Leah Armstrong

Drawing themselves

In Uncategorized on September 29, 2011 at 10:36

One of the main themes of my PhD research is the ‘image of the designer’ and how the designer sought to present himself to the public, in image and character. For this reason, I found these cartoons annotating the pages of the RIBA report, ‘The Architect and His Office’ in 1962, very revealing. These images are used in place of words on a table categorising the ‘levels’ of staff who work in an architect’s office. At the top, you can clearly see the ‘gentlemanly’ figure of the ‘Principal’ architect, in a stereotypical bow-tie, with brief case. Below that, is the ‘salaried partners’, who are drawn here with what appears to be a sledgehammer (?). The assistants and technical staff are next, portrayed as the ‘drawers’/ tracers, seated at the drawing board. Below that, the secretary, obviously a sexy 1950s woman with heels and a great bottom. (Weren’t they all like that?)

I wonder, if the RIBA was to draw an image of the architect’s office today, how different the imagery might be? Does the public still have the image of the architect as a bow-tied man carrying a briefcase, or are we now more likely to think of the drawing board and high bench stool? Thinking about the cultural shifts behind these re-imaginings of the design professions is likely to be a key element of my PhD thesis.

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  1. Hi, I am trying to find a copy of the Architect and his Office 1962 (I’ve tried the RIBA who say they don’t have one) because my 92 year old mother in law Joan Mary Nicholson until she married and became Joan Wheeler was a prime mover in producing it. She no
    longer has a copy and I have tried to source one for her as she’s very on the ball and it would give her pleasure to see it again! Ihope you don’t mind me asking but you seem to know more about it than most!

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