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An Unfinished Encyclopedia of Scale Figures without Architecture

An Unfinished Encyclopedia of Scale Figures without Architecture

Current price: $85.00
Publication Date: January 8th, 2019
The MIT Press
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More than 1,000 representations of the human figure in architectural drawings by architects ranging from Aalto to Zumthor, removed from their architectural context.


Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample, and MOS present their rich findings on the human presence in architectural drawings not in any chronological or other linear order, but based on the convention of the encyclopedia, thus presenting (and perhaps deliberately condoning) surprise encounters made possible by the contingency created by alphabetical order.…. From the contemporary perspective of a pluralistic world, the form of the encyclopedia may be particularly apt to represent such a vast body of material as is presented here: defying any linear historical account or master narrative, it invites the reader to construct his or her own readings of the material by establishing relationships between individual drawings.
—From the foreword by Martino Stierli

Throughout history, across radically different movements in Western culture, the human figure appears and reappears, in multiple guises, to remind us, the observers, of architectural purpose and of our mutual position in the world.…This encyclopedia has enlarged or reduced all figures to the same approximate scale. Meredith, Sample, and MOS have gathered them here in an unprecedented, intoxicating way, like being at a fabulous party.
—From the afterword by Raymund Ryan

Architects draw buildings, and the buildings they draw are usually populated by representations of the human figure—drawn, copied, collaged, or inserted—most often to suggest scale. It is impossible to represent architecture without representing the human form. This book collects more than 1,000 scale figures by 250 architects but presents them in a completely unexpected way: it removes them from their architectural context, displaying them on the page, buildingless, giving them lives of their own. They are presented not thematically or chronologically but encyclopedically, alphabetically by architect (Aalto to Zumthor). In serendipitous juxtapositions, the autonomous human figures appear and reappear, displaying endless variations of architecturally rendered human forms.

Some architects' figures are casually scrawled; others are drawn carefully by hand or manipulated by Photoshop; some are collaged and pasted, others rendered in charcoal or watercolors. Leon Battista Alberti presents a trident-bearing god; the Ant Farm architecture group provides a naked John and Yoko; Archigram supplies its Air Hab Village with a photograph of a happy family. Without their architectural surroundings, the scale figures present themselves as architecture's refugees. They are the necessary but often overlooked reference points that give character to spaces imagined for but not yet occupied by humans. Here, they constitute a unique sourcebook and an architectural citizenry of their own.

About the Author

Michael Meredith is a Principal at MOS, an internationally recognized architectural practice based in New York. His writing has appeared in Artforum, LOG, Perspecta, Harvard Design Magazine, and other publications.

Hilary Sample is a Principal at MOS, Associate Professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture Planning, and Preservation, and author of Maintenance Architecture (MIT Press).

MOS, cofounded by Meredith and Sample in 2003, was the recipient of the 2015 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum National Design Award in Architecture, the 2010 American Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award, and the 2008 Architectural League of New York Emerging Voices Award.

Praise for An Unfinished Encyclopedia of Scale Figures without Architecture

A wave of excitement may rush over the reader while surveying the 1000+ scale figures in the book's collection.—ARCHINECT