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This page features an overview of how architects communicate their ideas

A key skill of an architect is to communicate ideas to fellow students, teachers, architects, clients, specialist industry professionals and other project stakeholders.

 

This page is an overview of the skills and technologies architects use to communicate their ideas to others.

  • Project design

  • Quick draw sketches

  • Draw architecture you like

  • Circle planning design drawings

  • Physical models

  • Detailed design 

  • Design boards

  • 2D freehand and CAD digital drawings

  • 3D modelling + fly thru videos

  • Rendered digital images

  • Virtual + Augmented reality 

  • Artificial Intelligence

  • Archi-speak

  • Presentation board

  • Elevator pitch + Pecha Kucha

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At the start of a project you need to relate really well with your client. Don't underestimate this!

Design for 'People, Places, Spaces'.

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Do research and analysis that relates to the client brief and those who will interact with the architecture (people), understand the project site environment (places) and formulate the conceptual design of the project (spaces) that relates to the client brief, site environment etc.

 

There are many ways of designing architecture. The New Zealand Institute of Architects website has heaps of information about architecture. This website offers many resources about the process of design, drawing, digital and other information about the skills an architect needs. 

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What should you draw with?

All architects have their favourite pencils and pens to draw with. What do you draw with?

I prefer to draw with...

  • Commemorative HB pencils from the gift shops of famous buildings 

 

Improve your drawing skills by practicing this 30 second activity by drawing lines and basic geometric shapes.

 

All architecture drawings are a combination of lines and these shapes.

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Practice drawing lines and basic geometric shapes. 

  • Use A4 sheet of paper, portrait

  • Draw these shapes across the page

  • Repeat down the page about 8 times to fill the page 

  • Focus on straight lines

  • Draw circles not egg shapes

  • Draw squares not rectangles

  • Your triangles should be 3 equal sides

  • The X should be 2 equal straight lines

  • The 3 wavey lines should be 3 concentric lines with equal gaps   

Concentric shape drawing practice: draw any shape, then draw concentric parallel lines with consistent gaps between the lines. Try drawing concentric 5 point stars, I'm budget at drawing concentric stars! 

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Most students say: 'I cant draw". I say... just focus on practicing drawing lines and the simple circle, square and triangle geometric shapes. Have the confidence to draw the basic's then use your skills to draw your ideas. 

Practice 2 minute drawings to draw your ideas. 

  • Fold an A4 sheet of paper into 4 rectangles

  • Do 2 minute drawings per 4 rectangles

  • Think about an idea first, then draw it

  • Draw quick doodles of ideas

  • Draw geometric shapes to make a drawing

  • Draw parts of buildings

  • Draw plans, elevations, sections & perspectives

Design and draw your own prefab-pod project.

This is a 2 minute drawing of the Box House design, the lines are not perfectly straight but it conveys the design concept. Don't get too hung up about the straightness of your lines when drawing your ideas. The busa wood model I made of the drawing took 4 hours to make. 

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Sir Norman Foster is the founder of Foster + Partners, his right-hand-man is Ken Shuttleworth, also known as Ken the Pen, is a "quickest-thinking designer", rumour has it that he sketched out the unprecedented form of London's City Hall in about 10 seconds. "I find sketching and designing quite easy, It's something that comes quite naturally, at college they called me Ken the Pen because I drew twice as fast as anyone else."

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Practice drawing architecture you like.

Pick architecture from the New Zealand or the contemporary world architecture pages and do 2 minute drawings of the projects you pick.

Most world architecture project pages include floor plans and cross sections so practice drawing these as well.

The more you practice drawing architecture the more you will understand the design ideas and concepts that architects use to design projects. Having the confidence to design is a fundamental architect skill. 

 

Practice your line drawings. Be confident to draw your ideas. Develop your own drawing style.  

Frank Gehry is a world famous architect who designed Disney Concert Hall, these are his original sketch design drawings of the building. The last line drawing shows simple lines over the building to demonstrate the curved geometric shapes of the building.     

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Use circle diagram drawings to develop ideas about the room layouts of floor plans. This video by the architect Barry Berkus shows the how + why of designing a house using the circle planning design drawing method.

