The architectural visions of Raimund Abraham describe barren landscapes, alien planets, and the dawn of a new world. Intellectual speculation is integral to each drawing, and architectural critics have called them “visual poems”. These two drawings from Abraham’s Linear City series demonstrate his enduring fascination with the city, its eternal fluctuations and mechanistic foundations. Along with works by his fellow Austrians Walter Pichler and Hans Hollein, they were featured in the Museum’s 1967 exhibition Architectural Fantasies: Drawings from the Museum’s Collection, which focused on projects that relied on the machine not as a source of inspiration for design but as a basis for civilization.
The works conjure up images of missile sites and giant engineering installations. They are devoid of people: for Abraham, “Architectural scale can no longer be based on the physical measurement of the human body, but has to be based on the new perception media, on all the senses, on dreams.” Glacier City is almost invisible in its location, between the walls of a valley and beneath a membrane suspended above it to serve as a protective shield and a collector of solar energy. The part of it we see suggests a gunboat. The city’s growth in its underground cavity is horizontal and linear rather than vertical; like arteries running through a living body, streets, transportation lines, and the sewer system are the functioning architectural passages. Similarly with Universal City, we seem to gaze out of a window onto a “settlement” strip that disappears into the horizon. This megastructure or artificial valley has the potential for infinite growth and universal applicability—it could form a ring around the globe. For Abraham the horizon is an architectural site, an idea influenced by the Viennese philosopher Ernest Mach and his theory of collision: the site of collision in Abraham’s work is the meeting of earth and sky.
“Building” for Abraham can mean to build with words as well as with lines, or volume, or concrete. Each is a reality and each is autonomous, as each has its own expression. As Abraham has said, “Even the principle of drawing reveals the origin of architecture—the act of interfering in, and shaping, space. For me the piece of paper is the space and the pencil the tool with which to intervene and shape.”
Publication excerpt from Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 141.