A Flat Tale: The Picture Book as an Architectural Project

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review


As architects, we often create more stories than buildings. We have come to a point where the main criterion for a project’s success is its compelling concept, which is presented through the architectural story. The drawing itself is no longer sufficient. Being no longer able to rely on a set of plans, sections, elevations, we create drawings that form comprehensive stories, encompassing different forms of visual material. This allows the untrained viewer to understand the ideas and intentions behind the architectural project.
This project examines and problematizes architectural stories, narrative structures and methods through the investigation of Dutch architecture and visual culture. Approaching the topic of architectural representation through both its visual and lexical qualities has allowed for the elucidation of three main categories depending on the complexity, presence and correlation of drawings and written narratives: the diagram and the emblematic object, the architectural design project and its narrative, and the architectural essay. These three categories are presented in the project through three books, each transposing one category of architectural representation to a literary and didactic genre. The architectural diagram is paired with the format of the alphabet book, the architectural design project with the picture book, and the architectural essay with the short story. The method questions architecture’s storytelling capacity, as well as its ability to transfer and convey knowledge and information that stems beyond the solving of the architectural brief.
The alphabet book, The Good Life ABC, establishes the grammar of Dutch architecture. It represents the simplest way of giving and receiving knowledge. Consisting of elements of the Dutch built environment, drawn in a reductive manner and with the use of primary colours, it forms a collection of emblematic objects, stripped of any specificity, that represent only themselves and their Dutchness. The picture book, A Flat Tale, forms the syntax. It uses drawings to convey spatial narratives and text to convey temporal ones, creating a complementary relationship with the two forms of storytelling. Through large, colourful, axonometric drawings, the book follows the development of the Flevoland polder and Almere and tells the story of Dutch architecture and urban planning. It also establishes generative theoretical elements of Dutch architecture and culture such as concept, export, identity, welfare, subsidies and others. The architectural journal, Pitch, uses polemic in order to examine Dutch architectural projects through the use of narrative, argumentation and criticism. It consists of texts complemented with black and white diagrammatic drawings. Ending with a short story of a fictional architectural project, Pitch tests the capacity of text as a dominant conveyor of architectural ideas.
By merging existing visual and lexical narrative forms with methods of architectural representation, a different set of rules is applied to forming and sharing architectural thought. Breaking the bounds of traditional architectural drawings and representation allows for the use of image as both a speculative and critical tool. The norms and approaches taken from visual and didactic literary forms can empower architecture and reinvigorate the drawing as a method for disseminating knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDrawing Futures
Subtitle of host publicationSpeculations in Contemporary Drawing for Art and Architecture
EditorsLaura Allen, Luke Caspar Pearson
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherUCL Press
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Architecture
  • Drawing
  • picture book
  • narrative
  • dutch architecture
  • speculations
  • Storytelling


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