One Drawing Challenge: The 100 Best Architectural Drawings of 2021

The Finalists of this year’s One Drawing Challenge tell complex, often poetic stories about architecture and life in 2021.

Architizer Editors Architizer Editors

Architizer is thrilled to reveal the 100 Finalists for the 2021 One Drawing Challenge, architecture’s biggest drawing competition! Below, you’ll find every amazing drawing that made the Top 100, each of which remains in the running for 2 Grand Prizes of $2,500 and worldwide recognition. From these 100 Finalists, there will also be 10 Commended Entries selected, and a further 8 drawings will win a special award for the most creative approach in their drawing type, earning themselves a spot in a special editorial feature on Architizer.

The final judging process is officially underway, with our stellar line up of expert jurors reviewing each image in minute detail and reading the stories behind them. They will be judging the drawings based on the competition criteria to come up with their top entries. The jurors’ rankings will be converted into scores, which will then give us our two Top Winners and 10 Runners-up.

Without further ado, explore the 100 Finalists below (published across 4 posts and in no particular order), accompanied by their stories, written by the entrants. Tell us which is your favorite on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #OneDrawingChallenge! Below, “Part 1” presents the first 25 architectural drawings — you can jump to parts 2, 3 and 4 using these buttons:

Part 2     Part 3     Part 4


“The Water Parliament – Bangkok City 2100” by Tyler Lim, National University of Singapore

“The Project is speculative as it is a cautionary tale of a new Water Parliament in Bangkok city that embraces sea level rise and valued it as an opportunity, using 3 integrated water infrastructure as an urban redevelopment toolkit that brings back traditional Thai water Culture. It is meant to increase public awareness and explores the potential of using water as an urban design toolkit and space-making material to facilitate the social and environmental well-being of the local Thai, allowing them to adapt their life to the ground changes and sea-level rise.

On top of that, the various narrative scenes are scattered around a larger environment which tends to communicate a more global idea on the characteristics of this new Thai city in 2100, showcasing how the benevolent symbiotic urban growth is embedded in these 3 different infrastructures. Even though they are being explained individually, they all existed as one.”


“Tangled” by Jane YuJinghan He

“The pandemic has intensified the labor inequality. Employees equipped with advanced technology have the privilege of working from home and thus stay safe from the pandemic whereas low income blue collar labors have to work physically and thus risk their health. In this drawing, we explore the tangled cables as a carrier of both tangible objects at different scales as well as intangible information. Transforming from pure infrastructure hidden, it begins to take live in itself and starts to shape spaces and form volumes.

Community clusters are formed above ground, connected through skywalks, and covered by synthetic nature. Layers of cables and pipes build up the artificial ground in which transportation and connection functions as natural as tree roots, and as unnatural as the speedy high-tech connections. The architecture becomes an artificial intelligence itself.”


“A Holiday in a Tokyo not so Far Away” by Terence Chek, ADDP Architects LLP / National University of Singapore

“Critiquing the overworking culture where the ingrained Japanese psyche creates a paradoxical perception where relaxation is seen as disloyal, leading to health problems and the worst case, death from overwork. As a counter proposition to the failed work style reform bill, this thesis speculates that a different type of ‘vacation’ is needed in order to provide the workers with a guilt and shame free break.

Drawing various aspects of Japan’s history, the concept of opposites forming a whole translates into a transformative architecture where parts of the building is stacked distinctly where the salaryman can use each layer freely as an alternative hierarchy and holiday. The project is conceived as a holiday instrument and a new heart that stretches altruism from Tokyo to Sanya’s urbanscape while renewing its temporary inhabitants, the salarymen through a balance.”


“Into the Garden; Into the Landscape” by Lucy Ding, Ruby Kang and Audrey Hioe, Cornell University

“Before the massive plague would force us into individual exile, solitude was that of a pleasant destination. “We must cultivate our garden” – a walled garden is where one rejoins nature in the pursued seclusion to nurture the mind.

