Elevating the Art of Architectural Elevations

Architects create visual masterpieces on our streets and on paper. Their drawings – known as elevations – give real-world representations of future projects. Today, we will draw from the University of Florida’s Digital Collections to learn more about these detailed artworks.

A black and white drawing showing the west and south elevations of Demesa-Sanchez House.
The west and south elevations of Demesa-Sanchez House. (UFDC)

Each elevation usually shows a structure’s external appearance from one side. These drawn images include each side of a building – north, south, east, and west. Architects visualize structures from the ground level upwards – as seen in the above example from Demesa-Sanchez House (also known as the Spanish Inn) created by Fisher & Shepard.

A blue ink drawing showing the front elevation of Memorial Presbyterian Church - with details of doorways and  cornices.
The front elevation of Memorial Presbyterian Church. (UFDC)

Most architecture involves more than simple rectangular and square shapes. So architects also highlight specific parts of buildings – such as spires and arches. In the example above, architects John Carrere and Thomas Hastings outlined some of the ornate features of Memorial Presbyterian Church‘s tower and doorways. What shapes do you spy in the elevations shown so far?

A blue ink drawing of the west elevation of the Ximenez-Fatio House featuring details such as tiles, bricks, and wood paneling.
The west elevation of the Ximenez-Fatio House. (UFDC)

Dimensions can create interesting effects in art as well as in architecture. In elevations, architects usually use two-dimensions (2-D) – hight and width. Variations in line weight and the addition of shadows give the illusion of depth (3-D) in the flattened imagery. Can you spot where the architects attempted to make their elevations look 3-D in these examples?

A black ink drawing of Avero House's west elevation featuring details of wrought iron grills and gates.
The west elevation of Avero House on St. George Street. (UFDC)

Like the architects seen above, you too can explore and test your spatial and visual ideas in an elevation. Try your hand at sketching your house – or dream house – and share with us what you come up with. Need some more inspiration? Visit the University of Florida’s Architecture Archives for additional elevation examples.

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