Alternative Histories

Exhibition, colloquia and publication curated by Drawing Matter and the Architecture Foundation, 2020

Alternative Histories invited more than 80 contemporary practices in the UK and Europe to imagine an exchange with architects from the past. Each office was assigned a different drawing from the collection of Drawing Matter and the participating architects were tasked with making a model that not only responded to what they saw but envisioned an alternative future for the original drawing.”

Final model north elevation

The curators, Jantje Engels and Marius Grootveld assigned to us Eric Gunnar Asplund’s 1921 drawing of the gable elevation of Karl Johan School. The potential symmetry of the façade is undermined by its off-centre presentation on the drawing sheet, and by its constructed context: the profile of the hipped roofed building on the left, and Asplund’s asymmetric landscaping proposals. Observations of this deliberately undermined classical symmetry, combined with the knowledge of the four other gable treatments Asplund designed for this project prompted thoughts of variation and iteration, and of the pediment itself of perhaps the most famously symmetrical building in the world : Palladio’s Villa Almerico Capra (‘La Rotonda’). The nature of La Rotonda’s site, however, with its hill top location and different condition adjacent to each facade ensures that the experience of each of its four pedimented facades is very different.

Taking Asplund’s façade as the starting point for one façade of an imagined house on the edge of a town, our working model posits four further variations on Asplund’s themes constructed about a Palladian plan with its typical cruciform central hall. Our model is a meditation between a situated Nordic classicism and the most influential and international domestic architecture of the last half millennium.

The publication was designed by Studio Mathias Clottu and published by Drawing Matter. The exhibition was first presented at Cork Street, London and then CIVA, Brussels. In October 2020, the models made their way to the Irish Architectural Archive for the Dublin iteration of the exhibition.

Design development sketch
Final model top view
Detail of publication