Saturday, October 29, 2016

Architectural Drawing: Exercise 3 and 4 - The Staircase

Welcome to Architectural Drawing. In this series, I share what I have learned in regards to drawing in my Intro To Architecture class.

During the second week of class, the architecture students were assigned two exercises. The first one, Exercise Three, focused on the ability to use different pencil types and line strokes effectively, while copying what you saw on paper. The picture above features two tree representations. The left tree is the example. The right tree is my hand-drawn copy. Since Exercise Three was very brief, I'll be skipping it and covering Exercise Four for this post.

Exercise Four required us to find a specific staircase on campus, take measurements of any pertinent information, and draw both a plan and section view...all freehand.

The Plan and Section

Both plan and section drawings are essential for communicating information about the structure. Specifically: measurements.

Plan drawings are the top-down aerial view of the structure, except you do not see the roof of the building. The roof is sliced away so that you can see the insides of the structure from above. It allows for a perspective never truly seen by any user of the space. 

Section drawings, on the other hand, are side views of the structure, but there's a caveat similar to the plan drawings. They are not just side views. Section drawings show what the structure would look like when a section of it has been sliced away. This allows for a more in-depth look at the space. Think of section drawings as first looking at the front of a loaf of bread, and then slicing that loaf of bread to reveal what lies behind the facade.

Both plan and section drawings are two-dimensional representations of reality, and when they are done correctly and clearly, they are extremely helpful for those building the structure.

The Staircase

After trying to measure a much more complicated staircase, I decided to choose the one above. This one was very simple. Once I was at the site, I pulled out my tape measure and began to record information. I had to measure almost everything that you see in the picture. After I finished the measurements, which I completed in two separate days, I was able to start the drawings on the grid paper. The result of all my measurements is below.

Section Drawing
In both plan and section drawings, the point at which the structure is sliced has to be shaded. The official term for this is called poche. In the section drawing above, you can see that I shaded both the staircase and the brick underneath. This signifies where the hypothetical "knife" sliced the structure. That's why you don't see the bush or the basement staircase railings as you see in the real picture. 

Furthermore, the type of materials used in the structure must be shown. To do this, one can draw basic symbols. For example, to show that the walls were made out of brick, I drew groups of brick symbols. On the other hand, concrete is shown by groups of dots.

Plan Drawing
When one is using a section view, it is very helpful to have a plan view along with it. Plan views compliment the section view, providing details the section view cannot see. In my plan, I drew what's called a "section cut line" to signify where the structure has been cut in the section view. This can be seen as the long line with two triangles on either end.

Notice what I did wrong in the plan view. You can see it marked on the top left of the plan. The thick brick wall you see is the wall of the building behind the staircase. Since the structure will be sliced through when looking down at it, this brick wall needed to be shaded.

Overall, the end result of these two drawings, put together, provided an accurate depiction of the size, texture, and proportions of the staircase.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Today's ArchiPic #117

Today's ArchiPic is the Chapel of St. Ignatius, designed by Steven Holl Architects. Steven Holl is a multi-award winning architect based out of New York, who has built structures across the globe. His design philosophy is based off of phenomenology, that the style and shape of the building should be determined by the site of construction rather than the building determining the style of the site.
Finished in 1997 and located at Seattle University in Washington state, the chapel is the hallmark structure for the university. The form started out as a simple box, but Holl added seven “bottles” of light onto the top, each in a different direction. Lighting is an important aspect of the chapel, with each separate "bottle" relating to the different areas and types of worship in the Jesuit congregation. The chapel won the National AIA Religious Architecture Award in 1997.

Since one of my assignments had me write a short biography on Holl, you'll be seeing this building, along with some of his other works, in an upcoming post.

Coincidentally, Today's ArchiPic #88 featured a building designed by Steven Holl as well.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Architectural Drawing: Exercise 2 - Mindbenders

As I said in my first post over architectural lettering, lettering is not the only thing that makes up the "backbone" of architecture. Drawing is the second part of this backbone.

An isometric drawing, which includes top, front, and side views.

