The Once Art of Architectural Drawing

Hand Drawing

My latest Architectural rant – well, ok not really a rant but more of a whine is about the electronic automation of the design industry and the demise of hand drawing. My thesis on this subject has been developing for some time and I have been known to make observations about this phenomenon in the past but you may ask me, why now? The automation process has been going on for years and, in fact, I have seen it almost from the moment I stepped out of school and into the workforce. Back then it was just gnawing at the edges of the profession but now, over 25 years later, the computer invasion has certainly taken over almost every aspect of the work day.


Proposed Neighborhood Library - Ink on Mylar (early 80s)
Proposed Neighborhood Library - Ink on Mylar (early 80s) | Source

Technology Trumps

This is not to say that I am one of those people that completely shun technology. After all, I am writing this article right now . . . so I am certainly engaged in this age of automation. I was also a willing participant and co-conspirator in the change from the “old ways” to the new efficiencies. In fact, I often marvel at some of the things the computer can do. Animation and computer graphics can make a building design come alive but that also has its pitfalls. There are times when the computer makes a proposed design look better than the finished building ever will. Then there is the bureaucracy of it all. A hand-drafted sheet that was part of a set of building plans was precious – there was only one original and you guarded it with your life. Copies were just that – copies and disposable (blue prints would actually fade away with time a light exposure). Now the drawing is digital, any printed version is only as good as the day it was printed. Various electronic versions are all over the place and must be organized and catalogued otherwise you may find yourself working on the wrong drawing. This problem isn’t limited to my world but is the case with all things computer.

So what about my recent bad attitude? Maybe it is a mid-life crisis or maybe as I age, I get eager to take my place among the “old curmudgeons” of the world and just complain about things – sort of a birth right of getting older. This rant may be a product of some of those things but actually, I think it is just me reflecting on the past, my industry and where things are headed. I do, in many ways miss the hand drafting and drawing process – a visceral connection from the line on the paper to the brain via the hand - and so have undertaken to do some of that again, in my spare time (which I don’t have any of). Perhaps the act of putting pencil to paper, using a scale and straight edge and all the rest is what led to these feelings welling up inside me. In the meantime, I will still enjoy the computer and therefore also contradict my own testimony. I would like to have my cake and eat it to – so to speak. Well, why not, life goes on . . . and “we’ll always have Paris” and all that stuff.

To read my full critique and also see some more of my old drawings (using lead and ink and the like), check out The Lost Art of Architecture at BRBlog.

Colored Pencil

Proposed Storefont In-Fill - Pencil & Colored Pencil on Yellow Trace (early 80s)
Proposed Storefont In-Fill - Pencil & Colored Pencil on Yellow Trace (early 80s) | Source

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Comments 6 comments

internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

ah yes, times have changed. I always enjoy looking at architectural drawings, there is just so many details.

brblog profile image

brblog 4 years ago from Chicago, Illinois Author


The one constant is change . . . still we can complain about it!

Victoria Anne profile image

Victoria Anne 3 years ago from Las Vegas

When I got my bachelor's degree we were required to learn to draft by hand before we could take any computer drafting that I'm in grad school even the professors look at me like I'm crazy when I draw by hand. Personally I think architectural drawings are beautiful and I'll continue to practice my skills even if I am required to use the computer.

brblog profile image

brblog 3 years ago from Chicago, Illinois Author

Victoria Anne,

Thanks for the comment and keep drawing . . .

Marilee 23 months ago

That's a smart answer to a dilifcuft question.

brblog profile image

brblog 23 months ago from Chicago, Illinois Author


Thanks for reading . . .

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