Architectural Absurdities on paper


Our Architectural Assistant Agata Malinowska talks about her playful illustrations and how we need to think more radically through absurd architecture.

Agata tells her story:

8 years ago I would have never guessed I was on my way to become an architect. I wanted to be an artist, as all I know at that point in my life is I can draw and I can be creative. But how exactly can I give a meaning to it? Growing up in Poland and being constantly exposed to buildings with a lot of history behind it, I have developed a keen interest in architecture not only as an art form but I have also started thinking about other aspects like social context and what architecture is and what it could be. It all clarified when I started participating in drawing classes focused on architecture and architecture history, alongside high school. It gave me an awareness of the role of history, theory and criticism in architectural discourse. This experience has not only taught me the technical and artistic skills, but also that talent means nothing without hard work and the right mentality. Since then, I have deepened my interest in becoming an architect and decided to move to the UK to fulfil my dreams.

“My main aim is to bring my drawings to life with speculations on how the spaces can be occupied and how we might interact in them. This gives them new meaning, which is often authentic and chaotic.”

I am particularly passionate about driving the project from the initial stage and how to graphically represent innovative ideas in a best possible way. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your proposal developing and resolving an authoritative architectural proposition, leading to a sophisticated building design, which responds to site, content and brief and critically examines the project’s historic, urban and social context. However, it is important to recognise the imaginative side of architectural profession as much as the practical side of it.

In order to experiment with those ideas, I mostly enjoy drawing interior design blending the everyday life with elements of imaginative architectural proposals. Those architectural absurdities reveal a different framework of conceptual thinking – from juxtaposition and irony to a conflict of mismatched elements that you wouldn’t normally find in your average room. Before the process, I usually ask myself, how can we make spaces more playful based on individuality and reconfiguring the everyday mundane? What are the alternative methods of living and building construction? How many times one goes along the street and sees the repetitiveness of the surrounding, the lack of individuality on the streets, in the everyday life, the absence of expressiveness. It is fair to say that we became attached to the safe framework, not leaving our comfort zone. We became extremely limited due to the repetitive and linear way of thinking, reproducing the mundane routine. The illustrations aim for an individual approach, thinking of a narrative and creating bespoke design and personal scenarios.

Another way of tackling the mundane is using colour. Many of my illustrations are bursting with them, giving the viewers an optimistic, playful view on the absurd world. To achieve such bright colours, I usually mix the prominent, black ink with gouache/acrylic/colour pencils. There’s no doubt that the drawings resemble the famous Memphis Group, taking the inspiration from unconventional furniture and the 70s and 80s interior spaces.

121-151 BPR - Cool Britannia Ltd

This process also plays an important role of how I approach more architectural drawings. My main aim is to bring them to life with speculations on how the spaces can be occupied and how we can interact in them, giving it a new meaning, often quite authentic and chaotic. Speculative interpretations are the key to think of what’s next, or what can be a creative ignition. I participated in The Architecture Drawing Prize with my own adaptation of 121-151 Buckingham Palace Road. Renamed as Cool Britannia Ltd, the scheme is a think-tank for Millennials in post-apocalyptic Brexitland set in 2027. The second generation of Cool Britannia decides to oppose the government and creates a peppermint farm in an exterminated building, spreading the scent and invigorating the mind to stimulate debates towards our future.

Practicing non-realistic, paper architecture, enables us to think outside of the box, makes us think what’s actually possible and not achievable in real world. It gives us a fresh look at the everyday architecture and an opportunity to not care about functionality for once.

Agata Malinowska

About Agata

Agata studied at the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Brighton. Her architectural career stems from an interest in drawing and she is passionate about the potential to explore design and graphics within this context. Originally from Poland she came to the UK attracted by the creative approach to the teaching of architecture, which suits her multi-talented skill set.

In 2018 she was an RIBA Bronze Medal nominee as well as the winner of an RIBA South East Student Award. She is currently completing her Master’s degree at The Bartlett, UCL.

Find out more of her illustrations on