Drawing in architecture requires you to translate two-dimensional information into three-dimensions, and three-dimensional information into two-dimensions. During our first week, we completed two assignments: one on architectural lettering and the second one on translating 2D info into 3D on paper, which is the subject of this post. This requires a good understanding of how perspective works. Some people are naturally gifted at manipulating 3D objects in their minds. For others, it takes practice to fine tune this ability.

I truly believe my time playing Minecraft helped me with understanding and visualizing a space in three-dimensions, but it did not prepare me for translating 2D info into a 3D drawing.

For this assignment, we were given three 2D drawings (top, front, and side views of a simple cube) and had to translate this information into an isometric paraline drawing, like the middle cube seen below.

The key to succeeding on this assignment is to first draw a basic cube and temporarily ignore the 2D info on the left. After drawing the cube, you can start "cutting" the pieces out by adding the relevant lines. But how does one draw a perfect cube like this? It is actually very simple. All you need is a protractor for the angles and a ruler for the straight lines. For my cubes, I chose a 30 degree perspective. And for the length of the lines, I chose 1 inch. Each line has to be the same length to create a perfect cube.

After lightly drawing the frame of the cube, you can begin to translate the 2D information. However, there are lines you have to add yourself that are not shown in the 2D views.

For instance, take a look at cube 2 below.

Cube 2

Even though I was given the information for the right diagonal, highlighted in blue, I was not given information for the left diagonal, highlighted in red. This is where spatial awareness comes in to play. Based on the 2D side view, you must understand that this cube had its top left side sliced off, creating a cube with a slope on one side. To complete the drawing correctly, the red diagonal must be drawn.

Before we move on, take note of the degree marking on cube 2. If this was 45 degrees, the cube would look like the axonometric drawing in the picture shown earlier. On the other hand, if the degree was 15, the perspective would be lower to the ground, and we would see more of the front and less of the top, as seen in the perspective drawing.

Cube 3

Cube 3 was very tricky. Dashed lines indicate lines you could only see if you had x-ray vision. The dashed lines on this front view indicate that there is a wall blocking these lines. The top and side views are fairly simple, yet the front view provides the most important information.

We know this cube has been cut in half and made into a triangular prism. The top and side views tell us that a small square has been cut out. The front view, with the dashed lines, tells us that there is a wall on the front blocking the view of the small square.

With that information, we can construct this:

Cubes 4-11

Here are the rest of the cubes. Many of them were quite difficult in the sense that it took some critical thinking to figure them out, but the assignment did not take long. (Cube 1 was an example provided by the assignment.)

And here's a wider shot of the entire three page assignment.

Talk about mind-benders. Did I know what each cube was going to look like? No. But once I started drawing the relevant lines, it began to make sense.

What I quickly learned was this: 
- Draw the basic cube first
- Then cut the pieces out. 

This cube assignment would turn out to be very important. In fact, it has helped me complete multiple assignments through an understanding of how paraline drawing works, which we'll take a look at in upcoming posts.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Architectural Drawing: Exercise 1 - A Tale of Skydiving

Welcome to a new series called Architectural Drawing, where I share with you what I have learned in regards to drawing in architecture. As of right now, each installment will feature an analysis and brief overview of my weekly homework assignments in my Intro to Architecture class, as well as my thoughts on it.

Before I was handed my class syllabus for Intro to Architecture, I had no clue what to expect. Very
briefly I imagined it being mostly classroom and lecture based. That initial thought turned out to be wrong--extremely wrong. In this class, we jumped right in to the practice of architecture. Actually no...let me give you a better analogy. 

Imagine you are 15,000 feet above the ground inside an airplane. Now imagine somebody has strapped a parachute onto your back. At this point, it's important to clarify that you've never gone skydiving. Ever. Sure, maybe you thought to yourself, "Hey, at some point it would be kind of cool to go skydiving." But you never thought you would be doing it very soon. 

In fact, you were doing it the next day. 

As the instructor goes through the very basics of what to do once you were out of the airplane, your heart pounds so hard you think you can hear it. You're not sure what to expect. As he continues on, multiple questions pop in to your mind. Yet there's no time to ask him. Before you can even say a word, he opens the airlock, and in comes the rush of air. The wind is so loud you can barely hear. The instructor grabs your shoulders. 

