Survey: Architecture Iconographies – Matthew Wells discusses his book with Biba Dow

Matthew Wells discusses his book Survey: Architecture Iconographies (Drawing Matter) with Biba Dow, co-founder of Dow Jones Architects.


When architects visit a building, and want to record or identify what they see, they take out a bundle of folded sheets in search of a blank piece of paper. These sheets may be ground plans, diagrams, sketches and ordnance maps. In one way or another, all are survey drawings, operating as both documentation and analysis, enabling an architect to examine certain conditions of the built environment, whether geometric, relational, material or technical.

This book explores the history of the survey and its multiple forms in order to understand how the methods of recording what already exists can also be used to imagine what might be. Lavishly illustrated, with works from the collection of Drawing Matter and beyond, it addresses the multiple forms of the survey through focused studies – on John Soane, C R Cockerell, Viollet-le-Duc, Detmar Blow and Peter Märkli – alongside an extensive section of plates with commentaries by contemporary architects. In doing so, it maintains that while all surveys begin with the site, the outcomes are as idiosyncratic as their authors – and their methods have much to offer as tools in design practice.

With commenting captions for selected drawings by Biba Dow, Tom Emerson, Stephanie Macdonald, Willem Jan Neutelings, Sheila O’Donnell, Thomas Padmanabhan, Eric Parry, David Valinsky, Lucas Wilson, and Peter Wilson.

Matthew Wells is a lecturer and postdoc researcher at ETH Zurich’s Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture. The focus of his research and writing is on representational techniques, environmental technologies, and professionalism in the built environment of the 19th and 20th centuries.

For 30 years, the Architecture Foundation has brought together professionals from across the built environment to discuss and act on issues related to design and the built environment. With a renewed focus on the city and the critical intersection of architecture and politics, the Architecture Foundation works to effect meaningful change on policy and practice.

» Sign up to our monthly newsletter
» Support the work of The Architecture Foundation, by donating or becoming a member:
» The AF Store

» Instagram:
» Twitter:

» Download the London Architecture Guide for iPhone
» Download the London Architecture Guide for Android



Save This Post

No account yet? Register