The artist of infrastructure

Critic's Corner//Architecture

Critic's Corner//Architecture

May 21, 2007|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,sun architecture critic

Illustrator and storyteller David Macaulay has been described as a visual archaeologist, an artist who "excavates" historic buildings by drawing them in various stages of construction or deconstruction, rather than digging into the earth.

Focusing on everything from the spaghetti-like tangle of pipes and cables under cities to the structural systems of cathedrals and pyramids, his books are valuable resources that show all that goes into shaping the built environment.

Next month, Macaulay's work will be the subject of an exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington. "David Macaulay: The Art of Drawing Architecture" opens June 23 and runs through Jan. 21 showcasing more than 100 of his sketches and finished drawings.

"David Macaulay's exceptional balance of technical and artistic skills has helped educate millions of people to the way buildings and infrastructure systems ... work," said William F. Marcuson III, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a sponsor of the exhibit. "We take great pride in recognizing and celebrating his unique and enlightening talents."

Macaulay's work is distinctive because he uses only pen and ink to draw, rather than relying on computers the way many architects and renderers do. The freehand approach allows him to use his imagination and humor to create images that no photograph or computer-aided drafting program could capture.

Featuring drawings from Macaulay's popular books - including Cathedral (1973), Underground (1976), Great Moments in Architecture (1978), Motel of the Mysteries (1979), Building Big (2000), and Mosque (2003) - the exhibition is organized around four themes: Visual Archaeology, Playing With Perspective, Revealing Structure and Inspiring Imagination.

Besides drawings and sketchbooks, it will contain audio-visual stations where visitors can watch or listen to interviews with Macaulay, library alcoves with research material used for Mosque, and copies of his books to browse.

On June 23, the museum will host "The Big Draw Family Day," during which Macaulay will be on hand encouraging children to create their own drawings. The first U.S. event of its kind, it's offered in association with a British initiative of the same name.

The National Building Museum is at 401 F St. N.W. Hours are Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Park recognition

One of Baltimore's newest attractions just won a national design award. The Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum, which opened last year in Fells Point, received an Award of Excellence in the 2007 Educational Facility Design Awards program sponsored by the American Institute of Architects' Committee on Architecture for Education.

Designed by Ziger Snead Architects of Baltimore for the Living Classrooms Foundation, the maritime park and museum was the only project in central Maryland to be singled out for recognition during the national AIA convention earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas. The park is at the corner of Caroline and Thames streets.

The foundation will hold a "first anniversary awards gala" to support the maritime park and museum on June 22. The event will honor the Bernstein Family, Eddie and Sylvia Brown, Dr. Gladys-Marie Fry and former Mayor Kurt Schmoke and Dr. Patricia Schmoke. Ticket information is available from Caprece Jackson-Garrett at

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