Authorship and Authority: Parallel Projection and the Ambiguous Urban Image
This research engages with a type of architectural drawing known as parallel projection, both through textual analysis and my own drawing practice. Using its appearance in sixteenth and seventeenth-century screen paintings of Kyoto, Japan, the research tests the properties of power and control that have been attributed to this form of representing space. Parallel projection – a drawing with an oblique, aerial “viewpoint” – has been used in many contexts as a visionary means of capturing the whole of the city from above, but none have been as consistently iterative as the “Rakuchu Rakugai zu” genre of Japanese screen painting (translated as “Scenes in and around Kyoto”). Commissioned during a period of political and urban transformation, they provide a unique framework for examining the role of the artist in manipulating the use of spatial representation to reconstruct narratives for the city panorama.
This research is important as current architectural engagement with representation tends to be Eurocentric (acknowledging but not investigating parallel projection’s origins in East Asia) and the analysis of such screen paintings by art historians is not sufficiently architectural. The use of drawing as a new methodology provides a unique line of investigation that questions whether western theoretical interpretations of parallel projection are applicable to early modern Japan and considers how an analysis of these paintings might re-invigorate discussions of the political significance of urban representation.