Susan C. Piedmont-Palladino
Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2006, English
Nonfiction, Graphic Design
ISBN: 9781568985992

From the Publisher. The construction of a building is fascinating to watch, as the symbiosis between man and machine turns what seem to be scattered piles of material into architecture. But before the tools of construction ever arrive on the site, the architect wields a different set of tools to design, develop, and document the building-to-be. The history of these drawing tools is one of invention and innovation. In a profession increasingly dominated by the computer, earlier tools--from the compass to the helicograph, ellipsograph, and volutor; from perspective charts to slopes and batters; from Mylar to modeling clay--are beautiful artifacts of a bygone day. Along with historical objects, the National Building Museum has collected wooden models by Frank Gehry and hand-drawn sketches by Tod Williams, showing that the tools of the imagination are still very much a part of architectural design.

Covering 250 years of design tools and technologies, Tools of the Imagination: Drawing Tools and Technologies from the Eighteenth Century to the Present takes a revealing look at how architects have produced the drawings, models, renderings, and, now, animations that show us the promise of what might be built. The book includes a wide array of these tools as well as drawings, renderings, and sketches from well-known architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and I. M. Pei.

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Mark Fox

Part history, part celebration, part elegy—this book explores the evolving relationship between technology, drawing, and architectural renderings. (Did you know that a German carpenter, Friedrich Staedtler, established the basic form of the modern pencil in 1662?) In particular, I recommend the essay by architect Paul Emmons, “The Lead Pencil: Lever of the Architect’s Imagination.” Emmons takes care to distinguish imagination in general from what he terms “the material imagination,” i.e., imagination informed by physical engagement with the material world. One intriguing passage: “Systems such as computer drawing programs threaten to eliminate the material imagination in their production of simulacra. Since computer-aided designers know only through sight, not through touch, they cannot understand the differences between the visual and physical world and project between them.”

Memo to the book designer: reversing text typography out of full-bleed metallic silver spreads does a disservice to both your readers and authors. To avoid the glare as I read I find that I must continually tilt the book like some kind of dowser looking for water. In addition, I am one of those readers who likes to mark my pages and underline passages; silver ink resists any attempts to do either.

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