In 1989 Robin Evans noted, “we are only just beginning to investigate the power that drawings and photographs have to alter, strategize, obscure, renew, configure and diffuse what they represent.”1 More than twenty years has passed and perhaps we are still “just beginning” that investigation, only today the field of study itself has changed. Computer-aided design is not just changing the nature of the architectural profession, outmoding traditional ways of designing and assembling buildings, and privileging large corporations over small firms, it is also posing new challenges to the archivist and the scholar. Digital media has transformed the publishing industry; should it also prompt new ways of thinking about how we present our research and to whom, and in what form? Must a written narrative continue to preoccupy the practice of architectural history? Should a rigorous digital model of an historical site be considered a work equivalent to a publication? Long gone are the days when the art or architectural historian as teacher was the keeper of the treasured image; our students now can access more images of buildings and sites on their phones than we can provide during class time.
As architectural historians we study and communicate through drawings, prints, photographs, and models of buildings and cities. We scrutinize the relation between visual and textual representations, negotiating the gaps that separate drawings from buildings; we present architecture through discourse and formulate ways of seeing the landscape. We employ architectural representations as vehicles for presenting ideas, but often do so uncritically. Given the technological sea-change taking place in the production, storage, and reproduction of textual and visual content, it seems appropriate to ponder the historical problem of representation. This special issue of the JSAH is intended to serve that purpose.