Ekphrasis I.

Fall 2017, SCI-Arc
Instructors: Marrikka Trotter


  “Please, pass me the drawing number eighteen,” builder asks his helper on the construction site in the province of Lisbona, the land of S.Maria Della Divina. The biggest palace of the Emperor is being built to celebrate the power and the size of the Empire. During the last couple of weeks the builder’s main task has been to construct the main hall of the palace which consists of the series of domes and the wooden roof in between.

    “Look at this facade of the main hall,” builder tells to his helper pointing on the text Faccia Interna written on the sheet. The young man just started working on the construction site today morning and therefore the builder has to introduce him into the project designed and calculated by the Emperor’s main architect. “We have to reproduce this flat drawing in the physical spatial world,” he explains. The construction drawing represents the longitudinal section of the interior façade. The section is positioned exactly in the middle of the floorplan, exact half of the domes are on the drawing. The scale bar on the top of the drawing shows the accurate measurements of the architectural elements to be built precisely.

    The section cuts through the solid material of the roof structure. Hatch of the section represents the variety of the material in the drawing, shows the density and the structure of it. On the drawing it is displayed as a dotted hatch in between two cutting lines of the wall element. The architect used the porous stone material as the main structure which is the main construction material of the area of Lisbona. It has the capabilities of load bearing and also appropriate haptic finish perfect for the representation of the good-looking façade. The secondary structure of the additional roof system is constructed by the wooden beams. The material is shown as dashed line hatch which represents the fiber directionality of the wooden beams. The wood is delivered from the surrounding forests but it is not very popular among builders in Lisbona. As nearly entire palace is made of the stone, it also proves the main usage of this material compare to others as wood or brick. The wooden beams are supporting the primary structure, they lay on the stone structure of the dooms. The stone is being shaped into different volumes of the façade as columns, ornaments, dome structures. Every little detail of the ornament has its own finish around the windows or on the head of the columns. The stone is protecting the interior of the hall from the outer environment by its width which is shown in the section of the wall. It can keep the large hall cool while having a ball or any other ceremony with lot of people inside. The stone has the same appearance on the outer façade a well on the inner façade which is visible on the line drawing.
    As far the stone has representative qualities, the wood on the other side is pushed away from being visible for human eye in the building. The wooden construction is positioned above the stone primary structure of the roof, therefore it stays invisible all the time. The space in between the wooden beams will be left empty and not touched by any human due to its position. It is completely not accessible to anyone after it is built to support the main structure of the roof.

    The openings on the ground level of the façade drawing as well under the wooden roof structure are filled with opaque material which is hatched as black solid on the. The purpose of this material is to not have any visibility in between interior and exterior. The life in the hall and in the whole palace should remain as a secret to the general public. The windows in the dome structure have a transparent glass material with the steel mesh. Those windows are made to bring the sun light into the hall. The mesh fixes the fragile glass in the case it gets broken to keep it in unity. The windows have very large scale and because of that fact they bring huge amount of day light into the most representative space of the palace- the Hall.

    The builder and his helper are studying the details of the drawing when they hear the steps. They turn left and there is the main project architect walking towards them. It is a revision day. The architect comes to the construction site every sixth day to keep the construction in the right order. He needs to fulfill the Emperor’s wishes about the palace so everyone working on the building has to be fully aware of the project and understand every detail of it.

    Not everyone gained such a good education and knowledge as the architect. He is responsible for the statics of the palace as well for the aesthetics and perfect appearance. The palace has to provide a great representational space because it is the Emperor’s building. The architect was asked to construct such a space with the strong experience inside of it. As he could not translate this experience into the line drawing he comes to the construction site to explain the story of the building and its atmosphere to the builders.

