What Does That Line Mean?

Architectural drawings contain graphical information explained in more detail in the specifications. For example, waterproofing is just a line on the drawings designated “WP” but up to 50 pages in the specifications.  Specifications became necessary when buildings got more complex, the entirety of the intended work results could not be captured in drawings without the drawings becoming too cluttered. As a result  architects sometimes ask “What does that line mean?”.


from 2D Visualization of Electrical Fields of Point Charges around a Dielectric Interface at Vizlab

If lines of inquiry could be traced through semantic space for example in ShiftSpace, these lines would get very complicated. See BLDGBLOG too. Tracing lines of inquiry would be a whole new form of drawing and wondering what simple lines mean, more details and the work results would have to be explained in specifications separate from the drawings.

Below are a set of citations for images and papers collected around 2001, wondering about these shapes. Each example below has varying levels of documentation. This is an experiment to see what is still available. Most are not. Some are in new places than they were originally found but its still the same images and information.  Open source images have found many more uses. The remainder is a survey of scientific and artistic approaches to showing dynamics and tracing histories.


The Coffee Mill , by Juan Gris, 1916, Original: oil and collage on paper, 10 9/16” x 8 7/8”, Provenance: Henriette Reverdy, Paris; Pierre Chareau, Paris; E.V. Thaw & Co., New York; Herbert and Nannette Rothschild, Judith Rothschild Foundation, New York, from the book Encounters with Modern Art: The Reminiscences of Nannette F. Rothschild, George H. Marcus Editor and Anne D’Harnoncourt, Philadelphia Museum of Art; ISBN: 0876331088; 1997. Image is now available at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

 collage of forms

DMacP Collage of Forms some below


Cross section of nautilus shell from the Patterns of Nature Disk Image KS1724 Comstock, Royalty Free


Hurricane: N-009-0110 Corbis Royalty Free at Matton Images


Galaxy: SC-086-0109 by Myron J. Dorf Bridges. Now available at ???????

What Lies Between Order and Chaos? by James P. Crutchfield, The Sciences, New York Academy of Sciences, New York (1994), Santa Fe Institute.

“The events happen far too quickly (over 10^-23 to, at the most lackadaisical, 10^-10, seconds) and in too small a region (on the order of 10^-18 meters) for human perception.”

“We’re maximally uncertain about the weather: we keep looking out the window for an update and are constantly surprised; the entropy rate is high.”


Theoretical Morphology: State of the Art, by Gunther J. Eble, Santa Fe Institute Working Papers

Sturgeon’s Law states that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” from One Thing or Another: Some Examples of Selection in Minds and Computers, A.K.A. “William James at CERN”, by Cosma Shalizi



Nude on a Red Background (Seated Woman), by Fernand Leger, 1927, Original: oil on canvas, 51 1/4” x 32”, Gift of the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Foundation, 1972, 72.173, from the book Hirshhorn: Museum and Sculpture Garden, Jane McAllister Editor, Harry N. Abrams; ISBN: 0810934363; 1996.


Vitruvius, by Leonardo da Vinci, available everywhere, this copy from the British Library learning about bodies.


Asymmetrical rocks, Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, G81-161783 Cannot be found. Image above from jmg galleries.

“…semantic leaps in jokes, arguments, counterfactuals, and analogies”
Turning the Cat on its Head, by Nikos Drakos, Computer Based Learning Unit, University of Leeds, from the web site of Seana Coulson, University of California, San Diego, Department of Cognitive Science“…until at last we reach our perceptions, grouped together by another process of selection into things. Some of these we attend to; the rest we ignore.”

“…studies indicate that there is a certain level of visual and acoustic complexity that tends to be most pleasing to the human senses.” Holding a New Mirror to Nature, The Economist, 6 November1993



The Periodic Table of Poetry, now at MAKE

“…literature, pictures and sound and movies can all be turned into strings of bits. Once we have a measure of fitness, there is no a priori reason we could not turn standard techniques loose on an initial population of pictures, or sonatas, or sonnets. There are even techniques, outlined at least by Holland, which will allow our system to modify the means it uses to evaluate fitness. In particular, rather than mutating and recombining essentially random lengths of bits, they system could come to recognize that certain blocks of bits are meaningfully connected. It also does not seem impossible, or even terribly difficult, to modify the standard techniques of genetic programming so as to work directly on two-dimensional or three-dimensional objects.” Genetic Algorithms for Art by Cosma Shalizi


Mathematical Equations on Chalkboard, by Steve Cole AA011042  at Getty Images now at Diomedia


“Fun” by Condensed Matter Research with Neutrons and Muons (NuM) at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI)

But architects also ask, what is this space represented by lines and specifications really made of?


The Light Inside, by James Turrell, 1999, Original: electric lights, wires, metal and paint, Museum of Fine Arts Houston Texas, from Modern Painters Magazine, Winter 2001

Seminar Hall in the Museum for African Art , by Maya Lin, New York City, 1992-93, Associated Architect, David Hotson, from Boundaries, Simon and Schuster; ISBN: 0684834170; 2000.

