By Thomas E. French
Architecture is one of the fine arts, taking its place along with sculpture, painting and music. As an art it is creative, rather than representative and involves perhaps a greater diversity of skill and knowledge than do any of the others. To be successful in it as a profession there is required in the first place a certain degree of native talent, and second, an extensive and thorough technical training. The true architect has an inherent sense of beauty of form and color - an instinctive feeling of proportion and balance and symmetry and harmony. This natural equipment when coupled with historical knowledge and technical ability enables him to design buildings that are not only well adapted to their purpose, structurally economical and safe, but are expressive, satisfying, and pleasing to the eye.
The architect is essentially an artist, keen in appreciation as well as facile with the pencil, and with a strongly developed constructive imagination. He must be able to think in three dimensions, to visualize the appearance of a proposed piece of work and see the picture of it in his mind's eye as clearly as if it were standing erected before him. This imaginative ability is not concerned alone with the exterior effect, but extends through the interior. The architect walks through a building whose proposed plan lies before him on the table just as surely as he will walk through the actual structure later when it has been built. The plan to him is not simply a diagram showing the location and arrangement of rooms. He feels himself in the house, sees the vistas, the heights of the ceilings, the proportions of rooms, and the prospects from the windows. He visualizes the color scheme which he would propose, the furniture and fittings, then by sketches and drawings conveys his thoughts to client and contractor.
Architectural drawing is the graphic language by which the architect develops and records his ideas, and communicates his instructions to the builder. Taken as a whole it is a language with many varied forms of expression and is capable of numerous divisions and subdivisions.
One kind of classification might be based on the methods of execution, separating freehand sketches, made without ruling or measurement, from scale drawings, which are measured and drawn accurately with instruments.
Another classification would be in the distinction between drawings of the structure made as it would appear to the eye, or perspective drawing and drawings made to give the actual forms and sizes, or projection drawing.
The student in Architecture should be trained in freehand drawing. The pencil is the best all-around medium but he should know the technique of pen-and-ink, charcoal and water-color. Drawing from the antique, still-life and life are usually included in the work of an architectural school, but the student should supplement these courses by constant practice. He should form the habit of carrying a sketch-book and rule and making notes of all sorts of architectural details. This not only gives practice in sketching, but accumulates a collection of information and teaches him the habit of careful observation. He learns to keep his eyes open.
1 Professor of Engineering Drawing, The Ohio State University, Columbus, O.
He must also be trained in accurate drawing with instruments, mechanical drawing, as distinguished from freehand drawing. This includes skill in the use of the drawing instruments, a knowledge of the draftsman's methods of laying out geometrical figures and problems and a thorough acquaintance with orthographic projection.
A great French architect, M. Viollet le Duc, once said, "The architect ought not only to possess a large acquaintance with descriptive geometry but also to be so familiar with perspective as to be able to draw a design or parts of a design in every aspect." This statement is as true today as when originally made more than sixty years ago. Descriptive geometry is the basis of orthographic projection and a subject of preeminent value for training the constructive imagination, in addition to its constant practical application on the drawing board. It is a fascinating study but might be found more or less difficult to read without the aid of an instructor.
Perspective drawing as used by the ordinary artist in representing an object before him, requires only the observation of a few simple phenomena and rules. As used by the architect it becomes a mathematical subject, "Conical Projection," since his problem is not that of sketching an existing building, but of making a drawing of the exterior or interior of a proposed structure as it will actually appear to the observer when it is built. He needs this knowledge and facility in drawing in perspective not alone to show his clients the appearance of the building but, more important, for his own use in studying masses and proportions. A roof or dome for example will present an entirely different effect when viewed from the ground than it does on the working drawing used in building it.
The architect thinks on paper, first in freehand sketches, made with a rapid sure stroke, in perspective or projection as the case requires, then with T-square and instruments. To his client he presents his ideas usually in the form of sketch plans and pictorial sketches, as these are more easily understood by the layman than are working drawings. They often have the suggestion of color added by water-color or crayon pencils.
To the builder and artisan however he conveys his ideas and instructions by working drawings, so called because they can be worked from accurately. These are drawings made to scale, on the principles of orthographic projection, and containing full dimensions and notes. They are accompanied by the specifications, a written description of the details of materials and workmanship required, the two together called the "Plans and Specifications" which form the basis of the contract between owner and contractor, the architect acting as the owner's representative and agent.