In the Summer of 2017 I spent a week in a store in Shatwell Farm, situated in a North Somerset valley. Redesigned in 2014 by Hugh Strange in 2014, the barn is home to the collection of drawings, models and other architectural paraphernalia that Drawing Matter and Niall Hobhouse have collected. This paper will reflect and recount on my experience of the archive, which focused on the large volume of Superstudio material that Drawing Matter holds.
The paper recounts and reflects on the development of a line of inquiry as emerging at the crossover of research intention and the archive’s own intellectual but also physical situation, drawing parallels between archival research and drawing practice. Drawing Matter’s location and configuration is closely tied to the curatorial ethos of the collection, which puts equal emphasis on widely published and commercially acknowledged drawings as on personal objects and archives of the architect. These sketch out the ‘infrastructural’ background of the work and offer rich insight into the modes of production of the artefacts, contextualizing the work within personal spaces of the architect, as intimate as a sketchbook/diary or a collection of magazine cut-outs. This paper, however, is concerned not only with archiving but with the modalities of reading and retrieving that emerge from the understanding of the archive as a ‘utopic’ space of drawing (Marin), which relies on the juxtaposition of its own space with its spatially explicit, architectural content.
The physical configuration of the specific archive invites and encourages the researcher to inhabit the drawings by means of physically occupying its space, and the interior configuration of the archive welcomes the direct handling of the material as objects by means of the lateral and vertical surfaces of the barn. In this way, the space of the archive emerges as an intimate situation that bridges the personal spaces of intimate spaces of knowledge construction: the architect’s spaces of production, the collector’s space of curation and the researcher’s space of analysis and composition. This is in turn articulated through a series of bilateral readings and writings of drawings, by means of both drawn and written, interpretations, translations and transcriptions. Through this intertwining of graphic and physical spaces, the drawing as well as the archive are revealed as spatial practices that require intimate occupation.