Stainless Steel Mesh, Design 9, Lumsden Custom Mesh, 1-800-367-3664
Classic Travertine, Vein Cut, Unfilled and Honed, Stone Source, 202-265-5900
Clear Satin on Cherry, 20A, David Edwards Furniture Company, 410-242-2222
Wrought Iron, Benjamin Moore, 2124-10
Clear Natural Riverstone, Artistic Tile, NY 212-727-9331
Glass, AR 105, by Skyline Design, 773-278-4660
Gel, BTG 150 Starke 9mmm kein Farbmuster Peer Almute, Smooth, 800-433-7337
Platinum, by Ben Park


See the actual buildings of
The National Gallery of Modern Art, India
National Museum of Modern Art, Japan, 3rd floor Special Corner
National Gallery of Australia

OTHER MISC LOOSE ENDS, SOME EASIER THAN OTHERS TO FOLLOW UP. The image number has proven more useful than the title. Would like to generate a map of these miscellaneous items showing the ways they were used before, versus how they are used now.

fractalText created in Word and Atom – drawn by hand, both lost in computer disaster.

Staircase at the Max Planck Institute in Dresden, then the same photo extruded in Photoshop. Original picture from Architectural Record, 01.03 page 111.

Close-Up of an Artist’s Palette and Paintbrush, by Adam Crowley; AA025363Potter with Slab of Clay, by Doug Menuez; and LS008047Business Professionals in Conference Room on Mobile Phones, by Paul Edmondson AA048576 – all three from Getty Images

Calabi-Yau Pattern – from the book The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, by Brian R. Greene, Vintage Books; ISBN: 0375708111; 2000.

Andy Goldsworthy, a Scottish artist, arranging sticks in a lake from the bookAndy Goldsworthy, A Collaboration with Nature, Harry N. Abrams; ISBN: 0810933519; 1990.

Waves – Configurations des Huit Premiers Satellites de Saturne pour 1987 Redrawn by Edward R. Tufte, Originally in Sky and Telescope,76

Conspiracy – Gerry Bull, Amrscor of South Africa & First Pennsylvania BankBy Mark Lombardi c. 1971-80, graphite on paper, 10 x 27.5 inches.

Chemical Structure – from the Gmelin Database covers inorganic and organometallic compounds from 1772 to (at that time) 1995. The GM010 release contains over 1.5 million compounds, 1.3 million reactions, approximately 85,000 titles, abstracts and keywords. Today it is surely bigger.

Reflection and Refraction – from College Physics by Arthur L. Foley, The Blakiston Company, 1941.

Background – Operation diagram for 12:00 noon, July 25, 1985,Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen Lines, (bullet train) Japanese National Railroad Control Room, TokyoDes revolutions des corps celestes par le mechanisme des rouages – by Antide Janvier Paris in 1812Movement Notation – by Noa Eshkol and Abraham Wachman, London, 1958from Envisioning Information by Edward R. Tufte, Graphics Press, 1990.

Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 – by Robert Winter from CD Companion: A Close Reading, screen 293, fugue subject.

Language Confection from the Oceans of the Stream Story Conceived of and Drawn by Edward R. Tuftefrom Visual Explanations by Edward R. Tufte, Graphics Press, 1997.

The Growth and Nutrition of White Pine Seedlings in Cultures with Varying Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and Calcium, by H.L. Mitchell from The Black Rock Forest Bulletin No. 9 (Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, New York, 1939, page 70)from The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte, Graphics Press, 2001.

Koch Snowflake – by Benoit MandelbrotGlimpse of Bifurcation – by Robert Mayfrom Chaos, Making a New Science by James Gleick, Penguin Books; ISBN 0140092501; 1987.

A rock and a pond recall the Universe….Folding pattern for a jumping frogfrom Origami, from Angelfish to Zen by Peter Engel, Dover Publications;ISBN 0486281388; 1989.

Reflection of the Sun in the Sea, by Nicolas Tarkhoff; 866-3433 Model Profile View, by Georges Pierre Seurat.

1030-518Jaguar, 0244BRScientist Looking, A97-160496Inside a Computer, Image KSI230.

La Brea, Sunset, Orange De Longpre, by Ed Ruscha, 1999, Original: acrylic on canvas, 152 x 153 cm, Modern Painters, Winter 2001

Architectural Design by Mikko Heikkinen and Markku Komonen. www.architecturalrecord.com

Strange Attractors and TCP/IP Sequence Number Analysis Input data from a sequence of ISNs by Michal Zalewski http://razor.bindview.com/publish/papers/tcpseq.html#intro

Pigment Map Real Color Wheel , The Painting on Location Group http://www.mauigateway.com/~donjusko/pigmentrcwmap.htm

Red Clouds in Sky, ESK_046 EyeWire (Royalty-free) www.getty-images.com

Fig.12 Observation of a highly Nontrivial Knot Tripling Frank D (Tony) Smith http://www.innerx.net/personal/tsmith/3x3OctCnf.html


9 thoughts on “What Does That Line Mean?

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