drawings are drawn according to a set of conventions, which include
particular views (floor plan, section etc.), sheet sizes, units of
measurement and scales, annotation and cross referencing.
Conventionally, drawings were made in ink on paper or a similar
material, and any copies required had to be laboriously made by hand.
The twentieth century saw a shift to drawing on tracing paper, so that
mechanical copies could be run off efficiently.
The development of
the computer had a major impact on the methods used to design and
create technical drawings, making manual
draughting almost obsolete, and opening up new possibilities of form
using organic shapes and complex geometry. Today the vast majority of
drawings are created using CAD software.
The Concertgebouw (concert hall) in Amsterdam,
by Adolf Leonard van Gendt, illustration published 1888.
An architectural drawing or architect's drawing is a
technical drawing of a building (or building project) that falls within
the definition of architecture. Architectural drawings are used by
architects and others for a number of purposes: to develop a design
idea into a coherent proposal, to communicate ideas and concepts, to
convince clients of the merits of a design, to enable a building contractor to construct it, as a
record of the completed work, and to make a record of a building that
Sketches and diagrams
A sketch is a
rapidly executed freehand drawing, a quick way to record and develop an
idea, not intended as a finished work. A diagram may also be drawn
freehand but deals with symbols, to develop the logic of a design. Both
may be worked up into a more presentable form and used to communicate
the principles of a design.
In architecture, the
finished work is expensive and time consuming, so it is important to
resolve the design as fully as possible before construction work
begins. Complex modern buildings involve a large team of different
specialist disciplines, and communication at the early design stages is
essential to keep the design moving towards a coordinated outcome.
Architects (and other designers) start investigating a new design with
sketches and diagrams, to develop a rough design that provides an
adequate response to the particular design problems.
There are two basic
elements to a building design, the aesthetic and the practical. The
aesthetic element includes the layout and visual appearance, the
anticipated feel of the materials, and cultural references that will
influence the way people perceive the building. Practical concerns
include space allocated for different activities, how people enter and
move around the building, daylight and artificial lighting, acoustics,
traffic noise, legal matters and building codes, and many other issues.
While both aspects are partly a matter of customary practice, every
site is different. Many architects actively seek innovation, thereby
increasing the number of problems to be resolved.
often refers to designs made on the back of an
Initial thoughts are important, even if they have to be discarded along
the way, because they provide the central idea around which the design
Although a sketch is inaccurate, it is disposable and allows for
freedom of thought, for trying different ideas quickly. Choice becomes
sharply reduced once the design is committed to a scale drawing, and
the sketch stage is almost always essential.
Diagrams are mainly
used to resolve practical matters. In the early phases of the design
architects use diagrams to develop, explore, and communicate ideas and
solutions. They are essential tools for thinking, problem solving, and
communication in the design disciplines. Design is ultimately about the
configurations, connections, shape, and orientations of physical forms.
Diagrams can be used to resolve spatial relationships, but they can
also represent forces and flows, e.g. the forces of sun and wind, or
the flows of people and materials through a building.
An exploded view
shows component parts dis-assembled in some way, so that each can be
seen on its own. These views are common in technical manuals, but are
also used in architecture, either in conceptual diagrams or to
illustrate technical details.
In a cutaway view parts of the exterior are
omitted to show the interior, or details of internal construction. "The
convention of the rough architectural cutaway can be used to create a
more intense dialogue between exterior and interior."
(this kind of drawing may be more visually interesting than the
building it describes). Although common in technical illustration, the
cutaway is in fact little used in architectural drawing. It is used
mainly as 3D sketches to illustrate and expand on formal construction
Diagram of an Arch
Size and scale
articles: Paper size, Engineer's scale, Architect's scale, and Metric scale
The size of drawings
reflects the materials available and the size that is convenient to
transport – rolled up or folded, laid out on a table, or pinned up on a
wall. The draughting process may impose limitations on the size that is
realistically workable. Sizes are determined by a consistent paper size
system, according to local usage. Normally the largest paper size used
in modern architectural practice is ISO A0
(841 × 1,189 mm/33.1 × 46.8 in) or in the
USA Arch E (762 × 1,067 mm/30 × 42 in),
although there is a Large E size
(915 × 1,220 mm/36 × 48 in) which does
not have an ISO equivalent.
drawings are drawn to scale, so that relative sizes are correctly
represented. The scale is chosen both to ensure the whole building will
fit on the chosen sheet size, and to show the required amount of
detail. At the scale of one eighth of an inch to one foot (1/96th) or
the metric equivalent 1 to 100, walls are typically shown as simple
outlines corresponding to the overall thickness. At a larger scale,
half an inch to one foot (1/24th) or the nearest common metric
equivalent 1 to 20, the layers of different materials that make up the
wall construction are shown. Construction details are drawn to a larger
scale, in some cases full size (1 to 1 scale).
