Lecture 1

Arch 200c 2011 Fall

Course Arch 200c
Date 2011/08/21
Learning Objectives In this lecture we will be introducing the goals of the course, and will present the first topic session on 'Projecting', a two-week series of lectures, workshops, and exercises on architectural graphic projection.
  • Welcome and Course Introduction
  • Lecture 1
    • Why do Architects Draw?
    • Drawing and Design
    • A Brief History of Drawing Forms
  • Introduction of Topic Readings / Reading Mavens
Uses Tool(s)

In this lecture we will go over a general introduction to the course, and will present the the first topic session on Projecting , a two-week series of lectures, workshops, and exercises on architectural graphic projection.

Lecture 1

The uses of drawing in architectural design through the lenses of Robin Evans, Donald Schon, and Herbert Simon.

Why do Architects Draw?

In Why Architects Draw (MIT Press, 1997), Edward Robbins presents two primary uses of architectural drawing:

  • Drawing as a conduit for ideas
  • Drawing as an instrument of social practice

Drawing and Design


Design is action at a distance, until a building is realized, necessarily resides in the collective imaginations of designers - drawings are one valid space amongst many that may receive and filter projections of a design idea.


Drawings are like conversations, and the process of design proceeds through an active process of drawing, reflecting on what we have drawn, finding new possibilities and unexpected forms in our drawing, and drawing again with these new forms in mind.


Drawings provide a place for the externalization and clear understanding of all the parameters of a design problem for everyone to see, and the process of design proceeds through the discovery of a clearly bounded problem, free of conflicts and contradictions.

A Brief History of Drawing Forms

It has often been said that drawing is the language of design. If this is the case, then descriptive geometry surely constitutes its most basic grammar and syntax. Underscoring the importance and influence of projective geometry, Robin Evans argues that the particular qualities of this ancient branch of mathematics forms “an active agent in the links between thinking and imagination, imagination and drawing, drawing and building”. For Evans, the geometric principles employed by architects effect no only the results of our work, but also infect our imagination and color our understanding of space in a fundamental way. Evans relocates our attention from the way in which geometry influences architectural composition, where its influence may be clearly seen, and toward the way in which geometry affects the way composed architectural objects enter our perception.

The most intense interaction between geometry and architecture occurred during the 17th century:

pxxxiv: “For several centuries (from the 15th thru the 18th) the development of projective geometry derived some of its impetus from architectural procedures and even from architects... [Evan's concern] is not with the once fertile relation between architectural production and mathematical geometry, but with the relation between projection and architecture, which is less well understood”.


  • Robin Evans, The Projective Cast: Architecture and Its Three Geometries (The MIT Press, 2000). Read both the Introduction (pxxiv-pxxxvii) and Conclusion (p351-p370)
  • Christopher Alexander, Notes on the Synthesis of Form, Sixth Printing. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964).
  • Stan Allen, “Constructing with Lines: on projection,” in Practice: architecture, technique and representation (Psychology Press, 2000), 1-31.
  • Donald Schön, The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action (Basic Books, 1983).
  • Herbert Simon, “The Structure of Ill Structured Problems,” Artificial Intelligence 4, no. 3-4 (Winter 1973): 181-201.