Reading: Daniel Raeburn on Chris Ware (part two)

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Image: detail from Building Stories by Chris Ware

After a cold week with rain and snow here in Strasbourg, it was a joy to finally have a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon. Especially as I was slightly hungover and deprived of sleep. Nothing lifts the soul like a blue sky, cherry blossom trees and a gentle walk. Making a long promenade around the edge of the island on which the city-centre sits, I ended up at Café Brant near Marc-Bloch University to revisit my earlier post on the introductory chapter of Daniel Raeburn’s book on Chris Ware. That post ended with the rather open ended question…

…if comic artists can structure their pages to present both a space and a time, how can architects look to comics to more actively present their buildings?

The parallels drawn between comics and architecture by Chris Ware made me re-read a couple of notes I’d made earlier. It seems apparent to me that Ware and certain other comic artists have looked to architecture for inspirartion or direction when organising their stories. Musing over this in the smokey wood-panelled café, I came up with two interchangeable questions…

How can comic artists look to architecture to better present their stories?

How can architects look to comics to better present their buildings?

This simplistic approach of looking at the same question from a completely different angle sent me back to Raeburn’s book, and to this quote.

Because comics, like music, are composed by dividing time, each panel is like a window into time, and together these windows form a map whose chain lets us see the story’s beginning, middle and end simultaneously, at least when the story fits on a single page. In a longer story, Ware compensates for the page breaks by deliberately placing recurring images and visual motifs in an identical location on their page spread … Ware does this to nudge the memory and help the reader see more the book at once.

Daniel Raeburn, Chris Ware (Monographics)
New Haven, Yale Universiy Press, 2004, p. 25

Having read that, I realised that I could substitute the following words…

comics with pictures of buildings

story / book with building

Ware with the architect

…to produce this:

Because pictures of buildings, like music, are composed by dividing time, each panel is like a window into time, and together these windows form a map whose chain lets us see the building’s beginning, middle and end simultaneously, at least when the building fits on a single page. In a [larger] building, the architect compensates for the page breaks by deliberately placing recurring images and visual motifs in an identical location on their page spread … the architect does this to nudge the memory and help the reader see more the building at once.

And suddenly we have what could be described a comic artist’s description of how to present a building through pictures. Not only does it make sense, it brings into sharp contrast the manner in which an architect would normally present a building.

Would any architects care to comment on this new definition of drawing buildings?

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  • ABOUT THE PROJECT

    "no words no action" was an experiment in academic blogging. The blog recorded the progress of reading, research and investigations that lead to a Masters in Architecture dissertation at the University of Sheffield in autumn 2007. You can find out more about the author's interest in blogging here.

    To find out more about the thesis, download the original dissertation proposal (pdf format) from February 2007 or the semi-formal first chapter (pdf format) from April 2007.

    Further research projects are in the works, and their dependence on human interaction and networking suggests more blogging will be inevitable when the time comes.


  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    At the time that this blog was created, James Benedict Brown was a fifth year Masters of Architecture student at the University of Sheffield. James' personal blog is here.

    James graduated in 2008 and now lives and works in Glasgow.


  • ABOUT THE TUTOR

    This project was supervised by Renata Tyszczuk at the University of Sheffield


  • ABOUT YOU

    If you want to correct me on something, offer an opinion on a particular artist or building, or if you'd like to recommend someone or something to find out about, please feel free to leave a comment. Just click on 'Comments' under the headline of the relevant post...


  • BOOKSHELF

    Click here to browse James' bookshelf, and to purchase books being used in this project.


  • CONFERENCE DIARY

    I've managed to miss almost half a dozen compelling conferences around the world so far this year, simply because I have no (more) money to travel and no time to escape my studies in Strasbourg and Sheffield. However, if I had a magic plane ticket and plenty of time, here's my selection of essential conferences to attend. Hopefully I'll be there for more of them next year... click here for the diary (updated every time I miss another one).


  • NOTE

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