Old school - when it was done manually - anyone care to share some old work?


I am really impressed by the caliber of portfolios being displayed here.  Different software improvements helps bring out the best in the work and make it look very professional.

Manual preparation of architectural projects has been the norm in school within the last 20 years, meaning the early 90s.  AutoCAD was loaded onto the school's computers, but taken as an elective.  For my classmates and I, it was ink on vellum, ink on mylar, and such for presentations.

Here's my first project from first semester, after some Calder-ish models we attempted to describe movement, and where our lazy instructor on the cusp of retirement did NOTHING all semester.  This project was the manipulation of a cube.  (The subsequent project was a residence, in which I used wood siding and a standing seam metal roof, and threw away).

At any rate, after about 7 weeks into the semester, and also that far into an initial history and construction course, this item is hardly constructable.  The weight of the concrete over the curved glass block wall at level 1 would NOT work, so this is more of a sculpture than a building.  (Ink on vellum with "prismacolor" and pastel; shown in grayscale).

Come on, pre latest software folks, show some of your initial "manual" work.  This could be fun. Maybe not.

Mar 10, 13 11:29 pm

My post-CAD 'manual' work is a lot more interesting:






CAD freed-up the hands (and mind) to do whatever they wanted. I may be the first one that ever got that. 



Mar 11, 13 1:17 pm


Cool.  What does the ink, or dark pen, b&w represent? School project, no? Or schematic in an office? I was intending this to be a-school type work. 

Mar 11, 13 1:23 pm

It's photo-copy ink on paper collaged. The work was produced in the computer room at Cooper & Pratt Architects during one of my lunch breaks. The design is a Museum of the Un-Intended.

Mar 11, 13 1:32 pm

I think this is sort of interesting, because personalities show through via design work and drawing more so than they do in posts. 


Mar 11, 13 1:37 pm

my thesis

Mar 11, 13 2:00 pm

Update/Fit in Progress (Zoom Out) of The Dark Shadows Series
mixed media on strathmore board  (there's even some electro-static printer plots)


Isn't personality a multiple choice question?

Mar 11, 13 2:09 pm

my thesis

The roof looks kind of rusted.

Mar 11, 13 2:46 pm

lmao rusty

Mar 11, 13 3:09 pm

Here's a few random things I've been working on in recent memory. I still do most of my design thinking with pen and paper, going to computer and then back to paper, lather, rinse, repeat.


Mar 12, 13 5:16 pm


Nice! Really like the modern office building with the blue fenestration.  I also like the sketch of those round-headed windows with the reddish/pink tones. I forgot where it was you went to school.  Markers were great, if you picked the right color and kept them from bleeding.  Watercolor ... forget that.  Love it, but never learned it.

Mar 12, 13 5:21 pm

here are a few:

some pencil, some ink, some freehand, some drafted.

Mar 12, 13 5:30 pm

nice, gwharton! 

Mar 12, 13 5:31 pm

And then compare that to some of my old school work...

Mar 12, 13 5:31 pm

Steven - axon of cable stayed (hangar?) - tight!

Mar 12, 13 5:34 pm

observant: I went to Washington State.

Steven: nice stuff. the barge thing with the blue pencil background is esp. nice.

Mar 12, 13 5:42 pm

gwharton:  that makes sense ... good program.  It's also amazing that some schools teach graphics within studio, which is half-assed, and some teach presentation separately, as it should be done. 

Of your school work, I like the 4th item down ... 5th one, too.

Mar 12, 13 5:45 pm

very pretty sketches gwharton!

Mar 12, 13 5:56 pm

Unfortunately, most of my school work does not survive. I had it in storage in the back room of my house when the roof sprung a leak. Lost about 12 years of work. Very sad.

For instance, my fourth year tall building project was a rocket assembly and launch facility. I did the drawings by hand with tech pens directly on a single sheet of 4'x8' white foamcore, and then painted in all the backgrounds with translucent acrylics with an iridescent medium. I had to make a special moveable jig to hold the mayline for drafting that thing, so I could draw continuous seven-foot-long straight lines without interruption and not dent the foamcore. Also had to keep the paint thick so the foamcore wouldn't warp. Tedious process. End result was great, though. The painted sky sparkled and shone like an aurora borealis on a clear night. Prof called it a "fucking work of art."

Lost that to the leak, among many other things. Only one blurry photo survives. Does not do it justice by a long shot.

Document your work, kids. You don't want to lose that stuff.

Mar 12, 13 5:58 pm

All models (foam core and museum board) discarded.  Graphics survive in rolled up form and in reduced portfolio form.  In those 3 years, my work did not morph much (modernist, somewhat classical and safe proportions, complete via program, constructable) and presentation style was pretty much what everyone else was doing - tight ink graphics.  We could all pick out each others' projects.  I'd say mine were kind of uptight (?)  But then, maybe not.  Some people turned in boxes ... the whole way through.  That was scary.

