Worm's Eye Axonometric of the British Olivetti Headquarters
England, 1970-74
James Stirling

Ink on paper
47 x 47⅘ cm

Stirling thought of hand drawing of conceptual studies and schemes playing an essential role in the development of his projects. Stirling utilized two means of producing drawings: lead to render spatial relationships and color pencil to express materiality. An isometric, and perspectival projections became an important method of architectural representation for Stirling, not only as a presentation technique, but a design method. “Deliberately hard, spare, restrained and scientific in character, meticulously to scale and as accurate as hand and eye can make them...the absolute minimum necessary to convey the maximum amount of useful information”—Stirling described his projections.

The architect would often isolate a specific portion of a building and represent it as a three-dimensional composition viewed either from above or below. This method of representation allowed him to express how the singular parts work together to create a larger whole—a simultaneous visualization of function and structure: “the spaces, surfaces, and volumes of a design in a single image which has no distortion and gives an accurate reading of a building”—described Michael Wilford. Breaking up a building into discrete parts allowed Stirling to explore relationships between volumes and voids, and articulation of program as a series semi-autonomous pieces.

The presented drawing sets feature Stirling’s iconic worm’s eye view isometric projections and analyze them in terms of how Stirling utilized this drawing mode—to express how discrete programmatic and structural components work together—as well as how physically the drawing was produced with the parallel bar—in sequence of lines of specific direction.

The exploration of Stirling’s signature graphic representation strives to isolate Stirling’s signature line: the curve juxtaposed against a straight line. The specific proportions of Stirling’s curves create incredibly compelling compositions. Infused with program and structure, the two dimensional lines enable emergence of equally compelling spaces that can be inhabited. These specific curvatures represent freed, ribbon-like curtain glass walls spanning around rigid cores inclosing semi-private spaces of civic nature.

The iconic curve of Stirling’s glazing emerges from two composite curves: one derived from tangent circles with one of a radius twice in size then the other and second—with two circles of specific proportions pulled apart by tripling the R distance. —Infamous Lines

Curves of featured drawings

📷 Infamous Lines & Canadian Centre for Architecture