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Representational Analysis :: Decomposition Drawing & Video

The following video was a micro-lecture provided for the ARCH202 Intermediate Design studios at Pratt Institute as an introduction to concepts and techniques of architectural analysis through decompositional drawing and video-based representation. The first segment documents examples of forms of decomposition in architectural analysis drawing such as X-Rays/MRIs or layered transparent systems, scans, overlays, fades, and exploded relationships. I worked with diagrams with a fixed view (oblique or axonometric) and began to reconstitute the decomposed elements and systems into primitive video compositions.

The remainder of the video is intended to showcase several examples of video as a medium of architectural representation. The sections generally align with the predominant techniques of x-rays/scans, fades/compositions, and explosions/decompositions. A few of the examples are from my own work or works of students from the past fifteen years, but most are referenced examples found on YouTube or Vimeo. The intro segments that explore Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion were extracted and animated from our Representation 2 course, Architectural Interfaces, which I am coordinating this semester. These are simple animated gifs created in Photoshop from series of drawings and diagrams output from Rhino.

Since graduate school, I have often produced short presentations in video format. It is a medium I enjoy working with, manipulating time and sequencing for an emotional effect that heightens the experience of the content. It is also a good way to keep a presentation to a strict time constraint, if a presentation is to be seven minutes, and I create a seven-minute video, then I must be disciplined in my verbal presentation and finish with the video. With a little more work I will even integrate the presentation as narration, but this isn't always as effective as a live performance.

Below is a general transcript from my lecture (though after several rehearsals I didn't read any of it, but I am pretty sure I covered all the points :):


Let's begin with a few projects that you are all probably familiar with.

Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye is an often studied precedent of 20th-century modern architecture.

It exists between building and diagram, his five points, with clear formal, tectonic, programmatic, and material systems.

The video of a student's analysis (from youtube) implements several representational techniques to analyze the key elements and relationships of the project.

(try to ignore the strange hyperspace plans background)

The program is highlighted in planar and volumetric color overlays.

Architectural elements assemble based on layers of the plan, groups of similar elements, and clipping plane fades.

The simply rendered floor plans fade and composite to reveal material and program in connection to environment and provide a notational map of the spaces.


All of you have at least 80% of the skills to put together a video-based analysis and narrative like this. The only new representational techniques are camera animations and clipping plane animations.


We can start with what we know. Focused 3D views, isometric or oblique, that establish a platform of drawing layers to scan the architecture.

Animating overlayed elements and systems build complex integrations of parts-to-whole as we x-ray the architectural body.

Colors and tones organize differences and produce emphasis.

Layers become frames in time, decomposing the architecture.


A great place to start is with the classics, such as this exploded / sliced axon drawing of the Villa Savoye by Francis Ching.

Once you establish the decomposed elements and representational system, you can combine the assets to rich effect in a video or gif format.


The following are a couple of projects by OMA that offer more contemporary examples of architectural decomposition diagrams of building systems.

The Seattle Public Library - this model diagram of solid/void, circulation, and envelope gets straight to the primary ideas.

While simple in concept, the architectural consequences are quite complex.

OMA does a lot of analytical drawings to decompose the elements of the project and describe/represent the complexity of the systems - structure, slab, core, skin - x-ray.


We see both the x-ray of the architectural body and the exploded map of its inhabitation.


This circulation map is an exploded MRI scan of the complex circulation and activity connections through the building.

The CCTV Headquarters:

This project goes even further in the cataloging of decomposed elements.

We can see another complex assemblage of form, program, structure, and circulation.


A series of decomposed structural components isolated in a catalog of x-rays of the overall form documents the parts in context to the whole.


The program catalog has even more depth to its isolation of elements, categorization, and local and global contexts.

By compositing the series of isolated elements we can explore multiple connections simultaneously in the x-ray fade animation.

We can analyze architecture as a functionally integrated system of interconnected and discrete elements.


From here on I decided to speak with the flow of the video, highlighting techniques and consequences of storytelling through the medium of video. Many, probably all, of the video excerpts are speed up by 150-200% to work with the time constraints of the lecture and isolate the techniques over the narratives.




During my graduate studies at Columbia GSAPP I had the opportunity to take several visual studies elective that introduced me to video as a representational and generative design tool. Since my undergraduate degree was packed with rigorous technical courses on structural systems, building environments, lighting, and mechanical systems I was able to opt-out of a few similar courses in grad school. This freed up a little extra space for me to explore extra electives, and for reasons now long lost to me, I took two classes with Prof. John Szot: Video Video and Cinematic Communications. These focused on technical aspects of working with video in tools like Aftereffects and Premiere, combining live DV video footage with synthetic computer-generated scenes, and developing a narrative in the medium of time, images, and sound.


Video Video Based Analysis :: GSAPP :: 2005 :: with Singjoy Liang


A rough attempt at compositing a speculative architectural facade system developed in our housing studio with a live video recording. Integrating the speculative with the real to give the viewer a space to integrate possibility with reality. The tectonic system and video composition were produced by Singjoy Liang and me in the fall of 2005.


Cinematic Communications :: GSAPP :: 2006


A short assignment to construct a video dialog with New York City. For me, this became a sort of music video grappling with my reactions to the pedestrian street landscape of NY during my first couple of years living here. Time and Overlay are the primary techniques, the video is cut to have a loose connection to sound events in the music and a dialog with the words of the song.


Cinematic Communications :: GSAPP :: 2006 :: with Singjoy Liang


The final assignment for this course was a video-based documentary of a condition in NYC. Singjoy and I were doing a project n Brownsville, Brooklyn in the Fall and had discovered an interesting group of people at a local community center that entertained our project. We both learned a great deal from the many interviews we had with the life long residents of the neighborhood, greatly enhancing our appreciation for the growth and evolution that has taken place in the density and complexity of New York.

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