Lehigh University
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An architect draws inspiration from sun and from shadow

In his work with shadow mapping, says Anthony Viscardi, an object is dismantled, “leaving only a map of its former existence.”

Architect and artist Anthony Viscardi has begun a one-month residential fellowship at The MacDowell Colony to explore his art of “shadow mapping.”

Viscardi, professor of architecture in the department of art, architecture and design, was chosen by a panel of writers, artists, composers, filmmakers and architects. He will continue his 20-year investigation into shadow mapping, a drawing method generated by tracing the sun-cast shadows of an architectural construct as it is built over one day, thus creating a record of its making. Its composition is a result of the collusion of space and time.

“In my work, the significance of the original object exists only in its role as the precipitator of its trace,” says Viscardi. “When complete, the object is dismantled leaving only a map of its former existence, the shadow of a day in a life and the potential for its reconstruing. In this form of reiterative exploration, the map is used as a means to decipher three-dimensional casts of the shadow, physical constructs of its projections and trajectories, as well as interpretive palimpsests of drawings.”

At MacDowell, Viscardi will extend the scale of his work from drawings and structures several feet in diameter to 2-D and 3-D, floor-to-ceiling works that engulf viewer and space.

“It’s creative work as research,” says Viscardi. “The process of transformation is my focus: to observe first, to become more aware, to learn ‘to see if you see what you see.’ That is ultimately the gift of art.”

A key to the ‘art of living’

In one shadow-mapping technique, Viscardi uses pencil on Mylar, smearing graphite as he works, erasing as the sun changes position. In a recent exhibit he included digital media, sound and dance in a real-time collaborative art event.

“If an object can cast a shadow,” Viscardi asks, “can a shadow cast an object?” Early Native American tribes used sun and light in their art and rituals and in making their habitats. Viscardi seeks to do the same, focusing on how architecture should put one in contact with the sun.

“Architecture is a series of events,” he says. “It’s the theater of life. It should enhance the way you understand the art of living in the world.”

Viscardi’s classes frequently employ a playful approach—building and shadow-mapping a small structure and using the resulting drawing to anticipate future space and design. Students end up creating structures, landscapes or pavilions that owe their creation to light, embodying a more natural approach to architecture.

“Sometimes the students and I have no preconceptions,” said Viscardi. “The objects we make become our allies in the creative design process. We allow very simple things to create beautiful conditions.”

The MacDowell Colony provides “creative individuals of the highest talent an inspiring environment [to] produce enduring works of the imagination.” Founded in 1896 by Edward and Marian MacDowell, the colony is located in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Past honorees include composer Leonard Bernstein and writers Willa Cather, E.L. Doctorow and Jonathan Franzen.

Viscardi presented recently in Beijing, Rome and Sao Paulo and will return to Beijing this year to lead a workshop at the BIAD architectural firm.

 

Story by Jordan Reese

Posted on Thursday, March 29, 2012

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