Drawing To Amplify The voice Of The Threatened Barrier Reef

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Colour, Students, Texture

Drawing To Amplify The voice Of The Threatened Barrier Reef

by Francesca Capicchioni, David Cordato, Charles Curtin, Jesse Del Valle, Ben Feher, Miguel Luis Gilarte, Isaac Harrison Adam Hoh, Matthew Nicholson and Callum Woo @ 2017 Heron Island Expedition under the supervision of Amaia Sánchez Velasco and Guillermo Fernández-Abascal


12 portraits of surreal marine specimens and an imaginary seascape masterpiece serve as guiding vehicles to navigate across this unknown territory.


Inhabiting Heron Island Scientific Research station from the University of Queensland, turns architecture students into explorers, biologists and marine illustrators. A first hand experience presents the Reef as a dynamic environment where to analyze the micro-anatomies of the ecosystem.

Explorers combine artistic aesthetic sensibilities, architectural intelligence, and technological devices to immerse in the spatial conditions of the Reef. Through a series of different survey and representational techniques including images, point clouds and three dimensional models, marinescape becomes “senseable” and understandable. Technology is used to extract underwater information but the final documentation is not only mere data collection. Instead, the use of machinery is filtered through their vision and subjectivities, allowing to re-interpret this particular marine environment.





What programs were used to analyse and process data?

Agisoft and Photoshop.

How did each representation technique help in exploring and mapping the reef in a different way?

The site exploration consisted on Reef-walks and diving immersions. Specific specimens were selected and portrayed from different angles with Go-pro cameras. The photographic survey allowed to generate spatial point clouds that recreated the complex geometries and textures of the Reef inhabitants. Each specimen became a character, with a nickname and detailed profile information. The representations of 12 portraits of surreal marine specimens celebrated the extreme biodiversity of the ecosystem.

The stunning varied colours from the Reef are disappearing from the Reef since the latest bleaching events. The technique utilized to realize the drawings allowed us to exaggerate their colour and amplify the voice of this threatened species through their representation.



How has technology impacted the realm of architectural representation?

We would like to emphasize that this drawing mission does not rely only on technology. We reject architectural representation that operates as mere data collection. Instead, the use of machinery is filtered through the students’ visions and subjectivities allowing to navigate this particular marine environment.

The drawings appear as a re-interpretation of Daguerre’s Arrangement of shells, (1837-1839) and traditional scientific boards such as Haeckel’s Leptomedusae (1879).  Technology unveils the dynamic conditions of the field. Yet, the portraits move away from static modes of representation turning into atmospheric depictions.

Daguerre_s Arrangement of shells, (

Daguerre’s Arrangement of shells


Haeckel Leptomedusae



What role did you as tutors play in the developing of research and images?

The whole workshop was an experiment. The tutors role consisted in helping students to operate as explorers, biologists and marine illustrators.

The definition of collaborative strategies between working groups, site expeditions, survey and representation techniques was crucial to achieve the aims of the expedition.



How and to what extent did the group work as a team in the creation of the images?

The full process was a collective work. Explorers were divided in 4 groups. A rotational shift-work system was implemented in order to facilitate the flow of information, multiply the common aspect of the task and optimize the limited time of the expedition.

Survey (day shift)

The images were captured during several reef-walks and diving immersions. 4 groups targeted different agents of the Reef: Coral/ Algae/ swimming and flying Creatures/ Geology. The information was compiled in a common server for further documentation.

Processing and interpretation (night shift)

The cohort of explorers operated in 4 specialised units. The first one classified the different featured specimens, another one produced the point cloud 3d models, the third one worked on the post-production of the individual species while the last team generated the imaginary masterpiece.





The project was made possible thanks to the generous support from University of Technology Sydney and Agisoft.



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