November 20, 2015
by Jonathan Tyrrell
TEXT Jonathan Tyrrell
This fall, the Architecture in Perspective (AIP) 30th Conference took place in Toronto. Artists and architects from the American Society of Architectural Illustrators (ASAI) converged on the city for two days of urban sketch tours, seminars, a juried exhibition and the coveted annual awards—including the organization’s highest honour, the Hugh Ferriss Memorial Prize.
Jonathan Tyrrell of Dereck Revington Studio attended on behalf of Canadian Architect. Here’s what caught his eye.
This year’s Hugh Ferriss Memorial Prize, the top accolade in the juried exhibition, went to Midori Watanabe for her arresting aquarium image, modestly titled “Study 02”. Jury members were struck by the boldness of the composition, the liquidity of the light, and the sense of wonder embodied in the silhouettes of the two children.
Dennis Allain’s enigmatic image of an Art Deco building, barely glimpsed through the cracks of a raw industrial interior, won both the Members’ Choice Award and the Juror’s Award from Donald Schmitt. Schmitt praised the image’s unorthodox composition, strong contrast and attention to detail, as well as its construction of a mysterious narrative without the use of human figures.
The formal award went to Yuko Nakamura for his soaring illustration of an Islamic temple. The transcendent quality of light, placid atmosphere, immensity of scale, and deftly placed point of view were all remarked upon by the Jury.
A selection of other images: (top left) ‘Ocean Cottage’ – Steve Thorington (Juror’s Award – Richard Johnson), (top right) ‘The Temple Kiyomizu 2/Kyoto’ – Kazuo Hasegawa, (bottom left) ‘Olathe Community Center/Olathe, KS’ – Gary Schuberth (Observational – Best In Show), (bottom right) ‘Tower Concept/Guiyang, China’ – Anthony Chieh (Juror’s Award – Thomas Payne). For a complete online gallery see: https://www.flickr.com/photos/asaihq/albums/72157650546725799
The Architecture in Perspective exhibition is mounted in the Eric Arthur Gallery of the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. A vast array of techniques and media are juxtaposed on the gallery walls: from the raw expression of charcoal drawings to the polish of the purely digital. Speaking with conference delegates, there is truly a sense that any ideological friction between the digital and hand crafts is largely a thing of the past. Composition, spatial depth, narrative and emotion all govern, leaving process as something of a footnote.
Current ASAI President and award-winning illustrator Jon Soules leads a richly narrated sketching tour of historic Toronto, starting at St. Lawrence Market and stopping over at the Distillery District before finishing at Fort York. Undeterred by the brisk weather, the group of mostly first-time visitors captured not only buildings and streetscapes, but all manner of urban ephemera.
A lively and engaging panel discussion was held at Forrec on Thursday evening, hosted by long term ASAI member Gordon Grice. The program began with a presentation by Unbuilt Toronto author Mark Osbaldeston. His talk focused on the 1957 Toronto City hall competition, while touching on other unbuilt projects, such as Vimy Circle, that still live on in the popular imagination. Osbaldeston’s work reminds us just how much the image contributes to the persistent allure of the could-have-been (or perhaps in some cases the should-have-been).
The panel consisted of ASAI co-founder Frank Costantino, U of T professor Laura Miller, renowned Toronto watercolourist Michael McCann, and journalist and war artist Richard Johnson. Here, Johnson presents a poignant sketch of a wounded Afghan soldier, done while embedded with the Canadian forces in Afghanistan. The panelists’ work was starkly different in technique and approach, and yet common to each was a sense of how the illustration, through subjective and objective means, has the potential to access hidden truths about that which it encounters.
Saturday’s program consisted of seminar presentations from Toronto visualization studios Cicada Design, Headgear Animation, war illustrator Richard Johnson, V-Ray developers Chaos Group, legendary watercolourist Michael McCann, and Boston/New York based visualization studio Neoscape. Here, Carlos Cristerna, a principle at Neoscape, discusses the studio’s 20 year history, emphasizing the need for adaptability and innovation in this rapidly changing field.
Michael McCann talks with conference attendees during a break in the seminar sessions. McCann presented concept sketches and finished pieces from his impressive 45-year career and offered insight into the role of the illustrator in shaping the design process. The audience also had a chance to peruse his stunning original travel folio, which includes field watercolours from across Europe (washed with the actual water of the Thames, the Canal Grande, and other legendary fluvial locales).
A silent auction is held at each ASAI conference, raising funds for the association and giving attendees the opportunity to purchases sketches done by some of the top illustrators in the business. Not all subjects need be architectural, as evidenced by the numerous casual portraits and the charming taxonomy of Torontonian squirrel poses.
Donald Schmitt, Jon Soules and Gordon Grice present at the awards ceremony in the ornate Sovereign Ballroom of the Omni King Edward Hotel. Being the 30th year of the conference, there was considerable reflection on the history of the organization and the shape of things to come. There is no doubt that economic and technological forces have irrevocably altered the field of architectural illustration. And yet, at each illustrator’s core, it seems, is a genuine love of the craft, desire to learn, and compulsion to share work. As noted by ASAI co-founder Frank Costantino, these are the qualities that have carried the organization through a transformative three decades, and there is every indication they will carry them through decades to come.