The architecture scene in the New York region is unquestionably the most diverse, creative, and multi-dimensional the country. It has so many components and sub groupings as to be barely comprehensible to those who live here and unfathomable to visitors. The city is called home by the largest amount of big cooperate firms in the country as well as scores of small highly creative studios and workshops and serves as the regular haunt of academic and institutional scholars and curators who range from Princeton in the south to New Haven in the north. In fact, it’s safe to say that New York’s architecture milieu is unparalleled anywhere in the world.
One of its unique strengths for the past thirty years has been a small but influential community of creators who work alone in studios putting their ideas down on paper in powerful images of thought and architectural possibilities. The most important of these figures includes ex-Archigrammer Michael Webb and the late John Hejduk, Raimund Abraham, Lebbeus Woods, Lauretta Vinciarelli, and even the Italian Aldo Rossi who drew Manhattan’s dramatic forms obsessively and merged them into his unique architectural vision. These so-called “paper architects” came, like Hugh Ferris, from other places to live and work in New York and all contributed a unique influence to the rest of the field.
The exhibition A Line Around Around an Idea, which featured the hand drawings of James Wines, who is best known as the founding director of SITE studio, makes the case that he too belongs in this group of important New York-based paper architects. Wines, this exhibit pointed out, draws beautifully (with a Montblanc Classic Pen, Windsor Newton brushes, Canson paper, a dwindling supply of Osmiroid ink, and natural charcoal) and his renderings of built and unbuilt projects from the 1970s until the present day makes the case for how important “mind-to-hand” drawing can still be for those who possess the skill and concentration to utilize the form. The pictorial quality of SITE’s best work, like Peeling (Richmond, Virginia), Indeterminate Facade (Houston, Texas), Notch (Sacramento, California), and Tilt (Towson, Maryland), are unimaginable without Wines facile ability to render his thought process in pen and ink.
The exhibition was organized chronologically with a linear panel that discloses the built or unbuilt condition of the rendered building above. The show covers Wines’ long engagement both with landscape merging into architecture and with green environmental conditions or “vegetated” buildings. Finally, the exhibition made the case that Wines is not just a paper architect, but one involved in actual construction, with projects like his splendid Beijing New World Plaza Center. His mind and hand are as convincing in 2013 as they were in 1970.