God’s eye view: on axonometric projection

Jasper, Adam. (2017) God’s eye view: on axonometric projection. In: This Thing Called Theory. London, pp. 126-134.

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As Nelson Goodman dryly observed in the early 1960s, the physical constraints of the camera make it unsuited for capturing the world in Albertian perspective—vertical lines converge, and angles of intersection are distorted by the lens. The photograph, for all of its capacity to capture a thin slice of time in tremendous density, is only able to convey spatial relations with an enormous amount of inferential assistance by the viewer. Axonometric projection, for its part, is easier to interpret but highly artificial, as Yve-Alain Bois noted (1981). The first precept of the axonometric is that no parallel lines converge. That is, axonometric objects are seen with infinite clarity from a vantage point that is infinitely distant—it is this paradox that provides the notorious description of axonometric projection as a “God’s Eye View”. Recently, Massimo Scolari’s Oblique Drawing (2012) has argued that visual and conceptual representations manifest the ideological and philosophical orientations of different cultures. This finds concrete application in the contemporary depiction of urban spaces, where smartphone cameras and axonometric projection are both common representational tools. The camera, for all its flaws, is preeminently useful for capturing the idiomatic details that have come to redundantly signify cities. Take Terunobu Fujimori and Akasegawa Genpei, whose Architectural Detective Agency (1974) took the step of treating buildings as unwitting protagonists in a very human comedy. Assembling teams of students and volunteers, they documented banal architectural juxtapositions using mock serious bureaucratic forms, effectively predicting the bestiary of curious details trapped in standardised coded formats that would later be described as a photo blog. The capturing of the exception becomes the rule, and the detail must always stand in for the whole. What are the implications of the contradiction between photography and axonometric projection as a means of visualising the contemporary city?
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Künste, Medien, Philosophie
UniBasel Contributors:Smith, Adam Jasper
Item Type:Book Section, refereed
Book Section Subtype:Further Contribution in a Book
Series Name:Critiques : critical studies in architectural humanities
Issue Number:12
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Book item
Last Modified:20 Nov 2017 15:52
Deposited On:20 Nov 2017 15:52

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