Shop Drawings: The In-situ Drawings Practices of the Citizen Architect

James Longfield

Published in TRACEY Journal. February 2014


In this paper I explore how the process of drawing in-situ can help to define and influence the particular practices of the citizen architect; the designer, whose approach to architecture is bound and influenced by their location of residence. This investigation is undertaken through the presentation of a situated drawing of my own. The site for the drawing is Byker in Newcastle upon Tyne, a location that holds a long and unique history of situated practice. During the redevelopment of the 1970s a group of architects, led by Ralph Erskine, lived and worked on site and their experience of an overlap of their professional and social commitment, provides the start point for my investigation.

In 2011, attempting to learn from their approach, I took up residence in Byker. The drawing situated is a Nolli plan of Byker drawn directly onto the dining room table in my home. In the drawing the personal and professional interweave to offer new insights into a particular approach to architectural practice, which I draw out. The investigation also informs a proposition that the representation of public and private spaces of the city within the Nolli plan, reflect two positions of relating to the site based on the architect’s citizenship within the site. Finally I propose that the situatedness of the drawing influences the architect’s practices by reconnecting them to a phenomenological experience of site as well as to its social and political context.