Trajectories of Axonometry through Distances and Disciplines

Sally Farrah, Beth George

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperConference paperpeer-review


Unique in its power to interrelate multiple planes with minimal distortion, the axonometric negotiates, as Alan Colquhoun notes, between the archaic and the modern. In this paper, we evidence this notion, as well as positing other spectra that the drawing type spans: from the strategic to the poetic, the primitive to the acutely detailed, from urban to conceptual space, from the bird’s eye to the mind’s eye. There are numerous trajectories possible in a reading of history through the lens of the axonometric, but the path herein collects instances from the medieval, via Massimo Scolari, to Le Corbusier, Kazimir Malevich, and Ivan Leonidov. Each drawer is situated in a vastly different context, but their divergence is key: they are bound by the drawing type, and its ability to transcend and translate is testament to its versatility as a drawn language. By studying different types of axonometrics and the motives for their employment, as well as their nature as operative, we uncover connections that are driven by warfare, politics, and theoretical shifts. We observe how qualities such as points of view, orientation, and promiscuity of the rules of projection can be inextricably bound to the author’s conceptual and critical locale. We explore Le Corbusier’s oeuvre, uncovering how a launch into the aerial vantage through a roof-centric axonometric view may have been instrumental to the development of his “five points” of architecture. We pursue a connection that sees the axonometric extend from figural to cognitive space in the hands of Leonidov. Where others identify the post-modern era as the critical locus for the axonometric, these explorations indicate an earlier genesis. Lastly, we suggest that inheritances from Le Corbusier and Leonidov can be traced into the last pre-digital moment of architectural drawing in the 1970s and 80s.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand
Subtitle of host publicationDistance Looks Back
EditorsVictoria Jackson Wyatt, Andrew Leach, Lee Stickells
Place of PublicationSydney
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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