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



Mar 14, 13 9:52 pm

Okay, I give up.  Can anyone help a codger figure out how to post an image file?  (The blank field next to "URL" seems a bit... vague, shall we say.  I put in a file path, and nothing.)

Mar 14, 13 9:54 pm

citizen, the URL of the blank image above is the URL of this very thread. What's the url of the image? Put that into the blank field starting with http://etc.

Mar 14, 13 10:02 pm

citizen, have you uploaded the images online somewhere else, like flickr or picasa? 

if so, go to the image where you store it online, right-click on the image, and choose, "copy image location." 

then when you go to post the image here, paste the copied image address into the popup field. 

Mar 14, 13 10:18 pm

Thanks for responding, Quondam.  It's a file in my folders, so it doesn't have a URL from the web.  (Obviously I'm just missing something dumb and basic.)

Mar 14, 13 10:19 pm

Most of the new "kids" Ive worked with have no sense of lineweight, because they directly jumped into CAD. Everything looks the same.

Mar 15, 13 12:24 am

Thanks, jmanganelli.  Nope, just some files in my folders... not uploaded anywhere.  I was wondering if that's the big secret.  Mystery solved!

Mar 15, 13 1:27 am

sameold, you sound old!  like one of the guys who refuses le corbusier because he didn't use the right ink for UN project... ;-)

Sejima and many mod japanese architects make beautiful drawings with no heavy lightweights.  It ain't about technical standards, its communication.  both in dwg and in built work, no?


which is maybe better point, lets see the  buildings yall did before cad and after.  for myself i feel the dwgs may be less craftmanlike but the buildings are made better than before.  much more professional with BIM too...

Mar 15, 13 4:26 am

Will's point is a good one, but doesn't necessarily address Same Old Doc's: my strong hunch is that the Japanese drawings sans heavy line weights constitute a choice, made by architects fully versed in the craft.  SOD argues that the "kids today" aren't even aware of that choice, because they haven't learned it.

Big difference.

Mar 15, 13 10:39 am

then teach them.  autocad can vary lineweights.  we commonly use color on the screen to represent line weights.  school isn't going to teach them, and they aren't going to learn by magic.  if you (and by 'you,' i mean *you*; not the office revit bitch) can't get revit to do it, quit using revit.

*you* is the reader, not specifically citizen or sameolddoctor or whoever

Mar 15, 13 11:05 am

Correct.  My post isn't indicting the "kids," it's aimed at the expensive programs the kids (and their parents) pay so much to attend.

Mar 15, 13 11:17 am

i think it's historically accurate that many skills, including something like autocad lineweights, were taught by the office and not universities or trade schools.  i know most of us have had drafting classes where we learned how to vary lineweight or use different pencils (because we're old), but things have changed.  different offices use different colors and different lineweights and have a different way of doing things, so it may not even be practical for a university to teach that except occasionally in a review someone might say 'the communication in your section is unclear because of your lineweights.'

sorry for derailing the thread into a conversation about education.  all i'm saying is that i suspect this notion of 'kids' being prepared from day one is new and the people responsible for the 'kids' might need to understand that a bit better.

Mar 15, 13 11:26 am

The rhythmic movements and processes of hand drafting on large sheets was often meditative for me.  If i could draw that way now and the BIM model get automatically created, I would do so.

Mar 15, 13 12:06 pm


Some schools have electives that tend toward construction drawings.  Others don't.  For the latter, they think it reduces them to vocational school level.  I certainly hope my doctors learned how to stitch someone up while in medical school or in the continuation of their formal education, as a resident or intern.  There are so damn many credit hours in ANY architectural curriculum, that it wouldn't be detrimental to allocate 3 or 4 credit hours to the preparation of construction drawings.

Mar 15, 13 12:08 pm

I used to hold a quarterly contest for the junior architects in my office (first prize: bragging rights and a Starbucks card). I'd give them a copy of an old, hand-drawn detail drawing done by one of the old masters in the office, with all its lineweight and poche character, and the contest was to see who could most exactly reproduce it using only a CAD program (no photoshop or raster manipulation...that's had to be a CAD vector file with print/layer configuration to make it print out directly from CAD to look as much like the hand-drawn detail as possible). Some of them were so good it was hard to tell the difference. It's amazing what you can do with CAD to get decent drawing quality if you just think about it a little and have the proper motivation. The problem is, few think about it, and nobody seems motivated to do it well anymore.

Mar 15, 13 12:43 pm

Let's try this again...

Mar 15, 13 12:50 pm

(Thanks to's crackerjack IT team for tutoring this Luddite.)

Mar 15, 13 12:51 pm


Nice!  Freeway/mall?  Is that the Sherman Oaks Galleria or THE 405 at Centinela?