"You ready?!" yells the instructor. 
Your mouth opens slightly to try and get a word in as a look of concern comes over your face.
"Good! Have fun!!"

And out you go. You better have the skills to figure the rest out on your own.
While it's not a perfect analogy, I think it encapsulates the feeling everyone had the first few weeks. Most of us are now starting to get the hang of it. Expectations have been set. 


The first six weeks are focused solely on architectural drawing. Drawing is foundational to architecture. If you can't express your thoughts through drawings, you future as an architect is almost non-existent. This does not mean you have to be a great artist when you first start out. Drawing, especially drawings of buildings, takes dedication and practice to perfect. 

Before we began drawing buildings, our first assignment was centered around introducing us to how architects write. Now writing in architecture is just as important as drawing. Communication, after all, is at the forefront of an architect's arsenal. It's what makes architecture possible. Bad communication can have some awful and even deadly consequences when it comes to spaces people live, eat, and work in. Therefore, the first thing an architect must know how to do is write--and write well. I'm not just talking about grammar. I'm talking about legibility and the quality of the penmanship. 

In diagrams, explanations, and other textual elements of architectural drawings, the penmanship has to be extremely legible so that anyone can easily read it. More than that, the spacing between letters, words, and lines has to be consistent as well. Once again, any chance of miscommunication should be avoided as much as possible. Through architectural lettering, miscommunication due to poor writing will never be an issue.   

For our first assignment, we had to write a full page of this type of lettering and copy the font type that was given to us. The process of architectural lettering involves a ruler, a sharp pencil, and a straightedge. (Most professionals don't use straightedges. Instead, they do it freehand.) The ruler is used to create guidelines. We had to make them 3/4 the height of a grid square so that each line would be spaced appropriately. The straightedge, or triangle, helps make the vertical lines perfectly vertical and the horizontal lines perfectly horizontal. The tool also helps train your hand, so that eventually, you can ditch the triangle and write freehand! 

My first time writing a full page took me many hours to accomplish. Here is most of my first assignment.
As you can see, the consistency in the curves is not perfect. In fact, it still needed a lot of work. But most of the spacing between letters and words is consistent. As people always say, "Practice makes perfect." Each assignment we have done in the past month has included architectural lettering. Whether we are drawing a structure or creating a floor plan, architectural lettering is used to describe what the drawing is about. So, we were able to get more and more practice with each assignment. And sure enough, the quality of the lettering has been improving. Take a look at my lettering just five weeks after that first assignment.

A paragraph of architectural lettering about a specific building's rhythm, or repetition.
The consistency of the curves has improved significantly. I'm also beginning to shorten the spaces between letters while providing ample room between words. Furthermore, the width to height ratio of each letter should be about 1:1. In other words, the letter C should be just as high as it is wide. I am beginning to improve on that as well, compared to assignment one.

And finally, the most recent example.

A near full page of architectural lettering, describing the hierarchy and datum of a building.
 Don't get distracted with the drawing of the building. We'll get to that eventually!

Architectural lettering, like drawing, is the backbone of architecture. Both involve communication and the expression of ideas into physical reality so that others can understand it. As I get more and more practice with lettering, I want to eventually lose the straightedge and write freehand. I tried doing that for my last assignment, but it didn't last long!

As we go through each assignment in the coming weeks, you will notice that these assignments are cumulative. For instance, the project last week involved all the things we had learned in our previous five assignments put into one assignment. Because of this, we are constantly improving through doing similar work in new exercises.

As of right now, our class has reached the sixth week of architectural drawing, and I am starting to get the feel for it. I never would have thought we would be doing so much drawing so early. This is not at all like art class. They do not teach you to draw here. We were shown the fundamental techniques, but not much else. Even though I had multiple questions throughout my assignments, I was usually able to answer them thanks to my classmates, teachers, and the internet.

But when it really mattered, at least I knew how to open my parachute.

Now time for an easy glide back to Earth.

Want to know how I got into architecture? Check out my earlier post.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Where I've Been And Where I'm Going

I am now a freshman in college, and just as I had planned for a long time now, I'm studying Architecture. I have so much to discuss! But first, allow me to tell you the story of how I got here.


