Welcome to my *Brand New* Website, friends! Let me know if you have any issues or comments. xo
Welcome to my *Brand New* Website, friends! Let me know if you have any issues or comments. xo
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Turn-of-the-Centuries is a one-woman studio founded alongside my practice as an architect and urban designer in Savannah, Georgia by me - Kirsten Sparenborg. After several moves about the US, I am settled and love working in magnificent, creative Tacoma, Washington. 


Explorative, Cartographic, Earth-bound: My work interprets the emotional power of Place in peoples’ lives through familiar color and evocative form, using watercolor, ink and collage. Maps, Mountains/Landscapes and Sketches/Studies offer a visual memory of Place at three scales: aerial, distant yet omnipresent, and intimate/inhabited. Together, the variety of pieces manifest a place not only through its salient features but they evoke a wonder at the natural creations alongside personal memories made in place. Even while representing real tangible places, the work is abstract as visual perceptions trump informatics. Newer work presents imagined landscapes which push the pictoral and tactile quality of maps into territories of emotion and imagination. Color is subtle yet significant in my work. I am drawn to natural, muted colors that support the stronger lines and forms in the compositions. Colors are selected to match memories or the feelings that surface while transporting my mind to the place I am conjuring with brush + line. Altogether, the work may be called Architectural Map-drawings because it is my education and practice as an architect and urban designer that led me to appreciate and manifest the sensory value of places. In my work, I hope to honor special places and the desire for mementos of these places in which we belong, thrive, remember and aspire to our truest selves.

As a child in the Midwest United States, I found wonder and power in discovering and creating. A deep sense of curiosity and desire to make were advantages to growing up without an abundance of structured activities, toys or vacations. I made cardboard shoes, paper people - complete with designer clothes of construction paper and cardboard floor plan houses. I drew maps of these imaginary neighborhoods and house lots, an early intimation of a later-in-life career as a Map Artist. A family trip to Montreal when I was 12 expanded my world and set a course to travel again and again to experience that wonderful sensory overload of historic architecture, bustling streets, foreign languages, outdoor cafes.

My "Las Vegas Strip" sculpture, created on a shiny gold vintage stiletto sandal (ha!), somehow took "Best in Show" in the high school art show, but I didn't really create in my own way until I had the privilege to travel throughout Europe as a student in the College of Architecture at Virginia Tech. In Europe, I felt overwhelmed by the beauty and the sublime experience of space in European towns and frustrated by my inability to capture this new feeling in drawings. An evolution occurred as I began sketching while walking. I call it "experiential drawing." Through a transformative process, including a break-through moment in a narrow stepped village street in Ticino, I sketched a combination of plan, section, perspective and diagram, exploring surfaces, openings and paths exploding out from my sketching stance - essentially, maps. The drawing became dynamic as my body moved through spatial sequences and my hand moved pen on paper, continuing to build the drawing while experiencing the space.

Following architecture school, I authored a photographic book on Virginia towns. A college project to document the fading architecture and stories of “boom and bust” communities, or towns that represent a past way of life slipping away, turned into a three-year quest to document these special Places in oral memory and black and white photographs. “‘Lost’ Communities of Virginia”, published by UVA Press in 2012 and winner of numerous awards including People’s Choice Library of Virginia in 2013, is the fruit of my labors on the road, in the darkroom and office and in the homes and villages of over sixty generous older residents who shared their memories as we connected over a love of place and past. The work was made possible by the Community Design Assistance Center at Virginia Tech, as well as grants from Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the Graham Foundation. 

I retired my film camera and darkroom hours in 2003 and moved to Savannah Georgia. I was so grateful to work for seven years as an architect and urban designer in the small firm of Sottile & Sottile where I created site maps, watercolored floor plans and pored over historic maps. Analysis of historic maps bred a deep appreciation for the map artists and inspired my 2013 thesis on maps as a grad student of Architectural History in the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia. I began working as an artist in Savannah, creating Turn-of-the-Centuries in 2007 and began drawing Savannah's architectural streetscapes. My travels also inspired streetscape drawings and maps, capturing the "feel" of a place walking through it - its building facades, streets, trees and its urban plan. The concept of Architectural Map-Drawings, a unique combination of architectural facades and maps, or plans, emerged as a quintessential expression of the character of a place. In graduate school, I made drawings in Rome on the Pelliccia Fellowship from the University of Virginia. I learned about the amazing drawings of the Renaissance, as artists, architects and cartographers combined plan, elevation, section, perspective and cartography to visualize their designs and to synthesize perceptions of their cities. I studied bird's eye view drawings of the 19th Century and made similar drawings to document Eastport, Maine. As a former architect, an historian and a lifelong artist, I take up a long tradition of chorography to describe, document and cherish great places.

My Architectural Map-drawings are available primarily as Original paintings and Prints. I usually produce new map work by contract for institutions and commission for individuals, alongside Fine Art collections for galleries. Interetsed in working together? Contact me below. Thank you!