ArchitectureBoston

Drawing Toward Home: Designs for Domestic Architecture from Historic New England

Posted in Vol 13 No 1 by bsaab on February 19, 2010

Unidentified suburban residence

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Boston University Art Gallery, November 18, 2009–January 17, 2010

National Building Museum, Washington, DC, February 13, 2010–August 15, 2010

A good architectural drawing creates what landscape painters call a moment. It illustrates something that in an instant resonates within us. With paintings, it is usually about a time or place that is iconic, as if we’ve known the place all along or were there at some point in our lives. As the drawings in this exhibition demonstrate, a good architectural drawing has that same capacity.

Beyond whatever artful quality they have, architectural drawings also require a certain correctness or scale to be useful. Whether a plan, an elevation, or a detail, all of the drawings in this exhibition are practical representations of an idea that was meant to be built. They had to accurately portray the whole house or a portion of it to clients or contractors and, by itself, that is often enough. But what is so significant here, and what elevates these drawings beyond mere representation, is their facility to give us the same moment that a good painting can give us.

Three drawings demonstrate the range of this show: one by Peabody and Stearns of a house in Newton (1875), one by Halfdon Hanson of a house in Gloucester (circa 1920), and another by Henry Hoover of a house in Lincoln (1968). Separated by only a few miles in Massachusetts but spread over almost a century in time, they couldn’t be more different stylistically. Yet all the drawings seem familiar and comfortable, as if one could move right in and occupy the house. Though the drawings in this exhibition span three centuries of domestic American architecture, that sense, or moment, is evident in all of them.

Top image: Unidentified suburban residence, 1930s, David J. Abrahams, architect. Courtesy Historic New England.

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  1. Cal Phillips said, on June 2, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Reminds me of a Doctor’s home we painted here in Denver several years ago. Shape and design very similar, but exterior siding a horizontal V-match T&G 1 X 6 Cedar. Very stately while withstanding time.


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