Over the last few decades, the rise of computer modeling also brought about the decline of architectural drawing, and from a pragmatic standpoint, this is a welcome development. Digital renderings do, after all, make for more photorealistic depictions of what a potential building might actually look like. Meanwhile, in the other camp, cultural gatekeepers prone to handwringing will inevitably lament "the death of drawing" and all that was lost with it. As dramatic as that kind of thing may sound, a recent book by Neil Bingham, 100 Years of Architectural Drawing, might just be to convince you to join their camp. Featuring illustrations by such heavy hitters as Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Gehry, and Zaha Hadid, Bingham's work treats architectural drawing as an art form in and of itself, and charts the changes it went through over the course of the twentieth century.
100 Years of Architectural Drawing is, to use an over-used but completely apt descriptor here, an absolute gem. It embraces the most eclectic and wildly international assortment of practitioners and projects—not just the usual suspects. So while you’ll see Schindler, Pelli, and Rodchenko, you’ll also see a stunning hydroelectric plant by Piero Portaluppi, a sort of biomorphic-meets-streamline designed cafeteria by Henri Mouette and Pierre Sziekely, and a Dubai-worthy pink ziggurat created by Henri Sauvage. Everything is good in here, much of it unfamiliar to American audiences. Looking at the red-capped rowers in Sigurd Lewerentz’s elegant gouache of a rowers and their boathouse in comparison to a recent rendering of a local landscape architecture project made me wince, the former so immersive and lovely, the latter, so sterile and unconvincing. But the book isn’t just about pretty pictures. It’s lovingly curated and intelligently researched by Neil Bingham of the Royal Academy of Arts in London (who wrote the series of five historical essays on major periods of architectural drawing that organize the book).
I had a conversation with the CEO of a major architectural software company recently. When I shared with him how much contemporary renderings made me miss old-fashioned architectural drawings, he agreed—but told me we were both getting old and were just being nostalgic. Hogwash. I’ll have to show him the new book 100 Years of Architectural Drawings: 1900–2000 and see if he continues to defend the often lifeless computer versions that are now the norm.
100 Years of Architectural Drawing: 1900–2000 brings together 300 of the best architectural drawings from the last century by the world's most prestigious architects, creating both a history of the genre and a survey of twentieth-century architecture.