Scale drawings enable
dimensions to be 'read' off the drawing, i.e. measured directly.
Imperial scales (feet and inches), while lacking the simple logic of
the metric system, are equally readable using an ordinary ruler. On a
one-eighth inch to one foot scale drawing, the one-eighth divisions on
the ruler can be read off as feet. Architects normally use a scale ruler with different scales marked on
each edge. A third method, used by builders in estimating, is to
measure directly off the drawing and multiply by the scale factor.
Dimensions can be
measured off drawings made on a stable medium such as vellum. All
processes of reproduction introduce small errors, especially now that
different copying methods mean that the same drawing may be re-copied
or copies made in several different ways. Consequently dimensions need
to be written ('figured') on the drawing. The disclaimer "Do not scale
off dimensions" is commonly inscribed on architects drawings, to guard
against errors arising in the copying process.
views used in architectural drawing
This section deals with the conventional views used to represent a
building or structure. See the Types of architectural drawing
section below for drawings classified according to their purpose.
Standard views used in
architects' drawings. Symbols
used to define whether a projection
either Third Angle (right) or First Angle (left)
A floor plan is the
most fundamental architectural diagram, a view from above showing the
arrangement of spaces in building in the same way as a map, but showing
the arrangement at a particular level of a building. Technically it is
a horizontal section cut though a building (conventionally at three
feet / one metre above floor level), showing walls, window and door
openings and other features at that level. The plan view includes
anything that could be seen below that level: the floor, stairs (but
only up to the plan level), fittings and sometimes furniture. Objects
above the plan level (e.g. beams overhead) can be indicated as dotted
Geometrically, plan view is defined as a vertical
orthographic projection of an object on to a horizontal plane, with the
horizontal plane cutting through the building.
Principal floor plans
of the Queen's House, Greenwich (UK).
A site plan is a
specific type of plan, showing the whole context of a building or group
of buildings. A site plan shows property boundaries and means of access
to the site, and nearby structures if they are relevant to the design.
For a development on an urban site, the site plan may need to show
adjoining streets to demonstrate how the design fits in to the urban
fabric. Within the site boundary, the site plan gives an overview of
the entire scope of work. It shows the buildings (if any) already
existing and those that are proposed, usually as a building footprint;
roads, parking lots, footpaths, hard landscaping, trees and planting.
For a construction project, the site plan also needs to show all the
services connections: drainage and sewer lines, water supply,
electrical and communications cables, exterior lighting etc.
Site plans are
commonly used to represent a building proposal prior to detailed
design: drawing up a site plan is a tool for deciding both the site
layout and the size and orientation of proposed new buildings. A site
plan is used to verify that a proposal complies with local development
codes, including restrictions on historical sites. In this context the
site plan forms part of a legal agreement, and there may be a
requirement for it to be drawn up by a licenced professional:
architect, engineer, landscape architect or land surveyor.
Site plan of the
proposed Chicago Spire by Santiago Calatrava.
An elevation is a
view of a building seen from one side, a flat representation of one façade. This is the most common view used
to describe the external appearance of a building. Each elevation is
labelled in relation to the compass direction it faces, e.g. the north
elevation of a building is the side that most closely faces north.
Buildings are rarely a simple rectangular shape in plan, so a typical
elevation may show all the parts of the building that are seen from a
elevation is a horizontal orthographic projection of a building on to a
vertical plane, the vertical plane normally being parallel to one side
of the building.
Architects also use the word elevation as a synonym for façade
, so the north elevation is literally
the north wall of the building.
