Selected Texts by AOC
Selected Texts about AOC
Tom Coward
Geoff Shearcroft
Key Contemporary Buildings:
Plans, Sections and Elevations
In the Wachowski Brothers' sci-fi classic, The Matrix (1999), Keanu Reeves's character is an everyday desk jockey charged with saving humanity. The turning point of the film is when he discovers his special power - the ability to see through the photo-realistic virtual reality of the Matrix, in which humanity is trapped, and view the computer code that lies behind it. Once able to view the Matrix's code he learns to manipulate it at will, allowing him to get on with the aforementioned salvation. Rob Gregory's book provides its readers a similar revelatory moment of empowerment.

Its title suggests an all too familiar coffee-table tome but it avoids this dust-collecting fate through the inclusion of a CD-ROM, containing the plans, sections and elevations for each of the 95 buildings (dwg and pdf format).

In the introduction Gregory suggests "there is an element of self-learning that will reward those who spend time reading the drawings, both from the page and on screen." Inconsistent scales between pages limit book-based comparative research but overlaying digital plans and sections is insightful. Beyond learning, the digital information provided is a serious tool for anyone trying to design a building.

Architecture has a long tradition of architects copying and adapting buildings they admire. Michelangelo copied Brunelleschi, Wren copied Michelangelo, and Lutyens sampled bits of both. The CD-ROM encourages this tradition, overcoming the often problematic issue of access. Designing an exhibition space? Then read, learn and sample from Herzog and de Meuron's de Young Museum, O'Donnell + Tuomey's Lewis Glucksman Gallery and Tezeuka's Museum of Natural Science. A house? Try Fujimoto, Caruso St. John and Patkau. Purists will point out the benefits of personal experience and measured surveys but for those of us with a day job this is the next best thing.

Gregory's strategies for buildings' inclusion and classification may provide fuel for debate, but this is to miss the significance of the information provided. As the third in the series I only hope more publications - books, magazines, GoogleEarth - follow suit and allow all readers to see beyond the slick images of architectural perfection and gain access to the drawn DNA of the buildings we admire from afar.

One note of warning. All the material on the CD-ROM is copyright protected. In the contemporary world of intellectual property the architect must follow their cut'n'paste forefathers with great care (see 'A bastardised copy', AJ 11.09.08).
Published by Geoff Shearcroft
The Architects' Journal
23 October, 2008