    He starts the story with the following words, “The Hall is the most important space of the entire palace,” points on the large open space on the drawing number eighteen, “the Emperor will host there the most important people from Europe and the space has to express the power of the Empire, it has to represent the Emperor.” Builders need to personally work on every piece of the stone, they have to know how it is placed and how it influences the space with particular haptic finish for each of them. Builders have to imagine the atmosphere inside of the Hall and build it according to this motion. They follow the architect’s ideas and drawings and architect follows the Emperor’s wishes. But the Hall has to serve everyone who visits the Palace. It protects the life inside using the thick building material as stone but in the same time shows the strength towards the outer world with detailed façade treatment. Architect needs to describe the emotion and impression of the space which he did not put into the sheet. The drawing of such a type as construction section does not have the ability to speak differently as in technical terms. It cannot express itself beyond the line. It does not release the required atmosphere of the Hall.

    The architect describes how to precisely construct the columns on the ground floor with the curved lines. Typically in the construction, the column has a load bearing qualities. In the case of the Hall, the column is highly decorative element which is visible on the curved profile. Folds on the columns are positioned in the rhythm next to each other. The curved volumes of the columns are set out of the façade and provide spatial appearance as a relief displayed with the black solid hatch on the drawing. The columns are placed in between the openings with the straight lines to express a disorder in the order of the building system. The wall as a construction element takes the load of the entire Hall because the columns are highly decorative as mentioned before. The horizontal lines within the rectangular shapes show the directionality of the stone of the wall. The stone has to be placed in this particular way in order to achieve the special effect on the flat façade. The shadows drawn on the surface of the domes represent the spatial qualities of the concave and convex volumes. The light and the shadow support the vision of the architect about the space on the flat planar construction drawing. The pure line drawing is monotone without any additional expression of the space. But the play of the shadow brings a drawing to the life. The cross on every dome structure represents the relation of the Emperor and the God. People of Lisbona believe into their God and therefore they support and respect their Emperor.

    The details of the ornaments are extremely important to understand the continuity of the space. Ornaments constantly fold inside and outside of the façade to provide high level of plasticity for something flat as a wall itself. They create a feeling of endless continuity through their curvature. Visitors of the Hall will be immersed into the beauty of the volutes placed on the head of the columns or the patterns in the triangular shape on the top of the domes. The folding brings the light and the shadow into the façade by constant change of the volumes towards the light source.

    The space is visually divided in order to use different geometrical shapes which do not collide with each other but rather connect. The drawing appears as the construction of two levels- the ground level and the first level because of the horizontal beams dividing them visually. These horizontal elements just play an optical illusion of the space because the Hall is meant to be the largest space of the Palace and not split by any additional elements as wall or slab. The lines of the columns are stopped by the horizontal beams but then they continue on the edge of the dome back to the ground level. This movement is really dynamic and shows the continuity of the forms on the façade even though they are split. The repetitions of the columns, windows and dome structure express the strength and deep foundation of the Empire. It is based on the composition of the grid giving the order to the façade.

    “When you look at the format of this drawing, it was cut out of bigger section of the building,” He explains that the Hall leads into different spaces which are drawn on the multiple sheets to follow. The whole Palace was drawn on many different sheets due to the construction phases and the timeline of the project. Now the project is in the final phase as the drawing shows the finish of the façade and its plasticity as final touch. The builders have to read the drawing in horizontal order to understand the relations of the façade elements and their construction. The drawing has the orientation from left to right, the title of the drawing starts in the left upper corner. The following drawing number nineteen also continues on another sheet from left to right because the drawing number eighteen stopped on the right edge of the sheet. As the building is singular work also the multiple drawings have to be translated into one piece in the reality.
    The builder and his helper hold the drawing number eighteen. They turn around. After very intense long work they fully understand the atmosphere of the space from the sheet the architect was talking about. The Hall is finished. Finally, they are able to see the play of the fold, the plasticity of the curved volumes and touch the finishing of the stone. They feel the sunrays on their faces passing through the windows on the domes providing great amount of light in the Hall. “Now we can continue to the drawing number nineteen where you will see the continuity of the space which comes out of the Hall. Please follow me there,” they put the drawing number eighteen on the table standing in the middle of the huge Hall and they walk with the architect into the corridor leading into the different space of the Emperor’s biggest Palace in the Province of Lisbona. Just built.