To Draw with Fire – March, 2019

Vibhuti Sachdev and Mark Warner asked me to speak about The Third Eye at the Sushant School of Architecture, so I tried, and then Mark told me to speak about drawings and computers, and how we are always reproducing the construction process—albeit in a computational space, or, the space of A City Machine—and some cognitive aspects of it that we used to work on at TVB School of Habitat Studies.

I had a couple ways of starting with the lecture, but when I thought to first reconcile the idea of drawing with architecture because when architects you ask practicing architects about drawing, they immediately think of pencils and paper, and sometimes CAD. But they think of it as drawing that has something to do with architectural design

I think they start thinking about design, which comes from designare in Latin, which means only to designate that is to plan and specify—I know architects have worked like this at least since the Renaissance, and increasingly so after Architecture was organized as a profession in the 19th Century, so I decided to go quite another way, and try and construct an explanation that includes that idea of design, and at the same time, as they say, brings it up to date’.

In the first section, I spoke about the law in India, and what it affords architect—not practicing architects—, what is the kind of work they can perform. In the next section, I misdirected the audience a little, so I said you can draw with fire,’ to play with the two etymologies of the word, and then spoke about how plans’ of a temple were carved into the rock, that is, you needed to draw lines in the first sense of the word, but you needed to draw along the vein of the rock, in the second step the element was drawn from the ground using heat. In the third section I wanted to reconcile the two operations so I played with the idea a bit and spoke about the old eye of the sun’ and men’s eyes, how the two come together, and how there are always—if you buy into that system—two things at work, an eye immersed in the system, but then, an eye’ outside of it, it does not matter as to where that eye is, it can be found in a pagan-mythologic space, an ecclesiastical space, in a rational-cartographic space, in a computational space. In the fourth section I spoke a little about conventions, and how they persist—there is no real record, for example, that says Le Corbusier knew about Ucello’s Chalis, and the two observer positions yet we can perfectly well explain the Open Hand—and I repeated the same notion, persistence four times; how the idea of the Polis no longer sufficed yet it persists, how we have exhausted the conventions I discussed in the previous section, and how, we are dealing with entirely new modes of production and destruction. As a consequence, finally in section e I spoke a little about what we do at ABA-NET and Architexturez Imprints: how the professional is a network for example, or a succession of individuals,’ how we use anagraphs and forget all about what we see with buildings and drawings, or the sociology and philosophies, how we try and concentrate instead on deeper structures and paradigms that intersect in architecture. I don’t have slides for the last part because I just have to connect the screen to my servers.

That is what I spoke about, what I was saying is, that a manner of speech is afforded to architects in India, the first section; yet, we must not forget about the archaic, the second section; however, if we look at things with a eye that at once observes, legislates and witnesses—the eye of the architect and planner—or the cartographer…, the third section, and compare what changes through an architectural, almost-at-a-standstill, time, the fourth section, then we can distill problems for ourselves today, which is how we do in my office. For myself, I wanted to see if I can explain things using a Sanskrit-style logic? So I added the second and fourth parts, both are exegetical, and tend to negate the three main parts: they speak about the archaic.

Finally, I added picture from Le Corbusier’s Open Hand again, but this time, it is Le Corbusier the Modulor Palmist, the Modulor dimension does not really work when you stare at the palm of your hand and compare it with the drawing you will see. I added that picture to remind myself, more, about how things can go out of whack when you play the acrobat a little bit much’ as they say around the Jura.

Then my time was up, and I have attached the presentation below.

Current View
Seminar and Exhibition on Low-Cost Housing and Community: H.E. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India as he visited the "model village", with U.N. technical assistance expert, Miss Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, who directed the Seminar at New Dehli, India
Seminar and Exhibition on Low-Cost Housing and Community: H.E. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India as he visited the model village”, with U.N. technical assistance expert, Miss Jacqueline Tyrwhitt, who directed the Seminar at New Dehli, India: A United Nations Regional Seminar on Housing and Community Improvement opened in New Delhi on 21 January and ended on 17 February 1954. In conjunction with the Seminar, the Indian Government organized an International Exhibition on Low-cost Housing, one of the major features of which was a model village”, properly planned for community life, in which none of the houses cost more than 5,000 rupees - the equivalent of a little more than 1,000 dollars. Included in the village” was a replica of the hut in which Gandhi lived and worked. Source: UN


  1. We probably have to think about how it became a thing in law and its representations had to be recorded with signatures affixed and how the engineer&s aspect of it demanded replicability and how replicable designs needed to be transported across variables, the variable of space for sure, and there is a place where the architect&s the cartographer&s tools intersect, where maps are drawn and city-plans are made: Mark wanted me to explain why I think every two-dimensional plan is a three-dimensional space, for example.