Record drawings of the master bedroom, Homewood, Esher, Surrey, 1938. Artists and designers: Wintemute Wells Coates and Patrick Gwynne  (© RIBA Library Photographs Collection)

Record drawings of the master bedroom, Homewood, Esher, Surrey, 1938. Artists and designers: Wintemute Wells Coates and Patrick Gwynne (© RIBA Library Photographs Collection)

The items in the collections of the RIBA are not static, when carefully chosen they are able to provoke debate and can be used to analyse how architecture is created and experienced. The content in the RIBA’s six online workshops have been selected for students to initiate discussions about themes in architecture and for members of the public to see some of the more thought-provoking pieces from the architectural collections of the V&A+RIBA Architecture Partnership.

On RIBA Blogs we begin a short series of posts that will look at these different workshops. Today we will look at extracts from Design in Process – an online workshop that looks at how architects have communicated their ideas at different stages of the design process. For many architects the first – often rough – sketches are for working out ideas, a usually private affair. As ideas are developed and finessed, the nature of these drawings begin to change to convey information more pertinent to a finished product for use by builders or viewing by clients and the public. Different drawings for different audiences. The workshop divides the drawings into three stages: sketching, rendering and drafting.

 

Sketching
How an architect develops, refines and explains a design concept through drawing.

Sketch of a geodesic dome, 1972,drawn by Richard Buckminster Fuller (© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections)

Sketch of a geodesic dome, 1972,drawn by Richard Buckminster Fuller (© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections)

An example of a ‘back of an envelope’ design, this sketch was drawn by Buckminster Fuller five years after his dome for the United States pavilion at Expo ’67 opened in Montreal. It bares an uncanny resemblance to his pavilion and the sketch was used to help explain one his ideas quickly to another person. At an early stage of a design, key concepts are formulated without constraint.

 

Rendering
How an architect conveys designs to a variety of audiences to gain support and give clarity to the project proposal.

Sporting d'Ete, an axonometric projection for an entertainment facility, Monte Carlo, 1969,designed by Archigram (© Victoria and Albert Museum. Museum number CIRC.255-1973)

Sporting d'Ete, an axonometric projection for an entertainment facility, Monte Carlo, 1969,designed by Archigram (© Victoria and Albert Museum. Museum number CIRC.255-1973)

A dramatic and startling drawing from Archigram, this competition entry shows consideration of how a design, developed from initially simple sketches, would be viewed by others. Created to communicate  ideas in an original way that would make it stand out from crowd, this axonometric projection for an entertainment facility employs a range of visual effects which still look avant-garde in our digital age.

 

Drafting
Working technical drawings to help contractors and craftsmen to build the project.

Design for a house and shop building in Bedford Street, Plymouth, 1840s,designed by George Wightwick (© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections)

Design for a house and shop building in Bedford Street, Plymouth, 1840s,designed by George Wightwick (© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections)

This final stage is a test of an architect’s precise communication skills. Design drawings must convey exact information in an easily understandable way – there is no room for ambiguity. This scale drawing features a complex stairway in elevation, designed by George Wightwick, with all its complicated joinery, mouldings and ornament. These detailed drawings are the means by which an architect’s ideas are made real by builders and craftsmen.

 

This workshop raises certain questions:

  • Why do architects draw, and what are different types of drawing used for?
  • How can architects best express their ideas to themselves, clients and builders?
  • How does the architect respond to an image-conscious society?

 

About Wilson Yau
I work for the British Architectural Library at the RIBA as part of a team to share news, images and information online about the activities of the Library and the fascinating items we have in our architectural collections – it contains over four million items, so there's plenty to see! If you’re curious about what we do at the Library and with the collections, or want to discover the latest about our education programmes, public events and exhibitions at the RIBA, please visit www.architecture.com

View all post by Wilson Yau »

1 Comment
  1. Lee Calisti

    March 27, 2012

    Thanks for a great article. This is so helpful and critical to constantly explain to and educate the public as to what we do as architects or more importantly how we work to arrive at a solution. I’ve published several articles about sketching on my blog and I’ve been having a great conversation with people from around the world on a LinkedIn discussion about hand sketching. Overall the majority seem to treasure and value hand sketching as critical to an architect being able to think and work through their hands.

Leave your comment