[AAP] Architects and Portraiture

[AAP] Architects and Portraiture

Portraiture has been linked to architecture's identity an area of expertise, a form of practice and a defined profession, since the Renaissance. The portrait is a single attempt to represent the persona of an architect and it carefully curates the body’s position, props, clothes, allusions, setting, style, and medium. Over time, certain identifiable tropes have emerged.

Three aspects of portraiture interplay in the making of tropes:

First, the setting of the portrait helps define the architectural image. Is the architect in their natural habitat, in a studio space, at a drafting table, or visiting a construction site? Perhaps the architect is in a fantasy world drawn from Antiquity? Or maybe the background is about an absence of setting with a neutral color or minimal spatial detailing.

Second, props give a sense of action to the portrait! Is the architect holding drafting instruments, a pair of glasses, a laptop computer, a model or a roll of paper? What is the architect wearing? Props also showcase the era, fashion, identity — the zeitgeist — of the profession at a given phase of history.

Third, the composition of the portrait is telling. The majority of portraits convey architects at a conventional headshot scale. However, there is often an emphasis on the hands and the head, particularly the eyes. Similar to the disproportions of Mannerist paintings, architect’s hands are disproportionately large and carefully staged.

Concluding a year-long research collaboration with her Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars Program advisor, Visiting Associate Professor Mark Morris, to develop a taxonomy of these tropes, Carly Dean has demonstrated these through the lens of Cornell Architecture faculty members.

Special thanks to Colin Stratford, Alex Mergold, the Ithaca Antique Mall, Hub's Place, and the generous support of the RCPRS and the Department of Architecture.