Mar 15, 13 12:53 pm

405.  And thanks.

Mar 15, 13 12:54 pm

v nice citizen. Reminds me a little of Leon Krier (in a good way)

Mar 15, 13 1:21 pm

Guys these are incredible and inspiring.  Thanks for sharing!  :D

Mar 15, 13 1:35 pm

beautiful, citizen!

Mar 15, 13 1:35 pm

Yes, Will, some of Ando's drawings are also drawn with just one hair-line width pen, and of course, they are beautiful. But I think that was an "educated" choice, not because his draftsperson did not understand lineweights!

There is a certain beauty to lineweights. To "see" a heavy cut line when a wall is cut, and then to actually see it built in a space somehow makes it worth it. It also makes one understand the whole notion of section in a much clearer way than any 3d model can.

Sure, with Revit, one does not need to learn .ctb pen assignments in Autocad, but then again, I dont see Revit being used for everything - especially for smaller projects, or non-repetitive stuff.

Mar 15, 13 1:38 pm

Thanks for the kind words, All.

Mar 15, 13 1:40 pm

Citizen - I love it.

This makes me want to go out and sketch.  Inspiring.

Mar 15, 13 2:07 pm
Oh man great stuff takes me back!!

I remember th thread of autocad dj / mc names

Mc snapmode!
Mar 18, 13 7:39 pm

These are (mostly) from my summer with the Tulane Historic Preservation crew - no computers allowed.

The drawing instructor was Lloyd Sensat, my professor Gene Cizek's partner. He was a great freehand drawing instructor.

Mar 18, 13 8:12 pm

That's some nice work, Nicholas.

Mar 18, 13 10:43 pm

thanks citizen, it means alot coming from someone who (appears to have) actually learned the profession through hand drawing and sketching. 

Mar 19, 13 2:16 pm

Stephen Lauf, Battery Park City (pencil on yellow trace paper, 1986.10.06), schematic site plan.

When I was CAD system manager at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Fine Art (1985-87), I became acquainted with many of the landscape architect students, as they were the only students seriously learning CAD at the time, while most of the architecture students, or their teachers at least, saw very little use for CAD. The landscape students didn't use CAD so much for design, however, rather they utilized CAD for mapping-integrated-with-data [kind of early parametric design and BIM]. Nonetheless, I remember when many of the landscape architect students were also busy working on a landscape design project for Battery Park City in New York. It was a challenging design project, and many of the students were having difficulties coming up with satisfactory solutions. I decided to quickly draw up my own design, which I did by hand in about two minutes, and hung the result on one of the computer room walls where I was sure the landscape architect students would see it. One of the students subsequently left a note on the drawing/design: "I fear computers have made us think we are more creative than we actually are!"

In retrospect, it was indeed CAD that made me more creative, or at least freer with form. It was also in the mid-1980s that I began to become aware of Frank Stella's work current at that time, particularly his 'Circuit' and 'Cones and Pillars' series.

As far as my Battery Park City design is concerned, it was the centerpiece sculpture that the landscape students liked most, i.e., a rectangular platform the size of the largest public elevator within the World Trade Center towers, and on this platform were as many life-size nude sculptures as it would take to fill it, like a crowded elevator, and trailing from this platform was a line of single nude sculptures meandering through the site and in into the Hudson River beyond.
(written 2002.01.09)

While there are things to be learned from a (nostagic) look back at architectural drawings before CAD, it is probably even more important to (now) learn from how CAD influenced/changed (all kinds of) architectural drawing, or, I should say, all kinds of architectural data sets.

Mar 21, 13 1:41 pm


"While there are things to be learned from a (nostagic) look back at architectural drawings before CAD, it is probably even more important to (now) learn from how CAD influenced/changed (all kinds of) architectural drawing, or, I should say, all kinds of architectural data sets."

Interesting post.

In your analysis, how has CAD influenced/changed architectural drawing and data sets?

Mar 21, 13 3:40 pm

Starting on a personal level, CAD more than doubled my graphic dexterity. I always liked drawing architecturally, and with CAD came to opportunity to generate drawings that would otherwise be very difficult to execute by hand. Granted, I've been fully versed with sophisticated, fully integrated 2D/3D CAD drawing since 1983, and it was indeed the capability of drawing in 3D that manifested the larger portion of the new graphic dexterity.

The notion of what a drawing itself is also changed in that a drawing is no longer a finite entity, but rather a malleable data set with multiple output options--pen plot, electrostatic plot, and today 3D printer! It is the malleablity of the CAD drawing that makes a singular data set really a potentially infinite number of data sets.

