Organising sets of drawings

The organisation of measured drawings requires careful editing to ensure the clarity of their presentation. It is possible to have a set of drawings that incorporates several different scales; however, unless they are all absolutely necessary it is usually better to limit the number of differently scaled images. For example, a location plan may be produced at 1:1250 in order to locate the position of the project in the context of its surrounding environment. This introduces one level of scale so it may then be simpler to ensure that the rest of the drawings are produced at a building scale of 1:200 or 1:100 so the viewer only has to read two or three levels across the whole presentation.

When assembling a range of drawings it can be useful to sketch out the layout of each as a thumbnail image (a small, not-to-scale sketch) to highlight the relationships between each of the drawings and the information they contain. This can help plan the organisation and ensure that the scheme is communicated correctly and that the drawings complement one another.

Architecture is the learned game, correct and magnificent, of forms assembled in the light.

Le Corbusier

Collectively, the drawings need to tell the story of the scheme. As such, concept images should be seen first to explain the origins of the architect’s ideas. The location plan also needs to appear at an early age as it describes where the building sits on a site. The site and ground plans should be read next, followed by any other building plans. The plans need to be adjacent to one another so that they can be read together, providing an explanation of the relationships between elements that work vertically within the building and across the scheme’s floor plans. All plan drawings should be presented in the same orientation.

Elevation drawings need to refer back to the plan drawings. Positioning the elevation drawings directly beneath their associated plan is helpful because it allows the viewer to read the connections between, say, the door and window openings on both drawings. Elevation drawing titles should reference their orientation (such as the south – or north-facing elevation), so one can immediately understand which part of the building receives most sunlight.

Project: Kielder Observatory Location: Kielder, Scotland Architect: Block architecture Date: 2005


This is a layout presentation for a proposed observatory in Kielder, Scotland. The organisation of the layout drawing is thorough, and includes a written synopsis of the scheme, plan, section and elevation drawings, perspective views and photographs of a model.

This provides a range of different ways to understand the scheme. The layout’s backdrop image is the night sky, which complements the idea of the observatory, and the images read effectively as white drawings against the black background.

Any section drawing should clearly correspond to the position on the plan where its ‘cut’ is taken. This should be indicated on the plan with the title of the section drawing (such as section AA or section BB).

A good visual presentation should not be cluttered, it needs to have sufficient space to allow the information to be easily read and absorbed. The information may be rendered in varying sizes or using different graphic styles and techniques. The drawings must align purposefully as this will help the viewer read the drawings as a collective set.


Project: Queen Mary University (above and facing page) Location: London, UK Architect: Alsop Architects Date: 2005

This is a heavily annotated freehand drawing of a university building.

The drawing explores the relationship of sculptural forms in a structural frame and the visual notes alongside the drawing describe the ideas and possible directions for development of the project. The use of colour on the drawing accents the important elements within the building.

Project: Queen Mary University Location: London, UK Architects: Alsop Architects Date: 2005

In this section drawing there is a sense of an internal landscape within the building as a series of pods appearing to float in an open atrium space. The contrast between the formalised frame of the building and the sculptural shape of the pods makes the internal space a distinctive experience.

Project: Blackfriars Bridge Location: London, UK Architects: CJ Lim / Studio 8 Date: 2007

This collage mixes real images of Blackfriars Bridge with seaside – themed visuals, such as ice cream vans, beach huts and beach balls, combining an understood reality with an imagined fantasy.

The resulting imagined-reality image is powerful and provocative, suggesting a reinvention of the bridge.

The graphic presentation of architectural drawings should complement the design idea. There are many occasions where the presentation of a proposal relies solely on the graphic presentation (such as in examinations or for competition entries). As such the presentation must clearly communicate the architect’s idea, concept and intention. To do so requires a balance between the information contained within the drawings and any supplementary text or visuals supporting them. Achieving this balance ensures that the layout of the building design and architectural features can be read easily and accurately.

The style of a graphic presentation can vary by the use of different colours, drawing techniques, sizes or types of imagery and font sizes and styles. Some of these choices can be cleverly made so that the style of the graphic presentation echoes the style of the proposed architecture.

Measured drawings have a scale associated with them, so they need to be reproduced accurately. It should be remembered when composing an architectural presentation that as well as producing seductive graphics, the scheme has to be shown to work practically and functionally.

Updated: 27th November 2014 — 9:53 am