Drawing Codes: Experimental Protocols of Architectural Representation

Organized by the Digital Craft Lab at California College of the Arts
Curated by Adam Marcus & Andrew Kudless

Volume I:
Hubbell Street Gallery, California College of the Arts, San Francisco / January 17 – February 4, 2017
WUHO Gallery, Los Angeles / July 8 – August 20, 2017
Knowlton School of Architecture, Ohio State University, Columbus OH / January 10 – February 9, 2018
Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI / March 7 – March 28, 2018

Volume II:
Houghton Gallery, The Cooper Union, New York NY / January 22 - February 23, 2019
University of Virginia School of Architecture, Charlottesville VA / March 18 - April 19, 2019


Emerging technologies of design and production have opened up new ways to engage with traditional practices of architectural drawing. The twenty-four experimental drawings commissioned for this exhibition explore the impact of such technologies on the relationship between code and drawing: how rules and constraints inform the ways architects document, analyze, represent, and design the built environment. 

Each drawing engages with at least one of the below prompts that begin to expand the notion of code as it relates to architectural design and representation:

  • Code as generative constraint. Restrictive codes often govern what is permitted and what is prohibited. Examples of this include building codes, urban codes, zoning codes, accessibility codes, and energy codes. How can such constraints become generative, opening up opportunities for design and representation?

  • Code as language. A code can be understood as a set of rules, conventions, and traditions of syntax and grammar that structure the communication of information. The discipline of architecture similarly has its own language of typologies, taxonomies, and classifications. How can drawing engage with such architectural languages?

  • Code as cipher. Encoded or encrypted messages are intended to hide or conceal information. Likewise, architectural geometries, forms, spaces, and assemblies are embedded with invisible organizational, social, political, or economic logics that may not be immediately evident. How can drawing engage with these latent meanings and messages?

  • Code as script. A code can be understood as a script or a recipe: a set of instructions to be executed or performed by a computer, a robot, or (in the case of theater or film), an actor. Scripts often produce unexpected discrepancies between the intent of the code and how it is executed. How can drawing explore these open-ended processes that may not have a defined outcome?

The invited architects were asked to conform to a set of strict rules: consistent dimension, black & white medium, and limiting the drawing to orthographic projection. The intent is for this consistency to emphasize the wide range of approaches to questions of technology, design, and representation. Yet within this considerable diversity of medium, aesthetic sensibility, and content, several common qualities emerge. First is the unsure link between code and outcome: glitches, bugs, accidents, anomalies, but also loopholes, deviations, variances, and departures that open up new potentials for architectural design and representation. Second is a mature embrace of technology not as a fetishized end game, but as an instrument employed synthetically in concert with other architectural “tools of the trade.” And finally, these drawings demonstrate how conventions of architectural representation remain fertile territory for invention and speculation. 

Participating architects, Vol. I: Viola Ago, Kelly Bair / Central Standard Office of DesignKristy BallietCurime BatlinerErin BeslerAmy CamposMark Ericson, Thom Faulders / Faulders Studio, Heather Flood / F-lab, Nataly Gattegno & Jason Kelly Johnson / Future Cities LabDavid GissenAndrew HeumannJanette KimJoris Komen,  Andrew Kovacs, Andrew Kudless / Matsys, Jimenez Lai / Bureau SpectacularElena Manferdini, Adam Marcus / Variable ProjectsThe Open Workshop, Dwayne Oyler & Jenny Wu / Oyler Wu Collaborative, Ron Rael & Virginia San Fratello / Emerging Objects, Clark Thenhaus / Endemic, Michael Young & Kutan Ayata / Young & Ayata

See this link for more information on the exhibition.


Project Credits:
Curators: Adam Marcus & Andrew Kudless
Exhibition Assistant: Gina Bugiada
Acknowledgements: Jaime Austin, Stephen Beal, Mark Donohue, Nataly Gattegno, Jason Kelly Johnson, Jonathan Massey, Karina O’Neill, Amanda Schwerin, Dustin Smith, Justin Smith, Cathrine Veikos, Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter, Sandhya Kochar, Maryann Wilkinson, Sharon Haar