Here's just one example:
Last week or so, Charlie Rose interviewed with the Metropolitan Museum of Art curator of the lastest Matisse exhibition specifically about artistic process. Some of the Matisse paintings are accompanied by sets of photographs that Matisse commissioned to record all the stages/changes these individual paintings went through, and you can now readily see how the 'design' of the paintings evolved. Remember, however, that none of this process is visible when looking at the actual finished painting. What CAD has done is fully place architectural drawing into the process mode. If you back-up your drawing files regularly, you then have a fully operational record of the entire design process (with each back-up file being its own drawing). Again, this is just one example where one CAD 'drawing' is really potentially many, many CAD drawings.

Anyone else care to offer an example,

Mar 21, 13 5:42 pm

what you describe, quondam, sounds a little like object-oriented architecture paradigm



'nother sketch

Mar 21, 13 11:43 pm

interesting point quondam.


not to be overly cynical but while there are some nice drawings above, none of us are matisse.

are we talking about art or craft?  as the former we maybe would get closer to art with computers, and for the latter, shouldn't the craft be the building, not the drawings? 

it is vaguely ironic that we are talking about the loss of craft in the digital age, but then get caught up in the least important part of our craft, or rather the bit that sets us up as aesthetes, distant from the act of building.  these images are mostly for us, not for communication even...

i don't know what ando or sejima think about drawing.  i do think there is some craft to their approach, but then they are telling a clear story even in the way they present things that none of the stuff above is doing.  is that a failure of craft or intention? 

if the medium is not the message then maybe it doesn't matter so much that cad has caused students to suck at making well-crafted pencil drawings...? perhaps we are better served figuring out how to say something meaningful rather than worry that the ink is the wrong type, or that lineweight is not as well considered as it used to be.



Mar 22, 13 5:56 am

Will, I take your 'cynical' comment to mean that it is not worth it for anyone to concern themselves with (saving CAD drawing files that record) the design process of most architects. Equating the work of architects with the work of Matisse was not the point; the fact that CAD drawing is capable of readily recording the design process was the point.

I'm not talking about architectural drawing as art or craft. I'm talking about architectural drawing as a means of figuring out and communicating design--my hand drawings above from 1979 and 1980 do that...

...and now-a-days when I 'construct' a computer model of a 'famous' architectural design that was never built I'm also using architectural drawing to figure out and communicate that design.


Two days ago I started an attempt to develop this drawing...

...into a city plan, and, like most beginnings, its not as easy I thought it would be. There are lots of things I have to do first, especially establish the actual scale of the 'plan'. To do that I'm now in the process of collecting various urban plans...

...and various site plans... comparatively figure out an appropriate scale. It would be impossible for me to do all this (and keep an operable record of the process) over the next two day if I was doing it by hand drawing.


Mar 22, 13 9:39 am


"...and, like most beginnings, its not as easy..... There are lots of things I have to do first..."

I think the image flow you shows expresses the point well.  There is a power and a perspective that comes from being able to jump between massive files (data sets), to copy/paste/edit iterate very fast, and to compare and contrast an enormous amount of data quickly.  I think the inclination is always there, but it is a question of what is feasible.  To the extent that thought processes are entrained to our tools and methods, using computers and software to aid design brings down the time and effort required to get into and manipulate big data sets, allowing us to interact with -- and think through the representations  -- in a way not possible when limited to representational systems constructable by hand.

Mar 22, 13 12:29 pm

i disagree with a lot of what you said, will. first, most of us are probably better at the KIND of drawing that serves our goals than matisse would be. not sure matisse's drawings would do what i need at all.  ; ) 

also, while buildings are *usually* the final product of our projects, it's not always so. a lot of projects don't get built, but they have a legacy in drawings and/or models. these communicate information to potential future clients or just to anyone who might happen to see them. they can plant seeds.


if those drawings or models are seductive - no matter the media - they are their own sort of product. sometimes it's these that may be more speculative, more adventurous, more likely to get us that NEXT project than the built project in a rural county that few will ever get to visit.

in the case of urban design proposals, for instance, idea-rich drawings can be starting points for larger community discussions - certainly as valid a product as a single built house. 

this is an argument for hand vs cad at all, but certainly craft is an important aspect of *some* of our drawn production. 

Mar 22, 13 4:10 pm

As far as this thread is concerned, my interest is not in hand drawing vs. CAD, rather the nature of architectural drawing before CAD and after CAD. Steven, in another thread you mention that you now-a-days draw mostly by hand. Given that this is a post-CAD situation, I'm interested in learning why you think that that's now the case for you, and also what type of drawing are you actually doing (sketch? drafting? CDs?).

