According to Michael Meredith, AIA, and Hilary Sample, AIA, founders and co-principals of New York–based MOS Architects, fundamentally, an architect's job is to draw buildings (and, ideally, to oversee their realization, of course). But in their forthcoming book, An Unfinished Encyclopedia of Scale Figures without Architecture (MIT Press, 2019), Meredith and Sample also argue that an architect is responsible for drawing, painting, and/or digitally rendering the humans that might occupy their spaces.
"It is impossible to represent architecture without representing the human," the duo write. "Even when the human presence is intentionally left out or is reduced to a faceless set of measurements, it haunts architecture in its absence."
In an effort to explore and chronicle the human form in architectural drawings, Meredith and Sample have assembled an encyclopedia of more than 1,000 depictions of people from architectural renderings by 250 designers including Lina Bo Bardi, Frank Lloyd Wright, Zaha Hadid, I.M. Pei, FAIA, Santiago Calatrava, FAIA, Tatiana Bilbao, and Bjarke Ingels. Organized in alphabetical order according to the designer's name, the depictions range from soft charcoal smudge sketches to watercolor paintings to simple geometric forms to cartoon characters.
Logistically, these images often provide scale and context for project renderings. But, "by looking at these figures systematically and from the perspective of the historian," argues MoMA's Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design Martino Stierli in a foreword, "it might be possible not only to tell a history of architectural theory ... but also a social history of architecture, allowing an understanding of the discipline as a mirror of societal and political concerns at a given moment in time."
In what Carnegie Museum of the Arts curator Raymond Ryan describes as "like being at a fabulous party," perusing An Unfinished Encyclopedia of Scale Figures without Architecture offers a whimsical, non-linear, and exhaustive glimpse of people—and sometimes aliens, animals, or Rorschach blots— in architecture through the eye's of some of the greatest designers in history.
An Unfinished Encyclopedia of Scale Figures without Architecture will be available on Jan. 1, 2019, and can be pre-ordered here.