There are various types of Structuralist visualisations, characterised by the representation of an integral space, multiple perspectives (standpoints), and a suggestion of infinity and extendibility. These are expressed in different types of drawings: the spacial projection, the horizontal section with colour, the three-dimensional grid, the hybrid drawing and the narrative drawing.
The Structuralist architects employed a variety of spatial projections, such as cut-away aerial views, experiments with perspectives and variants on axonometric projections. Axonometric and isometric projections, for example, are representations of a spatial design with the help of parallel lines without a vanishing point. They differ in terms of the angle of the lines employed. The result is a representation that is not observable in reality. It visualises spatial relationships in all directions and in relation to each other, resulting in the representation of an integral space.
Around 1925, artists and architects such as El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, Theo van Doesburg and Cornelis van Eesteren became fascinated with axonometric projections because of their multi-directional, rotational dynamic and relationship between interior and exterior. The Contra-Constructions of Van Eesteren and Van Doesburg were shown in exhibitions in the 1950s, and architecture students were instructed in making axonometric projections, which replaced conventional perspective drawings. The Structuralists used axonometric projections because this representational form fitted with their striving for an integral space, the visualisation of multiple perspectives (standpoints) and the suggestion of infinity and extendibility.
The three-dimensional grid
The design method based on the smallest module led to the use of a grid as the basis for the entire design. In theory the grid could be extended and built upon horizontally, vertically and diagonally. These spatial experiments during the design process were often given form in plastic studies, often cut away and executed in a single colour and material.
This type of design emerged at the Academie van Bouwkunst in Amsterdam in the 1960s: the plastic configurative design on the basis of a grid, which also expressed diagonal relationships between top and bottom and between length, height and width. The spatial and abstract studies of Blom and Van Stigt for the Prix de Rome (1962) are examples of this practice. The fascination with the grid is clear from seminars at the Academie van Bouwkunst, such as ‘Het Getal’ (The Number) in 1962, in which the three-dimensional representation of the grid was central, and Hertzberger’s seminars in the 1960s. The set-up and structure of the grid relied upon the combination of a relevant mathematical structure and a suitable graphic or plastic technique so that it resulted in both a logical structure and a convincing image.
The horizontal section
The plan is one of the oldest means of representing an architectural design. The Structuralist architects made extensive use of this form because it was ideally suited to drawing a grid and ‘coordinate lines’ in order to work out the structure and the relationship between scale and number, and part and whole. Various horizontal sections were often drawn on tracing paper and at the same scale. Thanks to the transparency of this material, superimposing these drawings provided an insight into the spatial relationships between the various building layers.
The hybrid drawing
The hybrid drawing consists of the simultaneous visualisation of several plans in a single drawing. The use of bright, contrasting colours clarifies the various spaces and their functions within the drawing. This type of drawing served to represent spatial visual relationships in the vertical, horizontal and diagonal planes. An example of this practice is Gert Boon’s design drawings for the Amsterdam City Hall competition (1967).
The narrative drawing
Narrative drawings contain considerable amounts of text, questions, recommendations, intellectual positions, poetry and explanation. The Structuralist architects probably used this type of drawing because architectural practice was in transition: architects were seeking a design method and a visual idiom that was in tune with a new vision of the organisation of society. These drawings demonstrate the growing communication between architects and society as a whole as a result of increased democratisation and public consultation. They also exhibit an affinity with contemporaneous visual art (Provo) and the graphic design of activist journalism.