: in other terms we have to ensure that what we show is perceived as we intended. The question to pose to ourselves is “who will read our illustrations?” Representing architecture (more then other subjects) is probably the most emblematic issue related to the history of representation in general. The architecture has always been both an art (related with aesthetics) and a science (building) and during the time has increasingly boosted its own complexity. (Angela Gigliotti, DIS faculty)


All the images have a very similar aesthetic, why so? What role does the background colour have in differentiating amongst students/ teams/ proposal?

We must give credit to our ancestors, the Abitare publication (2007-2010) by, as we have taken influence in our portrayal of Jacobsen’s buildings through the Instructions and Manuals portion of those publications. In them, projects are deconstructed in a coherent language of lines and planes, with the changing of opacity signifying the interaction between different parts. It is crucial to keep this representational language as clear as possible while conveying the necessary information, and it is even more necessary for this language to be consistent throughout the various projects to serve as a neutral base so readers can begin to understand Jacobsen’s projects and what elements are shared between them. Using a diverse set of colors for the manual was a simple and effective way to differentiate between each team’s drawings. The color also subtly effected the representation of each project when choosing line weights, line colors, and opacities. Adding colors also created an extra challenge when taking into account the legibility of each drawing. (Matthew William Ent and Franco Chen, DIS students)

What dictated the choice of background colour? Does it relate back to Jacobsen or is it purely individual?

The colors used relate back to Jacobsen’s interiors and his furniture. By adopting a color per team, character was given to each representation while still reading as a collective whole. (Matthew William Ent and Franco Chen, DIS students)

What manuals inspired you for the images?

The‘ Manuals were the main inspiration for the images, and served as an inspiration for the excitement about the class as well as ultimately, the work produced. Departing from repair-manuals to show the assembly of a project, we wanted to not only discuss the tectonics of our case studies, but strove to weave in stories of the projects’ design, and context: both physical and societal. (Hana Lemseffer, Kirill Volchinskiy and Kevin Martin Altunian, DIS students)

The “AJ Manual” is the first in a series of discipline exercises for architectural students where the understanding of the detailing, as a design process, is interwined together with the representation, enriching the awareness of the context with associations coming from datas, functions and environment. Ludovico Centis, Marco Ferrari, Matteo Ghidoni, Fabio Gigone, Michele Marchetti and Giovanni Piovene edited the “Instructions and Manuals” column within the italian architecture and design review “Abitare Magazine” almost ten years ago. The “AJ Manual” aims to be a contemporary investigation related to the Scandinavian Architecture starting from the lines traced by them as ancestors ( (Angela Gigliotti, DIS faculty)

How and to what extent has digitalization effected the manual as a tool?

In consideration of each case study’s identity, cultural, political, ideological, and historical observation, we have chosen the accurate and relevant information. With our understanding of the form, function, materiality, and context, we have displayed both an attention to detail and a sense of curiosity while exploring modeling techniques.  The three dimensional tools that were used helped us to build details showing various perspectives of Jacobsen’s buildings. With zoom-in detailing, for example, scale was necessary for the structural section as well as labels for thickness and materiality of the building. With these digital tools, we were able to create an effective layout with a dynamic spread that is engaging, analytical, legible, and could also be used as a tool. (Barret Kruggel and Eun Byeol Cho, DIS students)

Most of the images revolve around the axonometric, to what extent do you agree with the claim that it is the most complete and yet simple form of representation ? 

We would all highly agree that the axonometric is the most complete and simple form of representation. This is actually a discussion that we had several times as a class. We all agreed that there is no level of information that cannot be communicated through the axonometric. Perhaps it’s more of a communistic than democratic view of a scene. If you can’t communicate it through the axonometric, then you won’t be able to communicate it at all. The nice thing about the axonometric is that there are so many various ways to treat the drawing to communicate different levels of information. The axonometric could be sectional, exploded, or mainly diagrammatic. Overall, it is a form of drawing that is much easier for the common person to understand rather than a more technical orthographic drawing. And that was one of the main goals of our collaborative: to communicate information that could be understood by anyone. (Barret Kruggel and Eun Byeol Cho, DIS students)

If we want to keep and describe the inner complexity in architecture (but even for other subjects) we have to use a more abstract approach, asking to the representations to solve the increase of complexity of the concrete phenomenon in front of us. In this context, the Drawing as a tool assumes a central role in the representation: only the translation into a vector graphic helps to look how the architecture works internally, therefore managing the complexity may give it understandable to the readers. Like in every system of communication, even in the graphic representation of architecture the idea of what the information is, remains the first issue to clarify and know. The corresponding ancient greek words were μορφςh and εiδος, form and idea. So in the representation, the information is nothing more than the essence of a content transmitted by a sign or a group of signs. There’s a flimsy symbiosis and balance between the signs (here lines, annotations, texts, everything part of the drawing) and their meaning or content: to allow this symbiosis to emerge is the main task for a good work on representation. (Angela Gigliotti, DIS faculty)



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