Mar 12, 13 7:00 pm

I did a lot of models too. Still have a few of them, 20+ years later...

Mar 12, 13 7:26 pm

Went to a 5 year program. After 3rd year, worked for the Historic American Building Survey, Perry, Missouri, Summer 1978. Took a year off from Studio. Worked for H.A.B.S. again, Savannah, Georgia, Summer 1979. All H.A.B.S. drawings are ink on mylar, and searchable online at the Library of Congress web site. In 4th year studio (the 'working drawing' year), I found out that all my experience of drawing with ink on mylar ironically made me trice as fast drawing in pencil.

Fall 1979

Spring 1980


Mar 12, 13 8:09 pm


Mar 12, 13 8:13 pm

That style of graphics (flooring et. al.) must have "persisted" for over a decade, seeing it in the 90s.  Wow.

Mar 12, 13 8:48 pm

Nice work all.

Mar 12, 13 11:37 pm


Check! The difference in project types and presentation styles is what's interesting.  It speaks about the person, the school, the time, the personality ...

Mar 12, 13 11:41 pm

My parents were in middle school in 70s.

Mar 13, 13 3:52 pm

More please!

Mar 13, 13 8:23 pm

Foam core model, you can see a spiral stair through the entry.

Mar 13, 13 8:45 pm


That's beautiful, and that style is still HOT! 

Mar 13, 13 8:57 pm

Let's try that again.

Foam core model, you can see a spiral stair through the entry.

Mar 13, 13 9:10 pm

eh... forget it. Does anyone else use Chrome on archinect?


Mar 13, 13 9:53 pm

I just noticed that the detail building section I drew in 1979 is an isometric, while the worm's eye views of 1980 are axonometrics. You can't get isometric drawings out of the CAD software I use. Perspectives and axonometrics, yes, but not isometrics. Isometrics have a somewhat richer quality than axonometrics.

Mar 13, 13 10:03 pm

I love those worm's-eye axons, Quondam.  They really take me back...

By the way, how was that issue of PA you recently bought?

Mar 13, 13 10:24 pm

night rendering of a pavilion

Mar 14, 13 9:11 am

'corridor' in a small office building

Mar 14, 13 9:19 am

the role of the architect

Mar 14, 13 9:21 am

love the night rendering jman!

Mar 14, 13 9:57 am


Mar 14, 13 10:25 am

citizen, I commented on the PA late afternoon March 6th.

Mar 14, 13 11:26 am

Quondam, isometrics do look much better than axons. It's a shame most computer software can't project them correctly from a model. Here's an isometric trim detail I did for a house (in AutoCAD v10) many, many years ago. This was drawn 2D using AutoCAD's isomode snap settings.

Mar 14, 13 2:34 pm

nice, gwharton!

Mar 14, 13 2:50 pm


Mar 14, 13 4:17 pm

The other thing you may notice about that old CAD iso detail, even in this crappy old scan, is that it has real lineweights, just like we were taught to draw by hand (including profile lines). I literally used the computer just like a pen/pencil for that detail.

Nowdays, it seems like people are so hung up on the speed and symbolic nature of CAD drawings that they've forgotten they're still drawings and need to communicate graphically.

tl;dr....most CAD drawings look like crap. I can't decide if this is because most architects are too lazy to do it right, don't understand what they're doing, can't really draw in the first place, or don't understand how to use their own tools. Probably all four.

Mar 14, 13 4:27 pm

Yes Gregory, you're window trim isometric exhibits a rich quality, and, in an uncanny way, isometrics seem easier on the eyes (or mind's eye) than axonometrics do. I'm laughing though because isomode snap sounds like the perfect name for an architect's favorite cocktail.

Maybe there should be a thread called Isomode Snap Happy Hour--a place online for architects to unwind after a hard day's work.

Mar 14, 13 4:31 pm

Maybe that should be my new band name.


Mar 14, 13 6:36 pm

Incidentally, this is what that semi-recessed trim/reveal detail looked like when it got built.

Mar 14, 13 6:41 pm

Question:  if making the first post, one has the option to "add images."  Once the thread has started, it's either a link or an image, per the icon above.  How does one do this at this point, so that it shows just the image and not a link?  Thanks.

Mar 14, 13 7:18 pm

plan for the night rendering

Mar 14, 13 8:11 pm

and a large scale elevation

Mar 14, 13 8:13 pm

Manual drafting at a community college, in the evenings, along with arch. graphics, drawing, and a refresher calculus course in the year prior to a-school.  Never did any manual drafting, but enjoyed learning it.  Upon entering the workforce, we used AutoCAD. (Faint because they are scans of scans of the originals).

Mar 14, 13 9:07 pm

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