Measured drawings: Intro to drafting

August 17th, 2010

Last week, we sketched. This week, we draft. Matt asked our students, “What is the difference between drawing and drafting?” Our students posited a few good guesses: “It’s for building things,” or “It’s what architects do.” Matt defined drafting in the simplest of terms: “Drafting is measured drawing.” The act of drafting is precise, technical construction of dimensioned drawings. “You don’t draw plans, you construct them,” Matt said. We had a quick introduction to plans, sections, and elevations last week with our Pepper Exercises, but this week, we introduce more precise drawing methods, using a parallel MayLine bar, adjustable triangles, lead holders, architectural scales, and vellum (aaah, vellum…. flashbacks to architecture school).

We covered the basics of the three drawings, and a few other key concepts and tools:

Scale: The proportion to which the drawing is drafted (i.e. 1:1 scale is full scale)

Plan: Often known as a floorplan, a plan is actually a horizontal section of an object or building, showing the location and configuration of walls, including wall thickness.

Section: (or cross-section) A slice through an object, looking in a certain direction.

Elevation: An exterior view of an object, showing one side of the object in two dimensions

Our brave volunteer, Cameron, took to the task of drawing a plan, section, and elevation of a house, cold turkey. He was fairly successful and did a good job of breaking down the basics for the rest of the class (video below by Jamesha).

We stressed to students that drafting is not necessarily about architectural training, but a methodical way of representing ideas in two dimensions. Drafting standards are useful for many industries, including agriculture, which many of our students hope to study in college. “If someone came to you with plans for a modification to a tractor or other piece of farm machinery,” we said, “the drawings would probably be drafted according to these specifications. You need to know how to read them.” Even beyond industry applications, the act of drafting, similar to our sketching exercise, make a different kind of synaptic connection between how your brain communicates with your hand. Drawing lines using a parallel bar or triangle, rather than freehand, develops a different tool for visual representation that is technical and methodical, with a clarity of communication that is universal. Matt demonstrated all the cool gadgets and gizmos that come with drafting as well, from an adjustable triangle to the lead sharpeners (video below by Jamesha).

At the end of day one, when we began our “Building Block Elevations” exercise, the consensus was that the work is tedious, but once you get the hang of measuring, using a scale, and holding a writing instrument in a different way (and resisting the urge to “go freehand”), drafting wasn’t so bad after all. Some, like Kerron, proved to be total naturals, knocking out drawings that rival my best, after four years of architecture school. I always found drawing straight lines to be therapeutic, and judging from the calm (and relative silence) in the room with ten minutes left in class, some of our students may have as well.


Studio H is a public high school "design/build" curriculum that sparks rural community development through real-world, creative projects. By learning through a design sensibility, applied core subjects, and "dirt-under-your-fingernails" construction skills, students develop the creative capital, critical thinking, and citizenship necessary for their own success and for the future of their communities.


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