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As an architect you will do heaps of freehand drawings to visualise your ideas, these are some of my drawings

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Make physical models of your designs.

Architects have been making physical models of their architecture for hundreds of years.  

This is a miniature 1:24 scale marble model of Niha Roman temple, 1 AD.

This is a Sir Christopher Wren drawing for the dome design of St Paul's Cathedral, 1673-1752 and the St Paul's Cathedral wooden model, 1673.

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Make quick paper or cardboard + tape 3D models of your ideas during the design phase. This example is a 2D triangle drawing of a design for Snake Tower I then scrunched up to make a 3D model of tower shape ideas.

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This is a drawing of Snake Tower and a 3D model I made in 1 hour with match sticks and a hot glue gun.      

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This foam board, bulsa wood and steel mesh model took 8 hours to make of Maya House I designed. There are heaps of other materials you can make models with. Check out examples on Pinterest.

If you digitally 3D model your design in Sketchup or other software you can 3D print your design, this process will take days, depending on the complexity of the model and 3D print size. 

These photos of physical models are made by Hong Kong University students shown at the end of year show 2023

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Design boards, also called 'mood boards' or 'inspiration boards'.  A design board gives an overall appreciation of a project during the design phase. Show visual examples of Shape, Form, Geometry, Space, Proportion, Texture, Colour and Material of your project design intent.

 

This example design board image is for Snake Tower.  

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What are the important detailed designs of your project that will define your project?

 

For example, what is the stair design of your project? 

These annotated photos show various designs.

 

Here are more stair designs on Pinterest

 

Read about how Apple patented their curved glass stair design.     

Troy Donovan is an expert architect detailed designer, check him out on Instagram the _donnies.  

Eventually you will need to use digital CAD (Computer Aided Design) software to 2D draw your architecture into a digital format.

LibreCAD and QCAD are free CAD softwares that you should start with if you have not used CAD before.

 

There are many other 2D CAD softwares that architecture practices use, same same but different. 

 

Start with free CAD software.

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More info on the Architect software page about other professional CAD drawing softwares architects use.

 

There not free, but offer student discounts. Autodesk Autocad LT is probably best to start with, they offer free 1 year student access. Autodesk Revit it the most complex CAD software because it uses BIM technology, if your an experienced Revit architect you can earn $80-150K salary.  

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You will need to turn your 2D drawings into 3D digital models. The most common 3D modelling software architects use is SketchUp. Students can use the free browser version. Its best to download the desktop version so you can add SketchUp Extension Plugins to a offer a huge amount of modelling options for complex geometry and other modelling techniques. 

There are heaps of YouTube tutorials to learn SketchUp.

Instagram.com/line.stu offers great SketchUp tutorials.

 

Some 2D drawing software incorporates 3D modelling.

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There are many other 3D modelling softwares that architects use, check them out on the architect software page. Not all architects use all these, it comes down to personal preference and what architecture offices like to use. For example, Zaha Hadid Architects use Maya because of the complex curve geometry of their architecture.

Fly-thru animations created from 3D models and software like Adobe After Effects or Premier Pro is a very common method of using video to show off digital architecture, check out examples on YouTube.   

Rendering is the process of using a 3D model (SketchUp, Rhino etc) of architecture and creating stylised or photorealistic digital images or videos using rendering software. Sometimes called 'architectural rendering' or 'architectural visualization' or 'archviz'.  

You need to be good at texturing your 3D models and lighting. You need a decent computer with heaps of RAM and a quality graphics card to render images of your scenes which can take hours per image.

Check out the links to the 8 main rendering softwares on the architects software page. 

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Virtual Reality technology started in 1838 by Sir Charles Wheatstone. In 1935 Stanley Weinbaum's fictional 'Pygmalions Spectacles' described VR goggles that offered movies with sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.   

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In 1968 the first VR+AR headset with cameras connected to a computer was called The Sword of Damocles

Ivan Sutherland created the first CAD drawing software. Watch this video.

Read about the advancement of VR+ AR headset technology in video games, military, NASA, gloves etc. 

By 2015 VR technology started to become available to the general public with headsets from Oculus, Sony, Samsung, HTC, Google. This is when architects started using these consumer headsets for architecture.

