Portrait or landscape?

Once the paper size has been determined, the orientation of the sheets needs to be decided upon.

Landscape format describes a horizontal orientation, portrait format describes a vertical one. This terminology finds its origins in the fine arts; landscape paintings (as the name suggests) often depicted landscape scenes and the horizon, whereas the tradition of portrait painting was characterised by depicting a human figure or a face within a vertical frame.

The choice of ‘frame’ for architectural drawings will be influenced by similar factors. A building situated within the landscape, for example, will better relate to a horizontal frame, whereas plans for a skyscraper will sit better in a vertical frame.

Traditionally, all architectural drawings were displayed in landscape orientation. Drawings were produced on landscape boards and elevations were produced as horizontal strips that were linked to the building’s plans, allowing a clear connection between the drawings on the sheet.

Nowadays, architectural drawings need to project a ‘possible reality’; real spaces that have possible functions, lifestyles or experiences attached to them. In a sense, architectural drawings can be used as a form of advertising, projecting the architectural scheme as a lifestyle choice to the viewer. Very often these presentation drawings need to incorporate both the practical, measured architectural elements as well as exciting inspirational visuals.

ANSI paper sizes

In 1995, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) adopted ANSI/ASME Y14.1, which defined a regular series of paper sizes.

This series is somewhat similar to the ISO paper size standard in that cutting a sheet in half would produce two sheets of the next smaller size.

Name in x in mm x mm Similar ISO size

ANSI A 8 x 11 279 x 216 A4

ANSI B 11 x 17 432 x 279 A3

ANSI C 17 x 22 539 x 432 A2

ANSI D 22 x 34 864 x 539 A1

ANSI E 34 x 44 1118 x 864 A0

In addition to the ANSI system, there is a corresponding series of paper sizes used for architectural purposes. This series also shares the property that bisecting each size produces two of the size below.


in x in

mm x mm

Arch A

12 x 9

305 x 229

Arch B

18 x 12

457 x 305

Arch C

24 x 18


Arch D

36 x 24

914 x 610

Arch E

48 x 36


Arch E1

42 x 30



Project: Chambers Street Architect: David Mathias Date: 2004

This map is part of a ‘choreography of a street’ project and it relates to both a specific place and a particular journey. The map brings together abstract drawings and lines to form a complete composition. The drawings use lines in different ways, sometimes they are solid and continuous and at other times they are broken. We can interpret this image as a formalised drawing or as an abstract image.

Updated: 27th November 2014 — 8:13 am