Kevin Liu

MDes

John H. Andrews, From Drawings to Diagrams: Scarborough to Gund Hall

Advised by Sarah Whiting

John Hamilton Andrews (born 1933) is the quintessential knockabout Australian; terse and straightforward, his affable personality won him the respect of his American peers and mentors, but his laconic sensibility would ultimately prove a liability later in his career. His brevity in publication as well as a reluctance to theorize or historicize his work would frustrate later attempts to situate his career and projects within American modernist or brutalist narratives. 

This thesis examines Andrews’s work through several modes of communication, by cataloguing and analyzing diagrams and drawings, published writings, interviews, and audiovisual recordings produced by Andrews’s practice between 1962 and 1982. These materials serve as valuable evidence in understanding the rapid early success of the practice as well as the practice’s transition, between the years 1964 and 1969, from elaborately rendered sections to easily comprehensible sectional diagrams; an innovation in visual communication that prefigured a later trend toward diagram architecture. 

The legible section diagram, in the built form of Gund Hall (1968–1972), is Andrews’s most important contribution to the Harvard Graduate School of Design; a contribution that has since been overlooked in part because of its poor reception upon completion, but also due to Andrews’s reluctance to engage in the forms of communication necessary to sustain an understanding and reception of his work. Communication explains both his early success and his difficult legacy.

Two detailed images by John Andrews. Top illustration shows detailed section for a 5-story building with basement building with varied types of structures and roof styles. Profile drawing at bottom shows section diagram interior structure for a stepped 5-story building with space frame roof beam such as the current Gund Hall.
Image Credits:
Above: John Andrews Architects, Architectural Forum, vol. 125, no. 4 (May 1966): 41.
Below: John Andrews Architects, Architectural Record, vol. 147, no. 2 (February 1970): 140.