Landlines: Drawing Terrain

Carl Lostritto and Lucy Liu
February 2016

Landlines: Drawing Terrain is an exhibition of drawings that reflect on the capacity of line to represent a contentious surface. There are eight methods of representing islands in this exhibition; the grouping of drawings positions these methods in relation to one another. There are a total of 24 drawings and 6 animations, organized into eight sets: projecting, hatching, growing, graining, slitting, animating, dashing, and boiding. 

A single landmass in the East China Sea is claimed by two countries. On the map, this island appears as two distinct, yet identical bodies, each uniquely named and located.  Japan names it Senkaku, and China names it Diaoyudao. This work presents both versions of the island as fact.  Eight methods draw two islands in pursuit of constructing one story. Diptychs allude to the duplicity of reality, but also invite speculation on the conflicting definition of line between multiple iterative processes. The lines in these drawings embody the struggle between earth and sky, between land and water, figure and field, contour and surface, and ultimately, between realities. We aim to construct new dialogue between content and methods of representation, and question the role of the drawing in a computational design process.


Senkaku Islands/Diaoyudao Islands

The islands originate from the ongoing Senkaku Islands Dispute mainly between China and Japan. The group of islands is strategically located in the East China Sea, with the most prominent landmass, Uotsuri-shima/Diaoyu Island, being the culprit for escalating sourness in contemporary Sino-Japanese relationship. With the discovery of oil and gas reserves under the seabed surrounding the islands in the 1970’s, both sides attempt to use historical contracts to justify ownership. In parallel to the development of the dispute, advancements in cartographic tools provided opportunities for the countries in conflict to also race to claim the island’s ‘virtual footprint’: a labeled coordinate on the ubiquitous digital map (such as Google Maps). 

In the September of 2012, the month now designated for the spectacle of the Apple product launch, the newly released Apple Maps in iOS6 created a new landscape for the Senkaku Islands: there were now two islands instead of one. This was due to a mishap in geo-data synchronization in the Maps application; the two sets of raw data provided by two countries were not only located in different coordinates, they were also drawn differently, referencing completely discrete sets of information revealed in their contrasting contours. In this series, we exploit a site born out of deep disjunctions of our times, not only at the scale of global entities, but also within architecture and its representations, its agencies and truths.


Lucy Siyao Liu is pursuing a post-professional research degree in Architectural Design at MIT. Her research experiments with representational methods in design, with an emphasis on evolving drawing and animation processes for architectural production. The subject matter of her work addresses contestations, disjunctions, estrangement and systems of nature. Her projects are published by RISD Architectural Press and UED Magazine, and exhibited at the RISD Museum, China Central Academy of Fine Arts and Beijing Design Week. She received her Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rhode Island School of Design.

Carl Lostritto teaches Architecture at RISD. In teaching and practice, Lostritto's architectural agenda involves methodological experiments in the realms of computation and representation in the pursuit of new ways of conceiving fundamental architectural problems. His modus operandi usually involves writing software that controls machines and extends the role of the human author in the design process. He has written hundreds of programs and scripts that control vintage pen plotters. He also indexes, catalogs, exhibits and writes about the resulting drawings. He studied in a post-professional research program at MIT within the Design and Computation Group. His favorite architectural problem is the corner.