Elevation of the
principal façade of the Panthéon, Paris
A cross section, also
simply called a section, represents a vertical plane cut through the
object, in the same way as a floor plan is a horizontal section viewed
from the top. In the section view, everything cut by the section plane
is shown as a bold line, often with a solid fill to show objects that
are cut through, and anything seen beyond generally shown in a thinner
line. Sections are used to describe the relationship between different
levels of a building. In the Observatorium drawing illustrated here,
the section shows the dome seen from the outside, a second dome that
can only be seen inside the building, and the way the space between the
two accommodates a large astronomical telescope: relationships that
would be difficult to understand from plans alone.
A sectional elevation
is a combination of a cross section, with elevations of other parts of
the building seen beyond the section plane.
cross section is a horizontal orthographic projection of a building on
to a vertical plane, with the vertical plane cutting through the
Section drawing of the
Observatorium at Potsdam.
and axonometric projections
axonometric projections are a simple way of representing a three
dimensional object, keeping the elements to scale and showing the
relationship between several sides of the same object, so that the
complexities of a shape can be clearly understood.
There is some
confusion about the terms isometric and axonometric. “Axonometric is a
word that has been used by architects for hundreds of years. Engineers
use the word axonometric as a generic term to include isometric,
diametric and trimetric drawings.” This article
uses the terms in the architecture-specific sense.
complex geometrical explanations, for the purposes of practical
draughting the difference between isometric and axonometric is simple
(see diagram above). In both, the plan is drawn on a skewed or rotated
grid, and the verticals are projected vertically on the page. All lines
are drawn to scale so that relationships between elements are accurate.
In many cases a different scale is required for different axes, and
again this can be calculated but in practice was often simply estimated
- An isometric uses
a plan grid at 30 degrees from the horizontal in both directions, which
distorts the plan shape. Isometric graph paper can be used to construct
this kind of drawing. This view is useful to explain construction
details (e.g. three dimensional joints in joinery). The isometric was
the standard view until the mid twentieth century, remaining popular
until the 1970s, especially for textbook diagrams and illustrations.
- Cabinet projection is similar, but only one
axis is skewed, the others being horizontal and vertical. Originally
used in cabinet making, the advantage is that a principal side (e.g. a
cabinet front) is displayed without distortion, so only the less
important sides are skewed. The lines leading away from the eye are
drawn at a reduced scale to lessen the degree of distortion. The
cabinet projection is seen in Victorian engraved advertisements and
but has virtually disappeared from general use.
- An axonometric
uses a 45 degree plan grid, which keeps the original orthogonal
geometry of the plan. The great advantage of this view for architecture
is that the draughtsman can work directly from a plan, without having
to reconstruct it on a skewed grid. In theory the plan should be set at
45 degrees, but this introduces confusing coincidences where opposite
corners align. Unwanted effects can be avoided by rotating the plan
while still projecting vertically. This is sometimes called a
planometric or plan oblique view, and allows
freedom to choose any suitable angle to present the most useful view of
draughting techniques used 30-60 and 45 degree set squares, and that
determined the angles used in these views. Once the adjustable square
became common those limitations were lifted.
gained in popularity in the twentieth century, not just as a convenient
diagram but as a formal presentation technique, adopted in particular
by the Modern Movement.
Axonometric drawings feature prominently in the influential 1970's
drawings of Michael Graves, James Stirling and others, using not only
straightforward views but worms-eye view, unusually and exaggerated
rotations of the plan, and exploded elements.
The axonometric view
is not readily generated by CAD programmes, which work best by
generating a view from a three dimensional model. Consequently it is
now little used except to illustrate relatively simple construction
axonometric plan, Port-Royal-des-Champs.
Detail drawings show
a small part of the construction at a larger scale, to show how the
component parts fit together. They are also used to show small surface
details, for example decorative elements. Section drawings at large
scale are a standard way of showing building construction details,
typically showing complex junctions (such as floor to wall junction,
window openings, eaves and roof apex) that cannot be clearly shown on a
drawing that includes the full height of the building. A full set of
construction details needs to show plan details as well as vertical
section details. One detail is seldom produced in isolation: a set of
details shows the information needed to understand the construction in
three dimensions. Typical scales for details are 1/10, 1/5 and full
construction, many details were so
fully standardised, that few detail drawings were required to construct
a building. For example, the construction of a sash window would be
left to the carpenter, who would fully understand what was required,
but unique decorative details of the facade would be drawn up in
detail. In contrast, modern buildings need to be fully detailed because
of the proliferation of different products, methods and possible
drawing is an approximate
representation on a flat surface of an image as it is perceived by the
eye. The key concepts here are:
- Perspective is the view from a particular fixed
- Horizontal and vertical edges in the object are
represented by horizontals and verticals in the drawing.