I was sitting there. Just thinking. What elective should I choose? As I went through the different options in my head, I tried to visualize what each one would be like, and which one I would like the most. At the time, I loved computers. From a young age, I had used my dad's video camera to record home videos or skits and then edited them using Corel Video Studio, an amateur editing software. I was good at it too--mainly because of how much time I put into it. I also enjoyed playing video games. Lots of them

Racing games and first person shooters became fairly monotonous once they reached their replay value limit. But there were other games, more creative games, that allowed you--the player--to choose his or her own "destiny." In other words, they were sandbox games where you chose how you wanted to play. Because of that, they almost never became boring. Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 (RCT3) was one of those games, and it was one of my earliest experiences in sandbox titles. But it got me thinking: It would be so cool to become a roller coaster designer.

Wooden roller coaster from my final RCT3 post.
Those were my thoughts. Because of this reasoning, I chose to take the Advanced Media elective. This was in 7th grade. I would soon find out that we would be required to create our own blog.

The New York City skyline as seen from the Chrysler Building. (Also a long time background used on my blog.)
So, I picked my topic. RCT3 had sparked an interest in me regarding buildings and how they worked, so I chose Architecture as my blog topic. In January 2011, I began The Art of Architecture. My very first post covered the newly built Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world. As time went on, my writing became much better. Thanks to this blog and my English courses at my high school, writing became an art I thoroughly enjoyed and still enjoy to this day.

Burj Khalifa
I had only been posting RCT3 content for a few months when I found Minecraft. Just a few days prior to that discovery, I wrote in one of my RCT3 posts that I wished I could find a game that allowed me to express architecture and design more freely and without limits. 

It was almost prophetic. (More like wish fulfillment.) 

Stoa of Doric
In any event, Minecraft became a primary creative outlet for design, and it fit perfectly with my blog. I wasn't just analyzing someone else's work. I was analyzing my own work. And that was very satisfying. From March 2011 to the summer of 2015, I played Minecraft off and on, showing my designs on this blog. Even though the first designs were not that great, all of those designs were like individual stairs on a never-ending staircase, with each step being a small hurdle I had to pass before moving on to something better. Once I built the Stoa of Doric and Barbarossa Cathedral, I felt like I reached a plateau. It truly felt like I had accomplished all I ever wanted to in Minecraft. 

Barbarossa Cathedral
Building a cathedral was a goal I had set for myself ever since I began playing. I just never knew when it would be fully realized.

Throughout my time playing Minecraft, I learned one thing: I had a mind of an architect. Balancing function and aesthetics quickly became a battle I had to wage every time I constructed a new building. I had to collect the materials, understand how they worked together, and not just think about the design in my head, but make it come to life in a physical three-dimensional reality. The work was worth it, and a lot of fun! At the end of these projects, I was always left with intense feelings of satisfaction, accomplishment, and wonder. But I didn't want to stay inside a game. I wanted my career to make me feel the same way, which brings me back to the present day.

Frost Bank Tower from Today's ArchiPic #96
I'm now in college, sitting here in my dorm writing my newest post. I've only been in school for a month, but I've learned so much about Architecture, especially drawings! In the coming weeks, expect posts about the work I have had to do in architecture class. I can't wait to show you what I have done! 

As I go along, I'll try to share my experiences on this blog. It could be a great learning opportunity for you, the reader, but also for myself--to reinforce the concepts I have learned. Just like how my Minecraft projects were stepping stones for future endeavors, each weekly Architecture exercise builds on the previous one.

Here's to the many years of The Art of Architecture. Let's press on!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Today's ArchiPic #116: Fermilab's Wilson Hall

    Today's ArchiPic is Wilson Hall near Chicago, the main administrative building of Fermilab, a high-energy particle physics lab.  Basically, the whole site is a giant particle accelerator, similar to that of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland .

    Interestingly, the original director, Robert Wilson, wanted to make sure that Fermilab wasn't marred by giant, unappealing concrete blocks, so he had Wilson Hall built in 1974, and many of the structures surrounding the main building are designed after the Archimedean spiral.  It's a very unique twin-towered structure that houses over 400,000 square feet of space with beautiful views and a magnificent reflecting pond!

