Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Drawing in Perspective: A Proposition for a Discursive Architecture in the Age of Digital Representation

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posted on 2021-11-10, 21:10 authored by Coates, Laura

Contemporary architectural practise has come to depend upon digital representation as a means of design and for the production of architectural drawings. The computer is common place in architectural offices, relegating the drawing board as a machine of the past. Today, the architect is more likely to draw with a mouse than a mechanical pencil. The proposition of this research suggests such a dramatic shift within representational technology will not only affect how architects design, but also, what they design. Digital modes of architectural representation are reliant on mathematical code designed to artificially simulate visual experience. Such software offers strict alliance with a geometrically correct perspective code making the construction of perspective as simple as taking a ‘snap shot’. The compliance of the digital drawing to codes prescribed by a programmer distance the architect from the perspectival representation, consequently removing the architect’s control of the drawing convention. The universality of perspectival views is enforced by computer programmes such as Google Sketch-Up, which use perspective as a default view. This research explores the bias of linear perspective, revealing that which architects have forgotten due to a dependence on digital software. Special attention is drawn to the lack of control the architect exerts over their limits of representation. By using manual drawing the perspective convention is able to be unpacked and critiqued against the limitations of the system first prescribed by Brunelleschi. The manual drawing is positioned as a powerful mode of representation for it overtly expresses projection and the architect’s control of the line. The hand drawing allows the convention to be interpreted erroneously. The research is methodology driven, focusing on representation as more than a rudimentary tool, but a component of the design process. Thus, representational tools are used to provide a new spatial representation of a site. Computer aided design entered wide spread architectural practice at the end of the 1980’s, a decade that provided an ideal setting for speculative drawn projects. Such projects proved fruitful to architects critically approaching issues of representation and drawing convention, treating the drawing as more than utilitarian in the production of architecture. Whilst the move into digital imagining is not a paradigm shift for the act of drawing, it fundamentally shifted the way architects draw, separating drawing conventions onto visually separate ‘sheets’. The architectural drawing known today was that discovered in the Renaissance, Renaissance architects, the first to conceive of architecture through representation, thus was their endeavour to produce a true three dimensional image. The Renaissance architect executed absolute control of perspective, control, which has since defined the modern architect. Positioned within research by design, the ‘drawing-out’ process is a critical interpretation of perspective. In particular the drawing of instrumental perspective is unpacked within the realm of scientific research. The picture plane, horizon line and ground plane remain constant as the positions of these are well documented. The stationary point, vanishing point (possibly the most speculative components of the drawing) or the relationship between the two, behave as independent variables. In breaking the assumptions that underlie linear perspective as a fixed geometric system we may ask ourselves if we are in control of representational methods, or if they control us. Since architects are controlled by their means of representation this question is paramount to the discipline, particularly today, when digital drawing has shifted the relationship between architect and representation. The implications of this new relationship may result in monotony across the architectural disciple, where the production of critical architecture is secondary to computer technology.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Wood, Peter