There are now heaps of options for for visualising architecture in VR + AR, especially using game engines like Unreal and Twinmotion. Buy a headset and give it a go!  Watch the AR + VR videos on YouTube 

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The inception of AI started with automaton robots in ancient times. In 1950 Alan Turing 'the Father of AI' proposed a test of machine intelligence called the Turing Test to test computing ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour indistinguishable from that of a human. Read about the history of AI development here

In 2016 I started using AI Quick Draw and Auto Draw drawing apps with my students. In 2019 Nvidia released GauGAN AI that turned simple brushstrokes into realistic images.  

2022 saw the public release of Generative AI applications that enable computers to create images based on text prompts by humans. Generative AI works by referencing datasets of hundreds of millions of images that were sourced from the internet and given text descriptions. Read about how Generative AI works.   

One of the most popular ways of creating Generative AI images is using Discord & MidJourney. Watch these YouTube tutorials to create your own AI generated images of architecture.

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There is very specific terminology in the architecture and building industry that relates to design and all the parts of a building. Learn the terminology and how 'archi-speak' like an architect to communicate your ideas to others. 

You will need to use archi-speak skills in your university crit's when you present your ideas, drawings, models and designs images in public to your fellow students, your university professors and guest architects.

Here are 64 of the most common architectural terms, from simple terms to more complex. Learn what they mean and integrate them into your speaking.

 

Refer to the Archi-speak page to learn how to speak like an architect. 

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So you have created heaps of visual content about your architecture project.... now you need to present it to others. Maybe in the form of a university crit or using InDesign software to create presentation boards. An elevator pitch or Pecha Kucha are examples of presenting architecture ideas that I use with my students, and demonstrate below with an example project.  

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Communicate your design ideas with 2 sentences and 2 images.

Use the Elevator Pitch technique.

Refine your ideas down to the most straight to the point concise information.

  • Sentence #1: State a question or suggest an idea.

  • Sentence #2: What solution have you thought about or main idea you want to explore.

  • 2 images that relate to your sentences.

  • They could be drawings, Internet images, GIF's, AI images, screenshots of your work etc.

Using this technique is a good way to focus your thinking and start a meaningful conversation.

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PechaKucha was started in 2003 by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham Architects

PechaKucha means 'chit-chat' in Japanese culture, "Talk less, show more".

PechaKucha is a method of sharing ideas with images and talking instead of presentations with heaps of words

A PechaKucha presentation is 20 images on screen for 20 seconds each, a 7 minute presentation time. 

Public PechaKucha Nights happen in countries around the world www.pechakucha.org.

PechaKucha Nights also happen in New Zealand www.pechakucha.co.nz

 

Ive been using the concept of PechaKucha with my students since 2012. It's a great way for students to quickly develop project concepts just using images and present their ideas by chatting using this 6 point format.

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An alternative to doing a full 20 images PechaKucha is to do a mini version only using a title page stating the project issue and solution, 5 images and page with a few GIF's.

Use this technique to share your ideas. Put your images on a Google Slide or Powerpoint document. No more than 2 images per page, 1 full size image per page is best.

 

Practice speaking about your ideas only using a few images. Less is more.  

  

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Here's an example project I created using the PechaKucha mini format to present my project ideas.

 

It took 3 hours to develop this concept idea and create these images using Internet images and Photoshop.  

EXAMPLE PROJECT Title page.

State the project issue and solution with 1 sentence each.

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EXAMPLE PROJECT Image #1.

Google Earth screenshot of site and Photoshop to add the orange track & stairs

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EXAMPLE PROJECT Image #2.

Architecture inspiration images & links to information.

designboom.com/nike-unlimited-stadium-manila-worlds-first-led-running-track

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Oscar Niemeyer Niterói Contemporary Art Museum

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EXAMPLE PROJECT Image #3.

A4 drawing of project ideas with description notes

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EXAMPLE PROJECT Image #4.

Google Street screenshot, Photoshop Internet images of scaffold stairs, spiral ramp & gold wall design ideas  

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EXAMPLE PROJECT Image #5.

Google Street screenshot, Photoshop Internet images of scaffold stairs, planting, cyclist design ideas  

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EXAMPLE PROJECT using GIF's

Show design ideas using giphy.com

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