When architects visit a building, and want to record or identify what they see, they take out a bundle of folded sheets in search of a blank piece of paper. These sheets may be ground plans, diagrams, sketches and ordnance maps. In one way or another, all are survey drawings, operating as both documentation and analysis, enabling an architect to examine certain conditions of the built environment, whether geometric, relational, material or technical. This book explores the history of the survey and its multiple forms in order to understand how the methods of recording what already exists can also be used to imagine what might be. Lavishly illustrated, with works from the collection of Drawing Matter and beyond, it addresses the multiple forms of the survey through focused studies - on John Soane (1753-1837), Charles Robert Cockerell (1788-1863), and Detmar Blow (1867-1939); French architects Louis-Hippolyte Lebas (1782-1867), Henri Labrouste (1801-1875), and Eugene Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879); and Swiss-based Peter Markli (born 1953) - and an extensive section of plates with commentaries by contemporary architects. In doing so, it maintains that while all surveys begin with the site, the outcomes are as idiosyncratic as their authors - and their methods have much to offer as tools in design practice. The book is the first in the Architecture Iconographies series, published in collaboration with Drawing Matter, an organisation based in Wincanton, Somerset, that explores the role of drawing in architectural thought and practice. They consider the image-making of architecture through its typologies and unique approaches to drawing. Exploring their resonance in the history of the profession, as well as their relationship to the architects themselves, the series aims to open up further possibilities for their use in both practice and teaching.
Matthew Wells is a lecturer and postdoc researcher at ETH Zurich's Institue for the History and Theory of Architecture. His research and writing focuses on representational techniques, environmental technologies, and professionalism in the built environment of the 19th and 20th centuries.