- Lines leading away into the distance appear to
converge at a vanishing point.
- All horizontals converge to a point on the
horizon, which is a horizontal line at eye level.
- Verticals converge to a point either above or
below the horizon.
The basic categorization of artificial perspective
is by the number of vanishing points:
perspective where objects facing the
viewer are orthogonal, and receding lines converge to a single
perspective reduces distortion by
viewing objects at an angle, with all the horizontal lines receding to
one of two vanishing points, both located on the horizon.
perspective introduces additional
realism by making the verticals recede to a third vanishing point,
which is above or below depending upon whether the view is seen from
above or below.
The normal convention
is architectural perspective
is to use two-point perspective, with all the verticals drawn as
verticals on the page.
perspective gives a casual,
photographic snapshot effect. In professional architectural
photography, conversely, a view camera or a perspective control
lens is used to eliminate the third vanishing point, so that all the
verticals are vertical on the photograph, as with the perspective
convention. This can also be done by digital manipulation of a
photograph taken with a normal camera.
Aerial perspective is
a technique in painting, for
indicating distance by approximating the effect of the atmosphere on
distant objects. In daylight, as an ordinary object gets further from
the eye, its contrast with the background is reduced, its colour
saturation is reduced, and its colour becomes more blue. Not to be
confused with aerial view or bird's
eye view, which is the view as seen (or imagined) from a high vantage
point. In J M Gandy's perspective (see illustration above) of the Bank
of England, Gandy portrayed the building as a picturesque ruin in order
to show the internal plan arrangement, a precursor of the cutaway view.
A montage image is
produced by superimposing a
perspective image of a building on to a photographic background. Care
is needed to record the position from which the photograph was taken,
and to generate the perspective using the same viewpoint. This
technique is popular in computer visualisation, where the building can
be photorealistically rendered, and the final image is intended to be
almost indistinguishable from a photograph.
point perspective, interior of Dercy
House M Gandy's aerial
view of the Bank of England,
by Robert Adam, 1777.
as rebuilt by Sir
Types of architectural drawing
drawings are produced for a specific
purpose, and can be classified accordingly. Several elements are often
included on the same sheet, for example a sheet showing a plan together
with the principal façade.
Drawings intended to
explain a scheme and to
promote its merits. Working drawings may include tones or hatches to
emphasise different materials, but they are diagrams, not intended to
appear realistic. Basic presentation drawings typically include people,
vehicles and trees, taken from a library of such images, and are
otherwise very similar in style to working drawings. Rendering is the
art of adding surface textures and shadows to show the visual qualities
of a building more realistically. An architectural illustrator or
graphic designer may be employed to prepare specialist presentation
images, usually perspectives or highly finished site plans, floor plans
and elevations etc.
Measured drawings of
existing land, structures and
buildings. Architects need an accurate set of survey drawings as a
basis for their working drawings, to establish exact dimensions for the
construction work. Surveys are usually measured and drawn up by
specialist land surveyors.
architects have made record drawings
in order to understand and emulate the great architecture known to
them. In the Renaissance, architects from all over Europe studied and
recorded the remains of the Roman and Greek civilizations, and used
these influences to develop the architecture of the period. Records are
made both individually, for local purposes, and on a large scale for
publication. Historic surveys worth referring to include:
- Colen Campbell's Vitruvius
illustrations of English buildings by Inigo Jones and Sir Christopher Wren, as well as Campbell
himself and other prominent architects of the era.
- The Survey of
London, founded in 1894 by
Charles Robert Ashbee and now available through English Heritage. A
record of notable streets and individual buildings in the former County
- Historic American
Buildings Survey, records of
notable buildings drawn up during the 1930’s Depression, this
collection is held by the Library of Congress and is available
copyright-free on the internet.
Record drawings are
also used in construction
projects, where "as-built" drawings of the completed building take
account of all the variations made during the course of construction.
A comprehensive set
of drawings used in a building
construction project: these will include not only architect's drawings
but structural and services engineer's drawings etc. Working drawings
logically subdivide into location, assembly and component drawings.
