The Bartlett School of Architecture


Sayan Skandarajah

Image: Unsurfacing the Strata of Ikeda (detail), Sayan Skandarajah


Parallel Projection and the Political Gaze in Early Modern Kyoto

First and second supervisors 


This thesis engages with a type of architectural drawing known as parallel projection, both through textual analysis and my own drawing practice. Using its appearance in sixteenth and seventeenth-century screen paintings of Kyoto, Japan, the research tests the properties of representation that have been attributed to this form of representing space. This is important as current architectural engagement with representation tends to be Eurocentric (acknowledging but not investigating parallel projection’s origins in East Asia) and the analysis of such screen paintings by art historians is not sufficiently architectural. The use of drawing as a new methodology will provide a unique line of investigation that questions whether western theoretical interpretations of parallel projection have relevance to early modern Japan and considers how an analysis of these paintings might build and widen understandings of architectural representation in the west. 

Translated as “Scenes in and around Kyoto”, the Rakuchu Rakugai zu folding screens use oblique aerial parallel projection to create portrayals of Kyoto that are at the same time maps, planning documents and works of art. The research outlines how the use of representation in these screens disrupts the western narrative of truth, objectivity and rationality that had been attributed to parallel projection at the time, and instead employs a more abstract, temporal and wandering gaze charged with political motivation. By inhabiting the compositional framework of the original artists, Sayan develops his own reflective design process, using drawing as a means of negotiating between analysis of the paintings and the speculation on forms of urban imagination.


Sayan Skandarajah is an architectural academic specialising in drawing-led research. Alongside his role as a Lecturer and Design Studio Convener for Second Year at the University of Reading, his PhD research at The Bartlett School of Architecture feeds into his reflective practice. His work engages with non-western representations of the city, which feeds into an investigation into traditional Yamoto-e style Japanese painting and the sue of parallel projection. Alongside The Bartlett's Kirsty Badenoch he is co-curator of the Cartographies of the Imagination project, an ongoing exploration into map-making, drawing and the mind’s eye. His research is funded by the London Arts and Humanities Partnership, and has had previous grants from The Sasakawa Foundation.


  • Sayan Skandarajah (2019) Into the Clouds of Rakuchu Rakugai Zu: Eastern< >Western Drawing Tolerance Critiqued through Speculative Drawing Practices, Architecture and Culture, 7:1, 129-147, DOI: 10.1080/20507828.2019.1558771


  • LAHP
  • Sasakawa Foundation


Image: Unsurfacing the Strata of Ikeda (detail), Sayan Skandarajah