Counterfactual Modeling in Historical Reconstruction: El Lissitzky’s Horizontal Skyscraper WB2

Samuel Johnson, Mitesh Dixit, Lawry Boyer, Stephen Melville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this project, three drawings for a horizontal skyscraper by El Lissitzky are analyzed and reconstructed using an iterative design process. The historical drawings serve as the basis of a series of models that attempt to visualize the architect’s design process by focusing on gaps, interruptions, inconsistencies, and contradictions in the representational field. A coherent and integrated massing, structure, and materials can be reconstructed by selecting a stable set of elements from the drawings. Improbable geometries constructed based on other elements foreground the normative force of the design as an ideal object that the historical architect never produced. Thanks to a counterfactual model, this ideal object can be examined in relation to historical design methodologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-58
Number of pages13
JournalTechnology Architecture and Design
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • Design Research
  • El Lissitzky
  • Soviet Avant-garde
  • Speculative Design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Urban Studies


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