Read more about Fermilab's Wilson Hall.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Design Changes

    As you may have noticed, I've changed some color schemes on my blog.  This design change also includes the addition of category tabs on the top of my page, which allow quick access to the variety of topics I cover here on my blog.  Ranging from Minecraft and Skyrim architecture, to real-world structures featured in Dazzling Designs, HOUSES 101, or An Inside Look, these tabs will help make my blog much more organized and straightforward.  Enjoy!

Skyrim Architecture: Dragonsreach

Welcome to a new addition of my Skyrim Architecture series, where I scout the Skyrim world in search of the most beautiful structures and landmarks Bethesda's award-winning franchise has to offer.  This time, we're at a beautiful keep that watches over the city of Whiterun.

    I have finally bought Skyrim for the PC, and I'm now able take detailed pictures of places that I had trouble finding on the internet.  Let's take a close look at Dragonsreach!

Dragonsreach as seen from a bird!  Truly a great picture from the Elder Scrolls Wiki.
    Dragonsreach is a beautiful palace that watches over the city of Whiterun in central Skyrim.  It houses the governor of the city, Jarl Balgruuf, and its overall emphasis on dragons signifies the effect they had on the designer.  The bridge leading up to the palace was designed to give the feeling that you were walking through a dragon's rib cage, at least that's what I make of it.  The original palace was quite small, but a keep was added to the back with the intent of capturing the dragon Numinex.  (No, not Mucinex.)

With its vaulted ceilings and steep roof inclines, it looks to me like Dragonsreach was inspired by real-world Gothic architecture, the main architectural style for many palaces and cathedrals throughout history.  Even more close to reality is the way each floor becomes smaller as you move up the structure, reminding me of a Norwegian stave church I posted a while back.

    If you take a look at the picture below, you'll see the interior of Dragonsreach from the entrance.  The dragon-like support beams are continued even on the inside of the building, with archways covered with ornate carvings that separate the main hallway from smaller passageways.  It is quite a beautiful scene.  Look closer and you'll notice the smoke from the main fire pit rising to the ceiling, adding to the atmosphere.  Below are some pictures of the interior hallway and its support beams.

    Detailed wood archways support the palace's ceiling and second floor, made in such a way that it looks like one is inside of a dragon.

    This is the main hallway of Dragonsreach, lit by a large firepit and two chandeliers.  The Jarl of Whiterun sits in the back.

    This is the enchanting area, where the Jarl's court wizard Farengar resides.  I often come here to make myself important potions and enchant my gear.

    The second floor of Dragonsreach features, what one might call, a briefing room.  There's a door to the right that leads out to the back balcony, where later in the story the Dragonborn helps the Jarl trap the dragon Odahviing.

    The second floor gives a better view of the intricacies of the beams that support the ceiling.

    This is part of the Jarl and his family's private quarters.  It features very high ceilings, beautiful carvings, and a moose head.

    Family dining room I presume.

    Talk about lighting...this is beautifully lit up, featuring Whiterun's flag.

    Head deeper into Dragonsreach and you'll come across the main dungeon, where the Jarl decides to hold criminals of the region of Whiterun.  It's a very atmospheric place, never radiated by the light of day.

    The beautiful flag of Whiterun.

    In other games, one would assume these sewers were not accessible, but in Bethesda's open world, one can go there too.  Maybe I'll come across some skeevers?

    The dungeon's guards keep a close eye on prisoners...if they're not eating a boiled cream treat in their headquarters that is.

    Even though these night pictures cannot replace seeing it in person, they are worth showing.  Notice the effect that ambient light and strategic lighting both have on the structure as a whole, something I adamantly discuss in Minecraft architecture, which is equally important in real architecture for that matter.

    Dragonsreach features its own water system, which runs down the steps leading up to the palace and flows around the main courtyard of the city.

    Dragonsreach offers great views and some good inspiration for making medieval Norwegian architecture.  Outstanding job, Bethesda!

    Oh, and there's me cooking some skeever meat.

What would you like to see on the next Skyrim Architecture post?  Let me know below.

>> Skyrim Architecture Series
>> The Elder Scrolls Wiki