The drawing is a cavalier projection of an artist’s residence high in the alpine. Stone walls and volumes of ambiguous age blur, rather than define inside-outside, where the landscape is the first and foremost garden; And only when one wanders to the end of the garden and looks back can one discover Eden within the high walls.

We realize our fragile and temporal bodies amongst the great landscape. For the residents, the house is an impregnable shelter where they experience the changing light throughout the day, the seasons throughout the year; For the mountain, it is but a temporary monument, a moment of passing in the journey through the landscape.”


“Kaashi” by Niomi Shah, Architect & Urban Designer

“While studying at Columbia University, NY, we had one of our studio trips to Varanasi, India and being there was eye opening to my architectural senses. The experience of narrow streets, majestic ghats and sacred yet communal kunds was impossible to draw in mere plan, section, or elevation. And I wanted to figure out the best medium to portray what I saw. So for a city stretch we were working in, I took inspiration from the historical religious paintings of India which were drawn as an overlap of various viewpoints like the people in elevation with the walls in plans. I started by drawing the intricate city moments I noticed like a 5ft market street leading to a temple next to a masjid, how temporary furnitures helped in drastically changing the ghat usage, etc.These small moments turned into this 2ft abstract drawing that I love and keep going back to!”


“Algae-Coffee Infra-sculpture” by Deon Cham, Jie Jin and Heyu Lu

“This research project investigates the reinvention of urban infrastructure in the Post-Covid era. It aims to decentralize the existing infrastructural system that mainly serves the purpose of mass consumption. Hence, we propose a new type of “infra-sculpture” that can be localized, visualized, and popularized in the built environment. The idea intends to change how the public perceives infrastructural system, thus raising public awareness of current consumption practice and [bio]diversity.

We propose two types of infra-sculptural systems: energy self-sufficient system using algae, and waste recycling system using wasted coffee ground. These two systems interconnect and coexist with one another, forming a self-sufficient ecosystem that is renewable and recyclable in terms of water and waste. Imagine how this could change our set of values and norms and how new knowledge is created, stimulating more innovation to happen. “We challenge the current status quo of infrastructure and envision a self-sufficient and zero-waste infra-sculpture.””


“The Urban Exchange Platform” by Farian Anwar and Callum Birchall Farian Anwar, Delft University of Technology

“The complex operations of logistics demonstrate the flows and exchanges of capital, resources and information, accelerated by digitalization and the rise in e-commerce. Cities and lifestyles are ever-changing, with increased consumption placing demands for faster, more efficient turnarounds. This is more evident now than ever, given the current Coronavirus pandemic.

The “Urban Exchange Platform” imagines a hypothetical scenario for the future of logistics in the city of London. The drawing presents a system, whereby automated technologies inhabit the city, introducing distribution centers within a network of shared, reused footprints in order to manage waste, products and the outcomes of our hyper-consumption.

Through an aerial perspective, the image captures the scales of exchanges and encounters between people, technology and the city, establishing a system of transparency that is woven into the lives of its inhabitants. It depicts a future of coexistence and productivity, the extremes of which are open to interpretation.”


“Manchester Courtyards; a proposal for Ancoats” by Rory Chisholm, Donald Insall Associates

“In my eyes, as the bird has its nest, humans do have a primal architecture. Primal in both in the sense of ancient typologies and in the sense of experiential environments that appear to have evolved to best engage our senses. As Pallasmaa says, architecture “must respond to the primordial hunter and farmer concealed in the body. Our sensations of comfort, protection and home are rooted in the primordial experiences of countless generations”.

This design (for new courtyard dwellings, set into the remnant of a disused Manchester factory) argues that our sense of well-being and home is greatly increased when we design for the internal ancestor. The pencil speaks of how the space looks, and the ink speaks of how the space feels. In this way the duality of pencil vs ink allows me to lift up these primal principles of feeling as that of the highest value.”


“Capriccio of Cardiff Coal Exchange” by Dan Liu, M-Teampannon Építészmérnöki Kft.