Regarding Steven's point on 'design legacy in drawings,' I'd add that all architectural drawings, from the far past to the present, have an innate 'virtual' quality in that they're all about a building except for being the building itself. And one of the things that CAD has done is make this virtual quality more fully operational, thus significant degrees closer to an actual building. For example, in CAD everything is drawn at 'actual scale,' thus any plan or model is by default in true scale relation to any other plan or model.

It didn't take all that long to fix the scale of New Not There City. I found an older database with enough scale items to assure me that the new plan was not way out of whack.

I started adding some specific places to the plan, like where I live, the quondam Ury Farm...

...and Pruitt-Igoe Housing!

Don't forget, Rome wasn't built in a day either, although the blue Xed squares in the top two drawings is already the plan of the Great Pryamids. 

Mar 22, 13 7:53 pm

link fix -- New Not There City

Mar 22, 13 8:06 pm

apologies quondam i was not intending to point the last comments to you, just the thread in general.  i agree with much of your post.

i'm not sure i understand the point then steven.  not your point, just the point of the thread.  many of the folks lamenting how we draw today are the same folk who post quite regularly that architecture is about building, not art.  and yet here we all are talking about how the art is gone from our drawings. The very thing that sets us furthest from the act of construction (if we don't count the new-fangled designs themselves).  I find it ironic that there are is so much "documentation/sketches as art" as well.

personally, i think a great design drawn poorly is worth more than a shit design drawn brilliantly. 

which is more my real point.  what difference does it make how we draw if it isn't content driven?

Mar 22, 13 8:59 pm

Will, no need to apologize, I didn't think of your comment as directed specifically at me. In a similar vein to yours, I see a lot of the drawings featured here as having no real relationship to before or after CAD. gwharton's examples did have a relationship to CAD, and I learned something from that. Early on you mentioned the relevance of BIM, and I'm curious what more on the subject you can offer here. I have no experience with BIM, and haven't even read up on what it all means, but I think I know its general principles. Anyway, it sounds like you actually have some hands-on (professional? academic?) experience.

Mar 22, 13 9:58 pm

The thread has meandered, true, but that's okay.  People are sharing and there is an appreciation for both old and new methods, tools, and media.

It's not possible to speak of the rightness or wrongness of any form of representation in an absolute sense.  But it is possible to discuss whether a particular form of representation is useful in a given time, place, and for a given project.  It is also possible to both acknowledge an appreciation for an older way of representing designs while also contemplating the power of current representational methods and tools.

cool thread.  neat to see everyone's work.

Mar 22, 13 11:56 pm

Interesting post. Nice handwork. I am learning about it but not hand drawing i want to learn with the help of computer programs. I really like this hand  work.

Mar 23, 13 5:16 am

The thread was started because we are seeing a lot of good portfolio work as applicants prepare to hear from their schools, and it is really kicked up a notch by having new media at their disposal ... which many of us did NOT have.

There is no right or wrong.  The manual stuff of yesteryear could be from school, work, or travel sketches ... or it could be hard lined or freehand. 

This isn't to evaluate designs.  It's to look at presentation methods.  (As long as we don't see any stuff of the Michael Graves yellow flimsy with prismacolor era, which was short-lived). 

And that philosophical discussion belongs elsewhere.  If architecture was about building, it would be a CM program in disguise.  I think that many of the graphics show an interest in both the artistic and constructability issues of building design.  In fact, most schools, in any given semester, usually tilt as follows: 9 cr. design + history/theory course, and 6 cr. technology + structures, still tilting toward the importance of the design lab.

And as much as I periodically work by hand, there is no way I would have kept on at architecture without AutoCAD.  Nothing worse than a backache from intricate drafting at the top end of the drafting table.  Fortunately, I've never had to manually draft or do manual presentation graphics, except adding color.

Mar 24, 13 1:07 am

1982, after school but before CAD at work


Mar 24, 13 1:08 pm

current data set:

Mar 24, 13 1:29 pm

Much of the good work that architects do never results in a building, or built form.  Some of my teaching is to planning students and planners, whom I constantly remind that the work of architects and urban designers is important because it can envision form, and change, and alternatives.  Sometimes this results in built work, but often not.  If we only focus on things that get built (or are likely to get built), our relevance declines even more than it has already.

Mar 24, 13 1:41 pm

Plus, the very act of representation (e.g., drawing) for its own sake has always been a part of the architectural enterprise.  And, it's fun!

Mar 24, 13 1:43 pm

quote from citizen:"Plus, the very act of representation (e.g., drawing) for its own sake has always been a part of the architectural enterprise.  And, it's fun!"


Mar 24, 13 2:34 pm

I would guess that most kids who leaned toward architecture drew a lot in their spare time ... or spent more time drawing and less time on their homework.  I would guess that's even the case for those who have more recent software at their disposal prior to age 10!  Wanting to draw seems very innate.

Mar 24, 13 2:51 pm

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