THE POWER OF IMAGES
Yellowstone National Park holds the unique distinction as the first portion of the earth to be so valued for its natural wonders as to be set aside and preserved in perpetuity by a nation's law. It's interesting to note that neither the Members of Congress who voted this act into law nor the President who signed the bill ever saw Yellowstone with their own eyes (excepting delegates from Montana and Wyoming who championed the idea). So why were these men moved to do something that had never been tried before - to so honor the special qualities of this remote land as to create the world's first national park? The answer lies in the talent of a 34-year-old landscape artist who accompanied the U.S. Geological Survey Expedition exploring the Yellowstone region in 1871. Thomas Moran spent about 20 days interpreting the features of this wild and awesome land in watercolor sketches. These images, published in Scribner's Monthly magazine, were so convincing and inspirational that Yellowstone National Park was established and set aside by law seven months later.
This was not the first or last case in which a special talent for graphic representation has moved the world and influenced the way we value and interact with our environment. In his beautifully presented volume, The Art of Architectural Drawing, Tom Schaller lays out example after example of extraordinary images that have captured the attention and imagination of the "movers and shakers" that hold the power to shape our environment for better or for worse. From the standard set by Pinanesi, Ledoux, and Sant' Elia, to the great modernists - Wright, Le Corbusier, and Mies, and more recently Kahn, Rudolph, Jahn, Graves, and Rossi (among a litany of others) potent and compelling images have provided a platform and acted as a vehicle to educate and enlighten, to inform the public of the rolls urban planning and architecture play in shaping life and culture. Indeed, modern culture increasingly depends upon the visual arts to define and direct our sense of who we are and what we care about.
And so architectural illustration has never been more important in its ability to communicate the character of our built environment - its critical issues, its opportunities and promise for a better way of living. We are the ones who have dedicated ourselves to developing our talents for providing explanations that express these concerns and creative solutions in the best manner possible - superlative images demonstrating what our planet can and will become. And with this facility we need to recognize and embrace our responsibility towards shaping that future. Our works are meaningful in their implications for mankind. Thomas Moran was fully aware of this fact when he focused his talent in service towards establishing Yellowstone National Park.
* for more on Thomas Moran visit www.cr.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/moran