Understanding Architecture through Drawing

Understanding Architecture through Drawing

Understanding Architecture through Drawing

Understanding Architecture through Drawing


This introduction to design and graphic techniques will help designers increase their understanding of buildings and places through drawing. For many people the camera has replaced the sketchbook, but here the author argues that freehand drawing as a means of analysing and understanding buildings develops visual sensitivity and awareness of design. By combining design theory with practical lessons in drawing Understanding Architecture through Drawing will encourage the use of the sketchbook as a creative and critical tool. The book is highly illustrated and will be an essential manual on freehand drawing techniques for students of architecture, landscape architecture, town and country planning and urban design.


The act of drawing is an important starting point for the intellectual process we call 'design'. To be able to draw a chair or a building is a prerequisite for anyone wishing to design such things. Drawing has two functions for the designer—it allows him or her to record and to analyse existing examples, and the sketch provides the medium with which to test the appearance of some imagined object.

Before the advent of photography most architects kept a sketchbook in which they recorded the details of buildings which they could refer to when designing. The fruits of the Grand Tour or more local wanderings consisted of drawn material supported, perhaps, by written information or surveyed dimensions.

The sketchbook provided a form of research and a library of plans and details to crib at a later stage. Because the architect is not necessarily aiming only at documentary representation, the sketches were often searching and analytical. Many of the drawings prepared found their way into later designs. The English architect C.R. Cockerell used pocketsized sketchbooks and filled them with drawings not only of sites in Italy and Greece, but of cities in Britain. His sketchbooks which survive at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) show that a direct link existed between Cockerell's field studies and his commissions as an architect. Later architects such as Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn employed the sketchbook in a similar fashion though to different ends.

Drawings have been used by architects in many different ways. Ranging between the opposite poles of the freehand drawing as a record and as a design tool exist many different applications for the designer. Some architects use the sketch as the main means of communicating a design idea to clients. Such sketches relay the thinking behind a proposal as well as suggesting a tangible form. Other architects use the sketch to analyse townscape and to indicate how their design will fit into the street. Others use the sketch as a method of studying building typology, using the analysis as a way of placing their design into known precedents. However the sketch is employed, the main point is to use the freehand drawing as a design tool, as a method of giving form and expression to one's thoughts. One may finish the design process with a formal perspective, but that end product should not be where sketching begins. Design analysis through the freehand drawing should be at the start of the creative process, not at the end, and preferably before the design commission arrives in the first . . .

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