“The drawing is a capriccio or architectural fantasy of the derelict Cardiff Coal and Shipping Exchange. It captures the essence of its current dilapidated building fabric while romanticizes its ruinous state. This vast abandoned building is a lone standing monument commemorating the glorious past of coal mining in South Wales and embodies the rich cultural history of the Industrial Revolution era. With the last ship leaving the docks of Cardiff packed with the ‘black gold’ of the Welsh valleys, a period of irreversible slow decay began.

The fate of the Coal Exchange building is a stark reminder of how the reliance on carbon-based fuel has shaped economy historically and it tells a powerful story about the socio-economic decline caused by resource depletion. This drawing is a gesture of appreciation of this magnificent heritage building and aims to serve as a touchstone for any future regenerative efforts.”


“The Water Parliament – Bangkok City 2100” by Tyler Lim, National University Of Singapore

“The Project is speculative as it is a cautionary tale of a new Water Parliament in Bangkok city that embraces sea level rise and valued it as an opportunity, using 3 integrated water infrastructure as an urban redevelopment toolkit that brings back traditional Thai water Culture. It is meant to increase public awareness and explores the potential of using water as an urban design toolkit and space-making material to facilitate the social and environmental well-being of the local Thai, allowing them to adapt their life to the ground changes and sea-level rise.

On top of that, the various narrative scenes are scattered around a larger environment which tends to communicate a more global idea on the characteristics of this new Thai City in 2100, showcasing how the benevolent symbiotic urban growth is embedded in these 3 different infrastructures. Even though they are being explained individually, they all existed as one.”


“Fragments of Their World” by Tom Gardner

“During conflicts families are forced to flee their country, seeking refuge across borders in temporary camps. A lack of resources and infrastructure leads children to lose their freedom to learn, develop and play. “Fragments of Their World” tackles these issues, using familiarity and the building of essential skills to focus on play as a source of joy.

The playground utilizes a re-imagined typological language that contains key cultural significance to many of the refugees. These interventions are arranged to create a place of safety through a familiar yet new setting, serving the needs of refugee camps in different countries and delivering reassurance and affirmation of cultural identity through play.”


“Woven Ground” by Arinah RizalLuke Kim Arinah Rizal Qun Zhang, University of Melbourne

“‘Woven Ground’ responds to the isolation confronted by high-rise apartment dwellers in Melbourne during the coronavirus lockdowns. In a world where social distancing exacerbates the already frayed network of human relationships, Woven Ground envisions a new way of moving forward to achieve urban resilience. Locked in, the fed up residents collude to transform the void space between their towers. Together, they begin to scheme and weave a robust net structure with the help of carbon fiber spinning robotic spiders.

The first bright yellow Woven Ground projects outward from the tower walls and transforms into a central gathering area to contain the nurturing warmth generated from the enriching interaction between young students, families with children, and elderly people. As they collectively weave in finer grains, this rich tapestry of organic forms is never complete, always adaptable, and able to accommodate for different forms of leisure, circulation, entertainment, and infrastructure.”


“Under the Mask: the Uncanny Street” by Shaokang Li, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

“It shows a journey of meandering through an uncanny street. The street represents our lives during the Covid-19 lock-down time in an empty London street. The ‘street’ is actually an immersive theatre hidden in the darkness, under the huge canopy. The red curtain, the falling wall, the broken pieces, and growing plants: it seems a virtual show is about to start. It brings the audience back to the ‘dark’ time during the lock-down, experiencing the ‘other’ poetic street lives.”


“Dear Hashima” by Marc Brousse

“This drawing is taken from a series investigating urbatopia. The drawings use singular technic ‘traitillism’ and feature a second layer of invisible ink. Revealed in UVlight, this represents the soul of the city. Depicted here is the Japanese island of Hashima (commonly called Gunkanjima- Battleship Island), a coal mining centre, known as the most dense city worldwide which was abandoned in the 1974. The artwork decline analytical approaches at different scales, empirical researches , symbolisms, writings, to regenerate urban matrix of civilizations.

