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Disegno, meaning drawing or design, has held a privileged role in art and architecture since the Italian Renaissance, when art historian Giorgio Vasari defined drawing as “the animating principle of all creative processes” in his Lives of the Artists. Vasari characterized a fundamental split between drawing and color in artistic production, linking disegno to Apollonian rationalism and colore to Dionysian intuition and lack of control. Disegno has been taken up as the primary mode of architectural design ever since; the role of the drawing cannot be overstated. Countless modern treatises on formal analysis stress form and the object as the primary locus of architecture. Architects today are expert manipulators of complex geometries, but when it comes to color there is little to say. Color, when used, is typically understood as a surface treatment, subservient to the basic structure of forms.

Yet each half of Vasari’s dichotomy promises a different spatial conception: disegno that of the hard-lined, geometrically defined space based on geometric projection; colore on the other hand, promises a coloristic approach based on aerial perspective which deals directly with regions and gradients, fields and potential environments. By reconsidering colore in conjunction with disegno, fresh possibilities for architecture arise.

The Rome Prize-and the Prix de Rome before it-has historically been a time for architects to draw the buildings of Italy as a means for reframing the discipline as a whole. In addition to what architects drew, how they drew often became frameworks for future work. Color Space has been focused on working with new digital scanning techniques to draw space through the lens of color. Relying on the camera as a simple perspective-machine, spatial coordinates and RGB values are combined to produce digital environments that connect color and space in a form of architectural pointillism. Colore (color and tone) is the main protagonist of these environments, while disegno (linework and geometry) is inferred from the color clouds - a neat inversion from the typical draftsman’s approach to delineating architecture. Such models produce information about color, light and surfaces in three dimensions, rendering precise atmospheres.

Color Space has been exhibited at the American Academy of Rome, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Cooper Union, and the Washington University in St. Louis, and published in Perspecta 52.

Drawings copyright Ultramoderne
Special thanks to Joseph Williams
Color Space was produced by Yasmin Vobis as the Founders / Arnold W. Brunner / Katherine Edwards Gordon Rome Prize Fellow in Architecture at the American Academy in Rome in 2017.