- Location drawings,
also called general
arrangement drawings, include floor plans, sections and elevations:
they show where the construction elements are located.
- Assembly drawings
show how the different parts
are put together. For example a wall detail will show the layers that
make up the construction, how they are fixed to structural elements,
how to finish the edges of openings, and how prefabricated components
are to be fitted.
- Component drawings
elements e.g. windows and doorsets, to be fabricated in a workshop, and
delivered to site complete and ready for installation. Larger
components may include roof trusses, cladding panels, cupboards and
kitchens. Complete rooms, especially hotel bedrooms and bathrooms, may
be made as prefabricated pods complete with internal decorations and
Until the latter part
of the twentieth century,
drawings were manually produced, either by architects or by trained
(but less skilled) draughtsmen (or drafters), who did not generate the
design, although they made many of the less important decisions. This
system continues with CAD draughting: many design architects have
little or no knowledge of CAD software programmes and rely upon others
to take their designs beyond the sketch stage. Draughtsmen may
specialize in a type of structure, such as residential or commercial,
or in a type of construction: timber frame, reinforced concrete,
The traditional tools
of the architect were the
drawing board or
draughting table, T-square and set squares, protractor, compasses,
pencil and drawing pens of different types. Drawings were
made on vellum, coated linen, and on tracing paper. Lettering would
either be done by hand, mechanically using a stencil, or a combination
of the two. Ink lines were drawn with a ruling pen, a relatively
sophisticated device similar to a dip-in pen but with adjustable line
width, capable of producing a very fine controlled line width. Ink pens
had to be dipped into ink frequently. Draughtsmen worked standing up,
and kept the ink on a separate table to avoid spilling ink on the
developments include the
parallel motion drawing board, and more complicated improvements on the
basic T-square. The development of reliable technical drawing pens
allowed for faster draughting and stencilled lettering. Letraset dry
transfer lettering and half-tone sheets were popular from the 1970s
until computers made those processes obsolete.
is the use of computer
software to create drawings. Today the vast majority of technical
drawings of all kinds are made using CAD. Instead of drawing lines on
paper, the computer records similar information electronically. There
are many advantages to this system: repetition is reduced because
complex elements can be copied, duplicated and stored for re-use.
Errors can be deleted, and the speed of draughting allows many
permutations to be tried before the design is finalised. On the other
hand, CAD drawing encourages a proliferation of detail and increased
expectations of accuracy, aspects which reduce the efficiency
originally expected from the move to computerisation.
CAD programmes, for
example the worldwide market
leader AutoCAD, are complex and require both training and experience
before the operator becomes fully productive. Consequently skilled CAD
operators are often divorced from the design process. There are other
more basic programmes such as SketchUp that allow for more intuitive
drawing and are intended as a design tool.
CAD is used to create
all kinds of drawings, from
working drawings to photorealistic
perspective views. Architectural renderings (also called
visualisations) are made by creating a three-dimensional model using
CAD. The model can be viewed from any direction to find the most useful
viewpoints. Different software (for example Autodesk 3ds Max) is then
used to apply colour and texture to surfaces, and to represent shadows
and reflections. The result can be accurately combined with
photographic elements: people, cars, background landscape.
animation is a short film showing
how a proposed building will look: the moving image makes
three-dimensional forms much easier to understand. An animation is
generated from a series of hundreds or even thousands of still images,
each made in the same way as an architectural visualisation. A
computer-generated building is created using a CAD programme, and that
is used to create more or less realistic views from a sequence of
viewpoints. The simplest animations use a moving viewpoint, while more
complex animations can include moving objects: people, vehicles and so
perspective of the Moscow School of Management,
by David Adjaye
article: Architectural reprography
reprography covers a variety of
technologies, media, and support services used to make multiple copies
of original drawings. Prints of architectural drawings are still
sometimes called blueprints, after one of the early processes which
produced a white line on blue paper. The process was superseded by the
dye-line print system which prints black on white coated paper. The
standard modern processes are the ink-jet
printer, laser printer and photocopier, of which only the
ink-jet is commonly used for large-format printing. Although colour
printing is now commonplace and inexpensive, architect's drawings still
tend to adhere to the black and white / greyscale aesthetic.
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