I knew, of course, that for the students, the reference to such ancient legends had little to
do with their final project of producing, by semester's end, a well- documented 30" x 40"
elevation drawing of a Roman site -- done in computer CAD software. But all the same,
we all brought along a 1930's version of Homer's
ODYSSEY -- by T. E. Lawrence -- as sort
of trip companion, and devoted a number of class discussions during the semester to see
just what Odysseus's homecoming journey after the Trojan War, his encounter with the
one-eyed Cyclops, or his overcoming of the enchantress Circe had to do with things
However, I feel that the
various charcoal studies
executed --shown here --
from live poses of our
human model while we
were in Rome, also reveal
-- in terms of the FIGURE
-- how the elements of a
good drawing are somehow
universal. In the end, it is
all about composition,
stacking of parts to make
the whole, line weights,
and expressiveness. Despite
these parallels and
commonalities, though,
some drawing students and
teachers insist that
buildings and human
figures exist in very
different realms of learning
about design.
In August 2008, I asked a small group of graduate students from an American
university studying in Rome to read and think about the thread of Ariadne and other
 while they studied architectural drawing and design here in the City. The
class also received lessons in one- and two-point perspective and sketching from the
live human model in order to improve their freehand drawing skills. While by most
accounts, it was the world's first architect, Daedalus, who designed the famous
Cretan labyrinth, Hungarian scholar Karl Kerenyi (1897-1973) assures us that a
series of dance steps performed by Ariadne in front of Theseus gave Theseus the
"thread" he needed to follow to enter and exit from the maze, in order to defeat the
Minotaur -- a half bull, half human creature who lived inside it.
Now, for the modern architecture student, the process of designing a form inside the
empty drawing space or page may also start with a quick and continuous, "gestural"
recording of the overall event or configuration he sees inside that spatial extension,
based on conditions and specifications previously understood.  Sure, the task at hand
might be as non-mythological as the floor plan and elevation views of a beach house or
lawyer's office, but perhaps the trick is to understand the two views of the desired space
as hinged and essentially interrelated as are the actual figure of the dancing Ariadne
moving in "elevation" and the trail her feet leave on the ground to articulate the path or
plan.  Although the correct representation on paper of a town square or building fa
depends on the accurate expression of its measures or numerical proportions, there is
something about what HAPPENS in that space, the spirit that MOVES in it, which, if
seen as a dance, may help the design process.
Toroazul Painting and Fine Arts
Drawing from Homer's
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Well, for most of the class members, such a mythological
conversation was perhaps as entertaining as posing for a
Facebook photograph in front of Bernini's fountain in
Piazza Navona, but otherwise irrelevant to contemporary
architectural design. However, one of the same
class-members' so-called "gesture drawings" (see image on
the right) done from the live human model in one of our
sessions, probably comes very close to the sort of figure
that Theseus saw when Ariadne danced for him. In fact,
when a figure occupies or moves across a space, it has, in
architectural terms, an elevation and a floor plan not
unlike those of the dancing girl of our mythology. After all,
as her upright figure might represent the elevation, the path
of her feet are hinged to that elevation. They are its
The four images surrounding this text reflect some of
our class efforts during the Rome semester to depict,
on the one hand, in pen & ink, the Arch of Janus in
2-point perspective and the elevation of a tower from
the Circus of Maxentius.  
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