Imogene Tudor — Sketchy Times
Posted on February 4, 2015
Imogene Tudor on penning the finer points of architecture.
Buildings are slow beasts. Stone feet are anchored into unseen earth, with metal, glass, concrete and timber providing shelters, homes and aspirations. As an architect, I spend my work days locked in this embrace; years pass from conception to the first turn of the key in a front door. Contrary to popular belief though, I spend very little of this time thinking about the big picture of a building; the hero shot as we call it. The demands of a building, from gas inlet points to weather seals for window frames, occupy the lion’s share of my creative energies. The complexities of these minutia, also contrary to expectations, elevate the mundane into the realm of art. As the renowned Modernist Architect Mies van der Rohe put it, ‘God is in the details.’
In my spare time — especially when I travel — I sketch. Sketching is another slow process and one that I use to guide my observations of the world around me — searching for God in another architect’s details. The finished drawing is a by-product of the thought process; a record of a moment in time and space. By forcing myself to slow down, to pause and observe with the focus required of me, I can document a scene with unknown depths of understanding. I seek to understand through time, understand through touch, and understand through smell, heat, discomfort, eye contact and curiosity. The drawing is not the outcome, but a tool to focus my observation and enforce a new, much slower pace.
The following collection of sketches were made in Rome, Johannesburg, Marseilles, Hanoi and Hoi An over the past two years. They range from one of the world’s most recognisable buildings, the Colosseum in Rome, to a street vendor’s banana pancake stand on the streets of small-town Vietnam. Linking all of these sketches is the physical act of observational drawing. These drawings are time capsules — a freeze frame of a moment in time, place and temperament. In them, my hand has sought to illuminate the page in conversation with the slow beasts around me.
The Colleseum, Rome (Italy, June 2013)
I never considered a circular building could have a ‘back’ facade. This was where the ‘Gladiators’ costumed for the tourist photo trade came to smoke a cigarette and to change into their street clothes when they knocked off for the day.
Office Tower, Johannesburg (South Africa, March 2013)
They call Johannesburg the City of Gold after the mines the city is literally and metaphorically built on. While drawing this relentless facade I wondered whether the architect thought about the symbolic implications of one-way gold coloured glass on their modernist office tower.
Unité de Habitation, Marseilles (France, June 2013)
I approached the Unité with a typical architectural Modernist-loving reverence but was distracted during my sketching by a group of truant school kids pushing each other down the ramps in an abandoned shopping trolley.
Hanoi Street Corner, Hanoi (Vietnam, December 2013)
It was December in Hanoi and I was cold, sitting on a restaurant terrace sipping tea to keep warm and get the right angle. I lost myself in the ecosystem that this building supported, if not for frozen fingers, I would have spent hours adding detail of pot plants, street umbrellas, vendors, cars, cat, people, advertising.
How Vietnamese Coffee Works, Hoi An (Vietnam, December 2013)
Vietnamese coffee making is a feat of engineering. Each component shaped and specialised to brew the coffee, capture the drips and contain the heat. Dissecting the coffee maker in drawing felt like I was translating a new language.
How to Make Banana Pancakes, Hoi An (Vietnam, December 2013)
The woman making banana pancakes was a force of nature. It was as if her fervour and efficiency had cross-pollinated the food trolley — every inch of that trolley was utilised with items, hanging, balancing, stacked and towering.
How to Eat Pippi’s on the Street, Hanoi (Vietnam, December 2014)
Squatting on an undersized stool on a roundabout next to a highway, we ate pippi’s and drank beer. The place felt surprisingly intimate. The overhanging tree and the roar of the highway, by design or chance, had created an outdoor room.
This is Bangkok (Thailand, June 2013)
It was oppressively hot just before a colossal thunderstorm. We found ourselves lost in Bangkok in a red-light district designed for tourists. These are my notes from the moment — concealed but explicit. Concealed only through mass. More: layers of plastic, concrete. Doors with dancing women beyond. Looming infrastructure. Concrete carapice huddled against the impending storm.
Imogene Tudor studied at the University of New South Wales.