An articulated perspective to generate timeless urban artefacts, as an ultimate man-made expression of the holistic principles. It has to illustrate the power of man in his social needs, allowing him to tame the territory continuously for new urban organism. The drawing reveals also the dualism between the material and immaterial wealth, or the know-how that permit great architectural feats but also its destruction.”


“Standing Wind Twist” by Amir Hariri

“My interest in the nuanced qualities of decomposition stem from my fascination with abandoned and dilapidated buildings that formed my childhood playgrounds. These highly personal encounters, allowed me to draw parallels between razed dwellings and the shared despair, yet resiliency, of their exiled inhabitants. By blurring the boundaries between progress and ruin, I am making an observation regarding the misguided inevitability of evolution.

The drawing is made using graphite, acrylic, spray-paint and plaster on wood board.”


“The road to urbanisation for peasants in the post-media era” by 子晗 向, University of London

“The image document the evolution of the rural into the urban by combining the same archetypes, using post-media features to subliminally transform rural people into urban people. The combination of archetypes in the countryside evolves horizontally. In this stage, countryside survives in its most familiar environment. When the next stage is reached, the peasants lives at the bottom of the city, supporting the vertical development of the city with his or her labour.

By working hard in exchange for access to the urban interface, yet still finding the urban prototype of habitation identical to the rural one. Through similarity of each step combined with the representational characteristics of the post-media age, special spaces are created to influence the peasants’ ability to perceive space. In this process, peasants experience the horizontal and vertical dichotomy between urban and rural development, and become familiar with a way of combining working and living environments.”


“Decontamination of Reactor 1 and 2” by Sabina Blasiotti, Bartlett School of Architecture

“Decontamination of Reactor 1 and 2 n portrays hazardous decontamination works inside the Mihama Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, specifically inside reactor 1 and 2. This illustration aims to highlight the complex engineering of a nuclear reactor as well as the long and labour-intensive process of decontamination. The yellow and green hues allude to decay of different metals and the colour of rust and verdigris patina.”


“Outlines of Nuclear Geography” by Sabina Blasiotti, Bartlett School of Architecture

“Outlines of Nuclear Geography is an infographic illustration of nuclear waste materials (e.g. spent fuel, i-graphite, metals, concrete and soil) forming the silhouette of a mountain and stack upon each other following two hierarchies of volume and radioactive contamination. The elevation further annotates a number of different decontamination technologies and potential reuse projects, distinguished for each material.

The elevation of a mountain is a direct response to the design of deterrence markers (such as The Landscape of Thorns or Spike Field by Michael Brill), which employ archetypes to signal an invisible nuclear threat hidden underground.
This illustration engages in a similar approach, but in reverse. The mountain stands for an archetype of eminence, abundance and presence. It does not signal an invisible threat, rather the threat is visualised, classified and exposed in all its matter, as a tangible issue that can and should be addressed.”


“Class-Reunion 2021_Gold/ Ink on Canvas_71 x 47 inch” by Jeronimo Andura, HTWG Konstanz

“Whirling whirlpools in which skyscrapers sink, architects who are thrown out of the picture-structure, desperately holding on to measuring rods and whose clothes have been torn from their bodies, rocket launching bases and tattering cities. A snake, perhaps that of the impending recession and manipulation, raises its hissing head and is seized by an aggressive eagle. The future is not a pleasant utopia, but a desert semiotic landscape of contradicting signs.

In the middle the Madonna(Zaha Hadid) rises radiantly. She appears as the crowned Mother of God. Hovering above the chaos, with folded hands, resting in herself, she is perhaps the one who is able to hold the whole falling apart. Architectural heroes like Mies, Leonardo and others are indicated. The architecture is in a whirlwind, as is the world. In the future it is a matter of finding new ground under your feet and a new point of view.”


