A Vague Precision: Architectural Drawings and Other Stories

Carole Lévesque

Drawing Millions of Plans

October 2017

The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture



A Vague Precision: Architectural Drawing and Other Stories

In his seminal book L’invention du quotidien 1. Arts de faire, Michel de Certeau opposed the view of the city seen from above – the view of the plan– to the view seen from within – the view through practice. Though he might not have been thinking directly of architectural representation, the dialectics between plan and practice can certainly be explored through drawing, for drawing can be an active method for forming knowledge about place, space, and use. As the path of a walk draws itself while walking, drawing happens as one draws. As the drawing appears on the page, details gather, accidents occur, and it falls back onto the ability of the drawer to find his way through the drawing to tell the story of the place he set out to draw. Drawing narratively requires an acute observation of what is to be drawn: built forms, shadows, passers-by, the time of day, smells, sounds, distances, memories, encounters and other stories told. The practice of drawing that is telling of stories is one where the path of the hand can be followed and where the presence of place can be felt. While the hand will sometimes take the initiative, narrative drawings can only be shaped after the knowledge of place has been embodied through repetitive drawing, or after repeated encounters with the narratives to be drawn. More than a mere representation, the narrative drawing allows the eye to wander and walk through the story being told.


Following a documentation set within a research-by-design project that questions the space that is made for vagueness within the city, and that led to a 42 hours walk across the island of Montreal, Canada, 150 locations were photographed and surveyed. Working with plans and axonometric drawings, the project seeks to link architectural representation to abandoned or left over areas within the city to show how filled and organised, built, really, these abandoned areas truly are. Amongst the different types of representation used in the context of the project (cartography, photography, video, survey drawings, and axonometric drawings) a series of 6 large-scale ink drawings was undertaken to both further the description and inscribe the continuous experience of the vague within the drawing, as would a story line within a series of words. Drawing with acute precision a combination of plan and elevation of these abandoned spaces begins a process of inscription of the vague within the local context and renders plausible the weaving of its own undisciplined narrative within that of the city. Using the tools of architectural representation in a situation where places appear empty implies that the narrative being told be one of the existing condition. The detailed architectural drawing both describes with outmost precision the elements that build the vague and composes, as a story to be told, a different and inclusive narrative of what an urban landscape ought to be.