How to Draw Like an Architect: An Introduction in Six Videos

That we pass through life with­out real­ly per­ceiv­ing our sur­round­ings has long been a com­mon­place. How can we cure our­selves of this regret­table con­di­tion? Before we can learn to notice more of what’s around us, we must have a process to test how much we already notice. Many artists and all archi­tects already have one: draw­ing, the process of record­ing one’s per­cep­tions direct­ly onto the page. But while artists may take their lib­er­ties with phys­i­cal real­i­ty — it isn’t called “artis­tic license” by coin­ci­dence — archi­tects draw with more rep­re­sen­ta­tion­al­ly rig­or­ous expec­ta­tions in mind.

Though we can height­en our aware­ness of the built envi­ron­ment around us by prac­tic­ing archi­tec­tur­al draw­ing, we need not learn only from archi­tects. In the video at the top of the post, a Youtu­ber named Shadya Camp­bell who deals with cre­ativ­i­ty more gen­er­al­ly offers a primer on how to draw build­ings — or, per­haps less intim­i­dat­ing­ly, on “archi­tec­tur­al doo­dles for begin­ners.” As an exam­ple, she works through a draw­ing of Paris’ Notre-Dame cathe­dral (mere weeks, inci­den­tal­ly, before the fire of last April so dra­mat­i­cal­ly altered its appear­ance), using a sim­ple head-on view­point that nev­er­the­less pro­vides plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ty to prac­tice cap­tur­ing its shapes and fill­ing in its details.

Below that, archi­tect Llyan Aus­tria goes a step fur­ther by intro­duc­ing a few draw­ing prac­tices from the pro­fes­sion under the ban­ner of his “top six archi­tec­ture sketch­ing tech­niques.” Much of his guid­ance has to do with draw­ing some­thing as sim­ple — or as seem­ing­ly sim­ple — as a line: he rec­om­mends begin­ning with the most gen­er­al out­lines of a space or build­ing and fill­ing in the details lat­er, empha­siz­ing the start and end of each line, and let­ting the lines that meet over­lap. To get slight­ly more tech­ni­cal, he also intro­duces the meth­ods of per­spec­tive, used to make archi­tec­tur­al draw­ings look more real­is­ti­cal­ly three-dimen­sion­al.

When you intro­duce per­spec­tive to your draw­ings, you have three types to choose from, one-point, two-point, and three-point. A draw­ing in one-point per­spec­tive, the sim­plest of the three, has only a sin­gle “van­ish­ing point,” the point at which all of its par­al­lel lines seem to con­verge, and is most com­mon­ly used to ren­der inte­ri­ors (or to com­pose shots in Stan­ley Kubrick movies). In two-point per­spec­tive, two van­ish­ing points make pos­si­ble more angles of view­ing, look­ing not just straight down a hall, for exam­ple, but at the cor­ner of a build­ing’s exte­ri­or. With the third van­ish­ing point incor­po­rat­ed into three-point per­spec­tive, you can draw from a high angle, the “bird’s eye view,” or a low angle, the “wor­m’s eye view.”

You can learn how to draw from all three types of per­spec­tive in “How to Draw in Per­spec­tive for Begin­ners,” a video from Youtube chan­nel Art of Wei. Below that comes the more specif­i­cal­ly archi­tec­ture-mind­ed “How to Draw a House in Two Point Per­spec­tive” from Tom McPher­son­’s Cir­cle Line Art School. After a lit­tle prac­tice, you’ll soon be ready to enrich your archi­tec­tur­al draw­ing skills, how­ev­er rudi­men­ta­ry they may be, with advice both by and for archi­tec­ture pro­fes­sion­als. At his chan­nel 30X40 Design Work­shop, archi­tect Eric Rein­holdt has pro­duced videos on all aspects of the prac­tice, and below you’ll find his video of “essen­tial tips” on how to draw like an archi­tect.”

In this video and anoth­er on archi­tec­tur­al sketch­ing, Rein­holdt offers such prac­ti­cal advice as pulling your pen or pen­cil instead of push­ing it, mov­ing your arm rather than just piv­ot­ing at the wrist, and mak­ing “sin­gle, con­tin­u­ous, con­fi­dent strokes.” He also goes over the impor­tance of line weight — that is, the rel­a­tive dark­ness and thick­ness of lines — and how it can help view­ers to feel what in a draw­ing is sup­posed to be where. But we can’t ben­e­fit from any of this if we don’t also do as he says and make draw­ing a habit, switch­ing up our loca­tion and mate­ri­als as nec­es­sary to keep our minds engaged. That goes whether we have a pro­fes­sion­al or edu­ca­tion­al inter­est in archi­tec­ture or whether we just want to learn to see the ever-shift­ing mix­ture of man­made and nat­ur­al forms that sur­rounds us in all its rich­ness.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How to Write Like an Archi­tect: Short Primers on Writ­ing with the Neat, Clean Lines of a Design­er

How to Draw the Human Face & Head: A Free 3‑Hour Tuto­r­i­al

Car­toon­ist Lyn­da Bar­ry Teach­es You How to Draw

Mil­ton Glaser Draws Shake­speare & Explains Why Draw­ing is the Key to Under­stand­ing Life

The Ele­ments of Draw­ing: A Free Course from Oxford

Watch 50+ Doc­u­men­taries on Famous Archi­tects & Build­ings: Bauhaus, Le Cor­busier, Hadid & Many More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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