Simanaitis Says

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AS NOTED yesterday, it was Renaissance artists who learned to transform flat renderings into more realist images through perspective. Four centuries later, the invention of photography presented new challenges of representing reality. Today, John Pile, editor of Drawings of Architectural Interiors, continues his commentary of my favorite drawings in this book.

Midway Gardens, Chicago, 1914, Frank Lloyd Wright, architect. Image from 50 Favorite Furnishings by Frank Lloyd Wright, by Diane Maddex, Smithmark, 1999. The FLW drawing also appears in Drawings of Architectural Interiors.

Architects often strive for the spirit of a design, not necessarily photographic realism. Pile observes, “It is the least formal sketches of Le Corbusier or Kahn, or the more self-conscious but perfectly expressive drawings of Wright that give us the strongest sense of direct communication from a powerfully creative mind.”

Reorganisation Agraire, a farmhouse project by Le Corbusier, 1934. I enjoy the exuberance of the woman in the kitchen contrasting with the dog’s nonchalance.

“All too many architects,” Pile writes, “see their art mostly in terms of exterior masses….” However, he notes, “It is impossible to think of Ronchamp [Notre Dame du Ronchamps, 1950, a stunningly modern Catholic church by Le Corbusier], the Johnson Wax Office Building or the Dulles Airport terminal apart from their interiors. Such buildings stand out from the mass of rabbit-warren towers in a way that is recognized by every layman.”

An interior recognized by Daughter Suz and me through our Met Live in HD attendance: The New York State Theater, Lincoln Center, 1964. Philip Johnson, architect. Rendering by Helmut Jacoby (before the proscenium arch’s Mary Callery sculpture).

“All too many architects,” Pile writes, “see their art mostly in terms of exterior masses….” But, fortunately, others excel within as well.

Brown University Earth Sciences and Mathematics Building,1967. I.M. Pei and partners, architects. Rendering by Helmut Jacoby.

Pile observes, “This attitude [about interior renderings] seems to be connected with a peculiar embarrassment about ‘interior decoration’, a trade and/or art that has had a long history as a kind of camp-follower to architecture. The very term “decoration” implies something superficial, transitory and dispensable.”

Two counterexamples of wonderful interior design: Above, Compaignie de l’Esthetique Industrielle, Raymond Loewy. A stateroom on a Parisian bâteau converted into a hotel. Below, House on Massachusetts coast, 1948. Hugh Stubbins, architect. Drawing by Charles Forberg.

Admiring the River Seine from a Loewy stateroom. Or enjoying a good book with the sounds of the ocean nearby. Yes, these would put things in perspective. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2017


  1. William Jones
    May 19, 2017

    Very interesting observations, never thought about the challenge of duplicating a scene drawn with photography. I’ve always been a fan of architecture at all levels. The lobby of the State Theatre is a sight to behold in and of itself!

  2. Andy Robinson
    May 20, 2017

    Hey, is there an architecture of curves , the closest we get seems to be the odd dome, or wait for trees to grow to make most building interesting. Other than nature of course. Regards Andrew Robinson

    • simanaitissays
      May 21, 2017

      Agreed, Andrew,
      There’s a lot of rectilinearity.
      How about Islamic or Indian styles? Lots of neat architecture there.

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