Introduction to 124a

Of Bodies and Buildings

Kyle Steinfeld for ARCH 124a, Summer 2019

This semester-long assignment calls for the production of a number of pairs of drawings that will be exhibited at our final review. One drawing in each pair depicts a human body in motion, while the other depicts a case-study building.

The progression through these building-body pairs, or "diptychs", takes on both historical and technical significance, as the way in which each pair of drawings is conceived, executed, and presented relates to a particular historical precedent drawing: from the spartan elevational drawings of medieval master builders, through the elaborate Beaux-Arts interior drawings, to the abstraction of contemporary axonometrics.

Following in a tradition of understanding architecture through the metaphor of the human body, this project proposes the production of pairs of drawings.

  • Each diptychs pairs
  • a drawing of a body in motion
  • with
  • a drawing of a building in a context
  • In each pairing of body and building, we not only put to use a particular set of drawing techniques in 2d and 3d modeling, but also to apply a specific mode of representation drawn from a selected historical period.


    Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, commonly referred to simply as "Vitruvius", is perhaps the most influential architect in Western history. He was born in the first century BC, and served in the Roman army designing and constructing weapons of war. While he later became an architect, and was responsible for the construction of at least one temple, he is most notable as the author of the only surviving book on architecture from classical antiquity: De Architectura, known today as The Ten Books on Architecture.

    Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture by Vitruvius, translated by Herbert Langford Warren

    Human Figure Inscribed in a Circle (Vitruvio III, 1, 3)
    Giovanni Battista da Sangallo called il Gobbo, 1520

    For centuries in Europe, this work was lost, only to be re-discovered in the renaissance, when it became an important point of reference for a host of great designers such as Alberti, Brunelleschi, and Leonardo Da Vinci.

    Pietro Cataneo, 1567

    Vitruvius' seminal work included an analogy that became a central inspiration to renaissance designers, which was the relationship between the microcosm of man and the macrocosm of the earth. Applying this analogy to the design of temples, Vitruvius argued that the layout of a building should reflect the proportions of an idealized human body:

  • "the design of a temple depends on symmetry" ...
  • "there must be a precise relation
  • between its components,
  • as in the case of those of a well-shaped man"
  • He went on to describe the geometry of this "well-shaped" man in terms of proportions:

    "The length of the foot is one sixth of the height of the body; of the forearm, one fourth; and the breadth of the breast is also one fourth. The other members, too, have their own symmetrical proportions, and it was by employing them that the famous painters and sculptors of antiquity attained to great and endless renown."

    Modulor - Le Corbusier, Cathedrals and Human Proportions, Egyptian Temple and Human Proportions
    Pter Ferschin

    Vitruvius' metaphor has proven remarkably resilient, and has found resonance throughout centuries of architectural design, from the proportional geometry of medieval builders that was drawn from bodily proportion, through Corbusier's modulor man.

    This project carries this tradition of this metaphor of body and building forward, instrumentalizing it as an approach to exploring representational techniques.


    Since this project calls for a set of drawings that depict both body and building, we require a relevant subject for each.

    Practically speaking, since most contemporary 2d drawings are produced as extractions of 3d models, we will require a 3d model of a human body and a 3d model of a building. A great deal of our effort throughout this assignment is expended in researching, modeling, manipulating, and extracting information from these 3d models.

    To this end, over the course of the semester students develop two 3d models in Rhino, which will serve at the source material for the required drawings. These are:

    (left) A 3d mesh model of a human form in motion.
    (right) A 3d surface model of an assigned case study building

    Each week of class, a set of historical drawings will be presented, and will serve as the "corpus" of precedent material that guides our work. Each corpus will present drawing material that is relatively similar from a visual, procedural, or historical perspective.

    (left) Hadid
    (center) Wren
    (right) Bramante

    These images serve as inspiration for students in the preparation of their drawings of buildings and bodies. Each week, students will select a single drawing from the given corpus, and will seek to reproduce this style of drawing to both their human gesture model and their precedent building model.

    Brune, 1863

    (left) Album de Villard de Honnecourt, 1230
    (center) Jon Couch, 2018
    (right) Jon Couch, 2018

    In the above diptych, the student author emulates the elevational drawing of Villard de Honnecourt.

    Jon Couch, 2018

    Jon Couch, 2018

    (left) Villa Rotonda, Andrea Palladio, 1592
    (center) Rudi Skowronski, 2018
    (right) Rudi Skowronski, 2018

    In the above diptych, the student author emulates the unique combination of plan, section, and elevation of Palladio.

    Rudi Skowronski, 2018

    Rudi Skowronski, 2018

    (left) Villa Rotonda, Andrea Palladio, 1592
    (center) Barbara Nasila, 2018
    (right) Barbara Nasila, 2018

    In the above diptych, the student author emulates the analytic axonometric of Peter Eisenman.

    Barbara Nasila, 2018

    Barbara Nasila, 2018