narration and the lens

On a necessary level, representation and story telling are both concerned with communicating ideas. Architects engage the idea of representation as a fundamental means of communicating concept and design. Therefore I’m inclined to argue that architecture and storytelling are inseparable things. 

Unfortunately, this connection seems to have been misconceived, and hence undervalued, in my particular architectural education. I therefore wish to clarify narration’s position in architecture.



1. to give an account or tell the story of;

2. to relate or recount events, experiences, etc.,

Narration in architectural representation is how our ideas relate to the viewer. The narration and the means of representation should be co-considered in some sensitive manner. This can be seen in the works of Giovanni Piranesi, Lebbeus Woods and Steven Holl. The success of this methodology is displayed, with great effect, in Piranesi’s Prison etchings. These massive underground prison scenes engage my imagination, as they haunt and intrigue me in equal measures. The harsh marks left by Piranesi, during the intaglio process is a deliberate device, to be interpreted as a symbol of violence and desperation in the world of the drawing.



In the Solaris Plates [refers to related project 003# nothing disappears completely], the viewer initially assumes the position of ‘camera,’ as if viewed through some sort of lens. In a manner of speaking, the drawing was drawn through that same, or similar lens, as the viewer perceives. This organic-esque perspective would not likely sit well with those Renaissance masters, given the strictures of perspective drawings at the time: 

“Perspective would be nothing without architecture and the architect nothing without perspective” [Serlio, 1537]

Narrative in drawing can engage the viewer in a dialogue. If drawings ask questions, then narration is the ability to ask the viewer a question that is relative to that viewer. 

The Solaris Plates attempt this by employing an intuitive, albeit irrational, perspective, being spatially and atmospherically descriptive, by providing a human scale and allowing the viewer to assume a depicted figure’s position in that fictional space.

  1. Sebastiano Serlio [1537] On Architecture, Hart and Hicks, trans. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996, p37