In 100 years, 90 drawings

A campus architecture exhibit showcases the evolution of student designs from 1913-2013.

Mary Alice Chaney, exhibitions coordinator at the Goldstein Museum of Design, Emily Marti, communications assistant for the Goldstein Museum of Design, and Lin Nelson-Mayson, director of the museum, set up the art gallery

Lisa Persson

Mary Alice Chaney, exhibitions coordinator at the Goldstein Museum of Design, Emily Marti, communications assistant for the Goldstein Museum of Design, and Lin Nelson-Mayson, director of the museum, set up the art gallery “100 Years of Student Work” at Northrop Auditorium on Tuesday. The gallery will be up through June.

Melanie Richtman

The idea of an architecture drawing exhibition may bring to mind a vast display of blueprints.

But Northrop Gallery’s new exhibition, “100 Years of Student Drawings,” is unexpectedly colorful.

“These are works of art, as well as historical artifacts,” College of Design Dean Thomas Fisher said. “You’ll see the incredible imagination of our students at the time.”

The exhibition is a collection of 90 pieces spanning from 1913 to 2013 and showcases design styles from Beaux-Arts to the digital age.

Not only a commemoration of the school of architecture’s centennial, “100 Years of Student Drawings” also marks the reopening of Northrop Gallery after the $100 million renovation.

“I wanted to represent 100 years of drawings as evenly as possible, to show the evolution of projects done at the University,” curator Jane King Hession said.

The process of putting together an exhibition with a century’s worth of options is not an easy one, especially in a short period of time. Hession, assistant Madelyn Sundberg, adjunct assistant professor Gayla Lindt and Julianne Swanson, assistant curator of the Digital Content Library, had only five months to pull everything together.

“We had to go through at least 1,000 drawings sitting in drawers in Rapson Hall and on the digital collection archives to find pieces that were a good representation of each time period,” Hession said.

The exhibition was originally shown in Rapson from Oct. 25-27, where original works were on display in the library and reproductions were in the courtyard. Because of the minimal security at Northrop, all works will be reprinted on Sintra, a flexible, durable plastic.

Two of the originals that will be reprinted for display at Northrop — including “Monument” by Walter J. Huchthausen, which currently resides in Fisher’s office — are drawings from Monuments Men, the group who volunteered to save historic works of art during World War II and whose story was popularized by the recent film.

Goldstein Museum of Design Exhibitions Coordinator Mary Chaney was responsible for commissioning the reproductions and installing the exhibition at Northrop — a rather difficult task due to the unique layout of the gallery.

“It’s a very unusual, but beautiful space. It’s 101 feet long and very narrow,” Chaney said. “Putting up 90 pieces will be a challenge, so we’ve been carefully planning the setup for months.”

The reproductions will be displayed in chronological order.

“This exhibition is interesting because it covers such a broad scope,” Hession said. “Everything had to be communicated graphically because we know very little about what the student was studying at the time.”

The exhibition shows how architectural representation has evolved over time, while still revealing each individual’s aesthetic.

“We can look at these 100 years of student drawings as a form of rhetoric about what was happening in the world,” Fisher said.

Many of the drawings, often showing building exteriors, include landscapes, watercolor and varying perspectives.

“I find myself enchanted by a number of early drawings from the ’20s and ’30s. They have a very unique point of view,” Hession said. “But I truly love each piece on display. They’re all beautifully done.”

This exhibition is not just for architecture connoisseurs. It’s for anyone who appreciates aesthetically pleasing designs.

“We all spend most of our lives in buildings,” Fisher said. “You don’t need to have any technical knowledge to enjoy this show. Architecture, on one hand, is a technical, professional field. On the other hand, it’s something all humans share.”