“The Complete Map of Capital Beijing” by Fei Wang, Chenhao Luo, Zhi Zheng Deqiang Huang, Junye Zhong Haihui, Zhu, Xinqi Meng Yi Zhang, Yuxuan Wang Kaicheng Zhuang and Wenting Feng, Syracuse University

“The Complete Map of Capital Beijing is a contemporary copy of its original version from the Qing Dynasty. It is the memory, wander, and imagination about Beijing.

It is presented in the form of an architectural diorama with eight new hybrid designs. which are the results of classic prototypes in the history of Western modern architecture mixed with the amateur language of Beijing vernacular constructions. And through personal reinterpretation, they come to Capital Beijing in a strange yet familiar form.

The Complete Map of Capital Beijing calls for an attitude of cooperative work and actively attracts more participants; is open to accidents, compromises, and overdoing it; but at the same time embraces unity of command, in order to ensure that the collective can form a joint force to continuously advance on the track instead of going round in circles and cancelling out each other.”


“Snakes in The City” by Alex Hoagland, Boston Architectural College

“Building design should be reflective of the natural world, with the inspiration of brutalism and a coiled snake this building concept resembles the combination of the harsh realities of the urban environment with the beauty hidden in the coils. Snakes coil to hide and protect themselves. People will do the same to hide their true identity, with time it is easy to see true identity that hides in coils, this will pave way to seeing true inner beauty. When you’re able to untangle what is hidden a larger narrative forms that separates the pray from the predators, symbiotic relationships will show that both are needed to have harmony. The true beauty in oneself reveals itself when they know it is time to strike, like a coiled snake revealing the beauty of its scales.”


“Metropolis” by Peter Wheatcroft, 10 Design

“Metropolis is a fictional futuristic city. The urbanscape is centered around a cluster of tall tower structures that contain public programs for work and urban living. The rest of the city branches out from the podium levels of these buildings, creating intricated public spaces and promenades that connect the rest of the cityscape together.
The scene is full of activity and dynamism where the viewer can wonder and explore the intricate environment of the drawing.”


“The Facade of a City” by Scott Bojanowskim, The University of Texas at Arlington – College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs

“This piece, titled “The Facade of a City”, is a two-point perspective drawing on white Strathmore paper (24″ x 18″) using pencil, Micron Ink Pens, and Faber Castell Colored Brush Pens. The Illustration portrays a dense cityscape in which architectural forms are woven and highly integrated to create an all-encompassing edifice. The sculptural fabric of the city is composed of many layers which vary in color, material, pattern, and form. Assembled together, these layers convey the full apparatus of the city as a single work of architecture.”


“Cosmic Metropolis” by Benjamin Van Dusen, Van Dusen Architects

“‘Cosmic Metropolis’ began as a single 18” x 24” improvised cityscape, rendered freehand in ink and marker. The composition grew organically in axonometric format from the first panel and expanded to another, then another and another. When complete, 18 panels – six wide by three high – made up the 9 ft x 6 ft mural, which repeats horizontally. The black, white and gray tones create an illusion of depth in the total absence of shadows. Rendered completely by hand.”


“The Shipwright’s Anthology – A New Story of Fantastic ‘Knots’” by Jay Jordan, Eskyiu

“The explosive Storyboard sees a sequences of simultaneous narrative snapshots taken from the newly imagined future reality for Hong Kong’s ‘A Kung Ngam’ Shipyards and its waterfront community. Derived from a extensive, meticulous process of narrative cartography, an array of discrete spatial instruments and devices weave their forms into and around existing tissues and thresholds across the bay; rope, rubber, steel, plastic – crucial characters within the anthology of spatial stories that permeate the bay – are reformed and recalibrated as fantastical nautical prostheses, or ‘knots’ – generating new and beautiful frictions of function and value.

The cinematic drawing captures this new agency for the site as an active domain: the Instruments’ forms, rubbing, rusting, buckling and creaking, become at once intriguing and energetic celebrations of the mysterious narrative trajectories they make possible, as well as intimately calculated tools, made of the narrative fabric of the site itself.”

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