Jan 4–Aug 27, 2021

Startha Éagsúla

Alternative Histories
45 Merrion Square, Dublin 2 Map
Tue–Fri 10am–5pm

Curated by Jantje Engels and Marius Grootveld, in collaboration with the Drawing Matter Trust and the Architecture Foundation, London, Startha Éagsúla/Alternative Histories is a unique international architectural exhibition now on show in the elegant Georgian first floor rooms of the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square.

Acknowledging that architecture is a corpus of inherited ideas, the curators invited more than eighty contemporary architectural practices across Europe (including five from Ireland) to imagine an exchange with architects from the past. Each office was assigned a different drawing from the collection of Drawing Matter – from the frontispiece of the abbé Laugier’s 1753 Essai sur l’architecture, a plan of the Villa Snellman, to studies for a theatre by Carlo Scarpa. The architects were then tasked with making a model that not only responded to what they saw, but envisioned an alternative future for the original drawing while adhering to the constraints of the project: although comprising different materials and scales, the models had to be transportable, and their footprints had to fit within the surface area of the historic drawings.

As the documentary output of a particular type of human activity, architectural drawings are retained and preserved for their long-term evidentiary value. They are complex, with layers of meaning beyond the lines on the page. From early sketches, the first crystallisation of an idea or a design solution, to fully worked up schemes, from instructions for builders on site to a record of the final outcome of the construction process, drawings lay bare the evolution and progress of buildings, built and unbuilt. They may even outlast the buildings themselves, the last witnesses to what once stood. The models created for Alternative Histories are based on drawings which are evidence of decisions and transactions, of thought, talent and aspiration, drawings that are quintessentially archival. But archives are more than just a record of the past. The essence of Alternative Histories is a recognition of the potential of archives not just to tell us where we have come from but to point us towards untold futures, unravelling for each new viewer pathways undreamt of by their creators.