Architectural representation is a visual method that architects use heavily to put forward their ideas and designs. It can range from something as simple as a paper model to a detailed mega-drawing. The purpose of these mediums is to create a design that can be realised for the future. You’re basically selling the idea, whether it’s to your tutors and peers or to a client. It’s all about taking the ideas in your head and putting them on paper. In university you’re given a lot of freedom to experiment with various representation styles and methods to increase your skills.
You might be asking; how do I start? Architectural representations don’t just have to be mega-drawings like we said earlier. These eye-catching visuals have been a part of architecture for a very long time which means it might be difficult to stand out and create something intriguing and new. They also rely heavily on your project and the outcome itself can be influenced by drivers in your design or certain themes. It’s essentially a work of art if you think about it. Plans, sections and even models can also transform into meticulous works of art.
Mega-drawings is the term coined for incredibly detailed images that are usually the culmination of a design project. They offer a visual look into a building without the technical detail that is found in regular drawings such as plans and sections. Many have linked this style of drawings to the likes of certain Bartlett or AA units however it is an increasingly popular style that is somehow mysterious and unachievable for most. We often find ourselves and other students asking, ‘how did they do that?’.
But these aren’t exclusive to certain schools and studios and the most important thing students need to understand is that we will eventually develop our own styles and ways of working which will be individual to each of us as a designer. Renderings or large-scale hand drawings also offer the same details and this particular graphical style normally found in mega-drawings is just a common style.
But understanding what mega-drawings represent is crucial to being able to create your own. They don’t have to take a common form of coloured line drawings with texture and detail and can often be a series of renders, hand-drawn sketches or even a mixture of them all. We’ve got a pretty interesting Mega-Drawings board on our Pinterest that you can follow and pin. The purpose of such a drawing is to be able to gather the core values and design drivers in the project and be able to compose them in a visual way. In most cases, details such as colour, composition and even line-weights can be an important element of a drawing and there is definitely a lot of thought behind these features.
One thing we have discovered is that there is an overall lack of understanding behind these kinds of drawings and the methods or techniques used to achieve them. Bear in mind that they aren’t the only thing in your portfolio but simply a representation of the project. But really, these aren’t overly complicated to achieve, nor do they have some kind of secret formula. Creating final representations as a whole requires a lot of work, creativity, and patience. Usually we would start planning these a month or so before the final deadline and often work alongside other tasks for our portfolios. Sharing simple things such as software tips can actually lead to even more creativity and can help those who feel lost or uncertain on how to go about creating mega-drawings.
The same goes for other methods of representation. On one hand, they need solid groundwork put in beforehand as well as a high level of creativity. But they also require organisation and clarity within several ideas. Over the last few years, technology has opened up the way we represent our ideas and designs. Parametric design or virtual reality can create a different kind of response and have a spatial quality that might not be achieved through drawings. Adding in the current situation, it might be more difficult to create detailed models without access to specialist equipment and machinery or have enough space to create a huge drawing by hand. Now, we’re seeing architectural diagrams being represented through GIFs or short animations which can be an interesting way to go forward.
It’s no secret that techniques have evolved and branched off and will most likely continue to do so. However, one thing that remains is the way we approach these projects and how as a community, we can share our resources, tips, and advice to be able to give everyone the chance to try out a particular style or way of working. Mega-drawings have a wide appeal because of the level of detail, the immense thoughtfulness and perhaps the mysterious way of how it all comes together.
Personally, I have viewed these drawings as unachievable in the past and something that I might attempt during Masters, provided I have tutors who are able to guide me towards something like it. However, by taking on the task of updating my portfolio, I have realised that you don’t need to wait for action A to take place for you to be able to do action B. For me, the process of creating a relatively simple mega-drawing can be broken down into stages. If I were in university and had to work on this within 6 weeks, I would first identify each stage and estimate how long it would take and then get started on tackling each task one step at a time.
By the time you get closer to deadlines, you need solid groundwork as we said before, but you also need to figure out and stick to a method of representation. Think about your project and it’s core drivers and then think which kind of representation would best suit it. For example, if materiality is an integral part of the project, you might choose to create a model that explores this. If the atmosphere or spatial qualities are of interest, you could try to replicate this through VR or a large scale composite drawing.
2. 3D Model
For mega-drawings, you will ideally need a 3D representation of the project which can act as a framework for a perspective view on the canvas. This is so that it can correspond with the other drawings and give you a place to begin. You can choose to model to a level of detail which suits you. If you just require the framework to act as a base for your hand-drawing, that’s fine. But if you’re aiming to create a realistic rendering, you will need to spend a lot of time working out the correct materials and environment settings.
3. Composition and colour
Factors such as colour and composition can play a huge role in what the final representation ends up like. For example, if your representation is influenced by illustrators or cinematographers, you could look at their colour palettes to achieve a similar result. These details need to be well thought-out and have some kind of meaning to it that adds to the overall experience of your mega-drawing.
Adding details to any form of representation is crucial. This might also be the stage that takes the longest but once it’s done it will give you a great satisfaction. In a mega-drawing, you might want to digitally draw in some details to give it a life-like quality.
These stages add up to make something that represents your ideas and project in a meaningful way. They will undoubtedly take a lot of time and hard-work, but the results can be so amazing. Architectural representation doesn’t need to be difficult or even set aside for later on in the project. Test out the ideas throughout and build your skills in other areas such as animation or graphical illustration.
A couple of months ago we had the delightful opportunity to work with Hamza Shaikh of Two Worlds Design in which he discussed his own series of drawings. This process was incredibly useful and so we are happy to announce that we will be curating a series called ‘Drawings Explained’ where we invite a series of emerging architects and students to take a further look into their architectural style and representation.
If you’re interested in checking out how I created my own mega-drawing you can have a look on our Instagram Highlights or wait for the mega-tutorial where I take you through the exact process while explaining what worked and what didn’t. Leave a comment below if you will be attempting your own mega-drawing soon!