Contextual study point 2: Lines – A Close Reading.


  1. Access Chapter 6: How the Line Became Straight, Lines by Tim Ingold, 2016 from [link]
  2. Do a close reading* of the chapter above to explore the theoretical notion of lines and their relevance to design.
  3. Create a mind map that explores Tim Ingold’s theories and using your learning log critically reflect on the argument that he is presenting.
  4. Reflect on the activity and what you have gained from doing it

At first I printed the pages and read it all to understand the main content. Then I re-read and underlined certain, most important in my opinion parts and made notes in corresponding colours.

Critical reflection on the argument:

I found the argument presented in the text quite philosophical, despite containing many facts. If we consider that an absolutely straight line doesn’t physically exist, then we can only dwell on its theory. After reading the chapter I think the only example of straight line that exists will be a ray of light, but that’s not something that can be easily seen, touched or drawn.

The author, Tim Ingold presents us with many facts and theories such as straight line being associated with the human ‘stuff’ such as mind, civilisation and science while curved line can be associated with primitiveness, nature and matter. There are many common conceptions based on straightness and non-straightness such as thinking straight, crooked or twisted mind.

Straight lines are created by humans while curved by nature. Straight line is associated with male and curved with female.

 Too much straightness creates yearning for wilderness. We can experience that in the modern cities where skyscrapers dominate with their linear designs and there is little or no greenery, people generally don’t find this welcoming or pleasant. We need curvaceous nature for our mental wellbeing.  

The author explores the ideas of guidelines and plotlines where the plotlines are the actual lines and guidelines are essential to creating the plotlines. After reading the text I believe that no plotline can exist without the guideline, even if the latter has since been erased or made invisible.

There are similarities between architectural and musical sketches and drawings in regards to guidelines, plotlines and creative process.

The ruler has its own section in the text, it is an important tool, enabling drawing almost perfectly straight lines. Drawing with a ruler (or using a software) is a workmanship of certainty where the outcome is predetermined but the final drawing lacks movement and life. Sketching is a creative way of drawing (workmanship of risk) where the final result is unpredictable and the outcome changes throughout the process that can be tracked.

I learnt from the text that most architects prefer drawing to writing, and they only write what cannot be drawn. They use freehand sketches to develop the ideas and measured and ruled specification drawings afterwards to instruct the builders.

Straight line is an icon of modernity while fragmented line is a symbol of postmodernity. Curved lines are often called organic.

Seems that most important quality of lines is that they are open-ended such as our lives, train of thoughts and histories…

Reflection on the task:

I found this task difficult. I found the text philosophical and hard to rely, however writing down the ‘important bits’ on my map helped me get some order and re-word the main ideas from the text. The most difficult part of the task was to start typing out my critique. I learnt from this task that I just need to get on with it, and once you start the words flow and with help of some notes you can dwell on any subject, even the philosophical one. I came up with my own observation on straight and curved line when exploring the ideas of sketching and drawing straight lines and how the outcome is predetermined or not depending on the type of drawing: The exclamation mark is a straight line while a question mark is a curved one – certainty and question…

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