If you want to start an argument, ask a room full of architects if they think their profession’s work is a form of art. While the ensuing debate plays out for eternity, you can take a short break to check out the work in “Crossed Path Identities,” an exhibition exploring the overlap between architecture and the visual arts. The two contributors to the show, Minglu Zheng and Razvan Voroneanu, are both simultaneously practicing architects and practicing artists; as such, their work sheds light on the interaction of the two disciplines.
The key factor in this collaboration is that the two practitioners are not just architects. Even though they’ve put in the same countless hours toward schooling, degrees and working experience that all architects do, their interests and passions have driven them — in what little spare time they have — to forge an entirely separate body of creative work. That both spheres of their practice are heavily related, if not dependent on each other, should come as no surprise.
Works from “Crossed Path Identities”; via Graham Hebel
In addition to the obvious (and highly subjective) overlap between architecture and the visual arts, the comingling of two different architects’ artworks also speaks volumes to how the experience of being an architect informs works of art as well as artwork’s role as a creative outlet for the inherently restrictive practice of architecture.
Because the production of architecture is rooted in the creation of images, it follows that a deftness in one area will translate into talent in the other — but anyone with experience in either discipline will tell you that reconciling the two is highly dependent on the individual. “Architecture, to me, is a three-dimensional visual art,” Zheng says. “Painting, on the other hand, is a two-dimensional method for reproducing three-dimensional memories.”
Zodiac Dragon; via Minglu Zheng
With this interpretation, Zheng’s artwork uses two-dimensional imagery to “explore the mysterious and architectural spaces that are unseen in the everyday, including physical invisible objects and obscured meanings.” This is evident in Zheng’s “Twelve Zodiacs” series, which imagines each animal of the Chinese Zodiac with an architectural internal construction. Upon closer inspection of their x-ray stylization, the viewer will simultaneously notice the fantastical qualities of each construction as well as an exceptional degree of structural soundness.
The works of Razvan Voroneanu; via Razvan Voroneanu
Voroneanu’s work in the show is more architecturally familiar in its visuals. Envisioning the construction of a city that’s adapted to extreme climate change, his images utilize the easily recognizable context of city blocks, re-mixed with imaginative additions of canals, sky bridges and rooftop farms. Composed of fascinating combinations of section, plan and perspective, Voroneanu’s drawings are heavily dependent on conveying mood to help communicate their architectural intentions.
Since the many disconnects between architectural design and visual art rest in the vast array of possible mediums for their expression, it’s remarkable that “Crossed Path Identities” picks the agreeable middle ground of pencil and paper for the two artists to meet on. Essential to both disciplines, the choice of this medium illustrates its role as an important bridge between architecture and art and acts as an effective palate cleanser for comparing the role of architecture in both artists’ works.
Zodiac Snake; via Minglu Zheng
Simply being architects — and practicing it every day — puts Zheng and Voroneanu in a unique position as visual artists. Breaking from the traditional approach to the art world, their experiences as architects lend them both credibility and outsider status, a powerful combination evident in the unusually well-informed architectural voice seen in their work.
“My work always seeks to present an architectural feeling of space — both in technique of expression as well as in the content,” Zheng explained. “The works attempt to provoke in the viewer a renewed understanding of our contemporary society by altering traditional symbols.”
A similar feel is clear in Voroneanu’s work: Architectural signals abound, though they’re modified to impart a new perspective on a familiar world, as many of the drawings in his series appear to be based on the real-life map of New York City. Their depiction of physical adaptations to climate change, proposals likely to be considered taboo in the current political climate, goes a long way in suggesting the cathartic value of artwork as a space for many architect’s nascent design solutions.
Works from Razvan Voroneanu in “Crossed Path Identities”; via Graham Hebel
By utilizing architectural expression as a tool for crafting both visual interest and cultural commentary, Zheng and Voroneanu demonstrate architectural design’s versatility as a practice and — perhaps most importantly — its potential to carry a range of ideas much broader than the creation of buildings.
“Crossed Path Identities” is being curated by Ye Zhang as part of the Poché Arts Initiative, an effort to create opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration between emerging young professionals in the arts, architecture, design and technology realms. It will be on display at Cloud Gallery in New York City until November 18.
Top image via Razvan Voroneanu