David Macaulay Exhibit Encourages Interactive Sketching

By Sara Lipka July 10, 2007, 10:20 AM EDT

David Macaulay's St. Paul's Cathedral, 2000.

Photo: Courtesy of David Macaulay and National Building Museum

The architectural illustrator David Macaulay wants you to sit down to draw, and a new exhibition of his work, at the National Building Museum, provides inspiration—as well as pencils and sketchbooks. “All of us would be better off if everyone took the time to draw,” Macaulay has said, “if for no other reason than the better we see, the more inevitable curiosity becomes.”

Macaulay’s zeal for visual literacy pervades the exhibit, which incorporates more than 100 of his playfully meticulous drawings of mosques, cathedrals, bridges, and domes. He exploits the technique of perspective drawing to challenge viewers with wildly unexpected angles of physical structures (such as his Floating Skyscraper) and city blocks, one depicted from deep underground, with transparent streets.

In the 3,000-square-foot exhibition space, visitors can walk across one of Macaulay’s sketches, placed under a clear plastic mat on the floor. Toward the ceiling, some of his drawings have been painted, rather than silkscreened, onto walls. And the illustrator himself graffitied little panels and corners with busy rodents.
David Macaulay: The Art of Drawing Architecture” opened on June 23 and runs through January 21, 2008. The museum does not plan to hold private events or tours in the exhibition space but does rent its soaring Great Hall, the site of several inaugural balls, and its elegant two-room Pension Commissioner’s Suite.

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