Seven beautiful architectural drawings

beautiful architectural drawings phaidon
Michele Marchetti, Villa Malaparte, 2013, ink on paper. Picture credit: © San Rocco magazine
beautiful architectural drawings phaidon
Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, Barbican Centre, 1970, pencil and ink on paper. Picture credit: John Maltby / RIBA Collections
Frank Lloyd Wright and John H Howe, Fallingwater, 1937, pencil and coloured pencil on tracing paper. Picture credit: The Frank Lloyd Wright Fdn, AZ / Art Resource, NY/Scala, Florence. Picture credit: © ARS, NY and DACS, London
beautiful architectural drawings phaidon
Mies van der Rohe, Plan for a brick country house, 1923, ink on illustration board. Picture credit: © DACS
beautiful architectural drawings phaidon
Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, Pompidou Centre, 1971, pencil on paper. Picture credit: © Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
beautiful architectural drawings phaidon
Ettore Sottsass, Progetto di architettura monumentale per la conservazione delle memorie nazional-popolari, 1976, colour gouache and India ink on paper. Picture credit: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London
beautiful architectural drawings phaidon
Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, 1992, computer software. Picture credit: Courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP

Before buildings are buildings they are drawings – a fact that has been true for millennia. And, while the technology used to create them has become more sophisticated, the most beautiful architectural drawings are always about more than the information they communicate; conveying the style, approach, aspirations and thinking of their creators, much like art.

As a new book, ‘Drawing Architecture’, published by Phaidon, exquisitely demonstrates with over 250 beautiful architectural drawings, from plans etched into stone dating from 2130 BC to mind-achingly technical computer models by contemporary heavy hitters Herzog & de Meuron.

Here, we select seven of our favourite drawings from the book.

Villa Malaparte by Michele Marchetti
This image of Villa Malaparte by Italian Modernist Adalberto Libera was drawn by Michele Marchetti, and forms one in a series that appeared on the front cover of architectural magazine ‘San Rocco’ between 2010 and 2017.

The abstracted, clean-lined representation of the distinctive house contrasts with the natural surroundings of the rocky outcrop on which it sits.

Barbican Centre, London, by Chamberlin, Powell & Bon
There’s something endearingly utopian about this representation of Chamberlin, Powell & Bon’s Barbican Centre, as if all of Britain’s post-war architectural ambitions and optimism were channelled into one image.

The cross-section shows the complexity of the centre’s design, and the variation of spaces included: a theatre, cinema, car park, conservatories with exotic plants and more, all interconnected under a single vision.

Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright and John H Howe
This drawing of one of the 20th century’s most iconic homes, Fallingwater, offers a different view of the house to the one that has become the classic image associated with it.

By drawing the house as if looking up at it, Frank Lloyd Wright and chief draughtsman John H Howe sought to contextualise the house within the landscape – an important consideration for Wright – by making the picture plane relatively shallow. The effect is one in which the balcony and waterfall seem more pronounced than if looking straight-on.

Plan for a brick country house by Mies van der Rohe
This drawing by Mies van der Rohe, made in 1923, appears simple in its orthogonal, geometric brevity. The truth, however, is that it distils perfectly the founding tenets of the Modernist movement in one drawing: an open-plan, functional layout, a more direct relationship between internal and external space, lack of embellishment, and an embracing of new technologies and materials – it’s all here.

Pompidou Centre, Paris, by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers
There’s something enchanting about seeing the genesis of one of the icons of late 20th-century architecture.

Not all the ideas presented in Renzo Piano and Richard Roger’s competition entry for the Pompidou Centre were fully realised, but the colour-coded external escalators and service infrastructure that give the building its distinctive visual identity are clearly laid out.

Progetto di architettura monumentale per la conservazione delle memorie nazional-poplari, by Ettore Sottsass
Not all architectural drawings are realised into physical buildings. That is especially true when they are as experimental and conceptual as Ettore Sottsass’, the venerated Italian designer and co-founder of the Memphis collective.

Using a mishmash of forms, bold colours, patterns and flamboyant details, Sottsass’s drawing – like much of his work – is imbued with a sense of fun. The name of the work is also playful: a jibe at the fascist regime’s obsession with classical architecture.

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, by Frank Gehry
To look at Frank Gehry’s sinuous, spaceship-like Guggenheim is to wonder how on earth he communicated such a radically unconventional design.

The answer is that Gehry’s office were early adopters of the CATIA system, which was developed by the French aerospace industry. The tool allowed them to make complex digital models, in which mathematical formulas expressed the architectural form.

The technology produced an intentionally bold and ambitiously-designed museum, launching Gehry’s career and subsequently serving as a blueprint for projects like it the world over.

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