Joyce Rosner, Distinguished Senior Lecturer at The University of Texas School of Architecture, received a 2007 Gabriel Prize that sparked a decade-long project, the results of which are included in her new work, “Spatial Speculations: Drawing from the Gardens of Versailles.” The Gabriel Prize provides recipients with funding to study a particular aspect of French architecture. Rosner chose to create drawings of André Le Nôtre’s gardens at Versailles, studying their formal and experiential qualities.
Rosner, who sees the gardens at Versailles as a “continually unfolding spectacle,” gathered inspiration from the work of Paul Klee and set about creating a style of representation that could graphically capture the tension and contrast between the building and the landscape, the vertical and the horizontal, and the static and the moving. The resulting drawings are vividly colored abstractions, highly geometric and with multiple vanishing points, that manage to convey the history and architecture of the gardens even as they evoke personal memory and experience The work also includes essays by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, Rosner’s former professors, as well as Perry Kulper and Mirka Benes. Their contributions place the project in the context of architecture today, when digital renderings have become the standard form of representation in the profession. Kulper describes the work as “a lesson in what it means to work in an unadulterated way, unfailingly committed to what might be discovered in the act of making.” Rosner’s work highlights the value of the creative process and of non-representational work in the age of AutoCAD. Some of the comparisons within the work are overblown; likening these drawings to Monet’s Haystack paintings is a bit grandiose. But it does have something valuable to say about architectural representation in the digital age. The drawings are wholly captivating, providing a fresh perspective on an iconic landscape and the art of the architectural sketch itself.
Alyssa Morris is a freelance writer based in Austin and former web editor of TA.