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200 Years of American Architectural Drawing

In 1977, The Architectural League and the American Federation of Arts organized an exhibition and publication entitled 200 Years of American Architectural Drawing. Chronicling and appraising the work of 85 architects through more than 200 drawings, the projects examined the role of architectural drawing within the discipline as well as sought to elevate the status of these drawings as an art. In her review of the exhibition in the New York Times, Ada Louise Huxtable wrote:

By any definition, this a major show, and it is also a superb one, both as a record of the American building genius and as a moving experience of a consistently subtle and exquisite esthetic. Many of the drawings are breathtaking in their technical mastery and expressive skills, and their beauty is further enriched by their revelation of conceptual ideals. Here is architecture as it comes straight from the mind and the eye and the heart, before the spoilers get to it.

The League is revisiting the importance of hand drawings and sketches almost 40 years after the exhibition and publication, in an age that relies on digital production, through selections from the book by David Gebhard and Deborah Nevins.

In advance of our November 22nd symposium honoring Michael Graves’ 50th year of practice, Past as Prologue, which includes a session on “Drawing as Thinking,” here we present selections from the publication highlighting four of the group known as the “New York Five”: Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, John Hejduk, and Richard Meier (Charles Gwathmey’s work was not included in 200 Years). Also included are excerpts from Gebhard’s introductory essay.

Published: November 17, 2014; updates ongoing.