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Urban design

For urban design, we need to adapt our drawing skills and thinking to a whole different scale system.
If architecture drawing deals with 1:100, 1:50 scales and interior design 1:50 and 1:20…. urban design will be about 1:200, 1:500.

We will draw a 1:500 axonometric of a part of the urban area, then detail and study the centerpiece tower from a small square surrounded by a colonnade on three sides.

After that we will be drawing the 1:200 facade of the tower and a zoomed in and detailed perspective of the whole building assemblage.

If we are looking back at the figure ground map, it is obvious that the streets and urban space are left white whilst the buildings and tower are colored in black, thus giving an overall picture of the urban area at hand.

The tower has a ground floor + 8 extra levels… that means you have 4 +24 = 28 meters for the tower height.

Obviously, the tower is much taller than all the surrounding buildings, so as a general rule you can make the adjacent buildings any size you want… two, three, four levels.

I would stop at six levels max, so the tower still is easily readable as a vertical dominant in our composition.
The ground floor has a height of 4 meters, and each level has the height of3 meters.

You need to draw:
A sketch reference of a tower design and colonnade design
1:500 axonometric (1 meter = 0.2 cm) of the urban tissue with shadowedfaces and cast shadows
1:200 facade of the tower and colonnade
Two-point detailed perspective of the tower and colonnade

You can also add different levels of entourage – people and plant pots andthat will actually add more depth to your drawing as it will break the order ofright angle lines.


We will study three variations for the tower design and three variations for the colonnade.

Our tower sketches are going to show a couple of variations to the possible design.

We will go for a rectangular design which is very simple to draw as it has a rectangular volume. This type of tower can also connect to the side of the colonnade via an aerial walkway.

We can go for a de-constructivist, type of tower which is going to be made out of glass panels and has an overall ‘close to organic’ shape.

Do not be fooled by the shiny ideas… a rectangular bridge could work a lot lot better than a weird shaped one… This is mostly because the quality of a drawing and design does not need to be something in your face, it can be subtle, it can express those subtle effects in a more elegant way.

The ground floor is going to be 4 meters tall and each level 3 meters tall.
Our tower will have a ground floor and 8 stories up.
Our last idea will be a boxy tower – with several two-level boxes sticking out of a simple rectangular surface. The tower is going to be rectilinear in shape, you will be able to see the inside of each level through transparency, and you will have pots with shrubs at each level… so we will make use of the entourage we studied in previous lessons.

There are also three options for the colonnade – a classical one, which basically means it being made out of masonry – so you could add arches and adjacent columns, and that could create the colonnade. Let’s not forget that the colonnade will also go in for a distance so you could benefit from that by adding a cast shadow profile following the colonnade.

You can also go for a more modernistic colonnade that would be much more minimalistic and with more pronounced geometry – more focus on horizontal and vertical cuts and the space generated by that constant rhythm effect.

Or you could go for a mix of both the techniques as I did and then get both the archies and the thrythm together. These elements might seem like an irrelevant choice at this level, but we will go into more detail in future assignments.

After all, this is the introduction to urbanism drawing.

The 1:500 axonometric

Now we will draw the 1:500 axonometric of the buildings – at this scale 1 meters = 0.2 cm.

The groundfloor is going to be 4 meters tall and each level 3 meters… so that means 0.8 cm and 0.6 cm.

Our tower has groundfloor and eight levels so that means 0.8 + 0.6 x 8 = 5.6 cm tall

The adjacent buildings can vary around that… I recommend around ground floor with 3, 4 5 levels – don’t add heights that would compete with the tower vertical dominant… This goes back to what we learned in architectural composition – when you’re drawing a composition you need to have that Christmas tree visual hierarchy.

After extruding up the various volumes that form that part of the urban tissue, then go ahead and construct cast shadows – these are 60 degrees and a horizontal.

1:200 facade

The facade will just show the buildings around our tower and give some context, and then that is it – we need to just do our best to show some building graphics.

1:200 scale means the ground level is 2 cm and the level is 1.5 cm – this implies a sufficient level of detail so as to represent curtain walls and the different levels of buildings.

To draw streets as a rule of thumb you need to add different types of buildings – more modern, more contemporary, more classical – so it builds up that compounding effect of variety.

A good recipe for drawing a 1:200 curtain wall facade is to do 1 cm increments, then thicken the levels then you can either divide the windows at the top or bottom third or thicken the balustrade – with several evenly spaced out horizontal lines.

Either way, you get a ‘copy-paste’ style of the facade which is enough to get a clear rhythm on your page.


This is going to be a guesstimated perspective of a tower and the adjacent colonnade – this is not a large tower so keep in mind you can add a sufficient amount of detailing.

Guesstimate how the 1.65 meter horizon line fits a 4 meter ground floor and also fit each of the threemeter levels. Careful to have one point on your page and the other one off as this will give you a correctly proportioned perspective.

And remember to draw a large drawing – so you can add a lot of detailing. This detailing could mean different window partitions which you will most easily get from using multiple sets of diagonals.

About three diagonals in a row will split your window intoeights and then you can use a vertical thirds division, and you got a decent level of detailing.
This perspective is a good opportunity for you to just add in everything you have learned so far – all the graphics techniques, all the entourage elements, everything.

You need to consistently mix architectural cliche graphics with having the conceptual depth to your work.

On one hand we will be making the final image as attractive as possible by adding contrast, a clear, precise and thickened line drawing for the tower and side colonnades and entourage for offering the images scale.

Also, feel free to add the exaggerated graphics techniques such as a strong foreground, reflections, a tiled floor pattern and so on.

Hatching And Coloring

Lesson Crit


Back to: Private: Urban Design 101 > Design

Disclaimer: Results will vary, and you should not use this information as a substitute for getting formal architectural education. Good luck! ©2008-2017 Architectural Graphics Ltd, All Rights Reserved. "Freehand Architecture" and "Advanced Drawing And Design" are trademarks used by Architectural Graphics Ltd.

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