8 Architectural Drawings Offering New Way of Looking at Familiar Places Around the Globe

Architectural artists are using impossibly intricate drawings to celebrate their cities, comment on political systems and imagine future urban landscapes.

Nidhi Upadhyaya Nidhi Upadhyaya

Judging for the Fourth Annual One Drawing Challenge is officially underway. Check out the Top 100 Finalists and stay tuned — we'll reveal the two competition winners in the coming weeks.  

Architects can be storytellers, revealing worlds that exist and also creating ones that don’t. They often draw upon the history of the site, the aspirations of the people that live there and their own hopes for the future to fill pages with whimsical landscapes or distorted diagrams. Sometimes, these creatives also offer a new lens of looking at the same streets we have passed by for years or realizing the full potential of countries that are on a path of growth.

A few participants of Architizer’s One Drawing Challenge have done just that. The mesmerizing architectural drawings below depict memories of existing buildings, propose sustainable infrastructure and celebrate the individuality of cities, all through powerful imagery. If you look at them closely, even a thousand words could fall short of describing all the details that some of them offer.

The Complete Map of Capital Beijing

By Fei Wang Chenhao Luo, Zhi Zheng, Deqiang Huang, Junye Zhong, Haihui Zhu, Xinqi Meng

This modern take on a map of Beijing from the Qing Dynasty captures the memory and wonder of walking around in the city. The intricately detailed architectural diorama is segmented into eight designs that combine classic elements of Western architecture with imagery of vernacular construction. As a project that invites many to collaborate, the illustration welcomes accidents and compromises. The process helps people build on each other’s work instead of canceling out each other. No matter where you look, there is always more to discover.

Transcribing Architecture Through the Medium of Imagination

By Roha Yousaf

The creator describes this work as “a realization of an Architect who sees the unseen worlds with the eye of sub-conscious” and uses fragments of her memory to stitch together a factual narrative. The almost greyscale illustration tells a fictional tale set in Barood Khana, a traditional mansion in the Walled City of Lahore in Pakistan. It depicts the architect’s journey through different neglected spaces within the building and explores its potential.

She explains, “The uproarious silence of site and memory layers of various eras suggested the potential to imagine the wonder world below, where the depth of ground becomes the height of the sky.” In her visions, this place comes alive as a space where art thrives and helps her meet dancers, musicians and sculptors.

The Water Parliament – Bangkok City 2100

By Tyler Lim

The rising sea level is a threat that worries many across the world today. In response to that, this captivating drawing shows how this problem can be embraced and turned into a resource. It imagines a new Water Parliament in Bangkok city in 2100 that integrates water infrastructure into its urban redevelopment and brings back 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,” shared Lim. Various scenes show the three distinct water infrastructures implemented in different parts of the city and reinforce how this conversation can become a global idea.

Chicago : Drifted

By Gregory Klosowski

The dynamic sketch is a reimagination of Chicago’s structured historic Michigan Avenue as a whirlwind of arial activity and blurred textures. The artist has woven in modular towers and angular flying machines with tensile components that span streets. It physically shows how these objects defy gravity and also depicts a larger metaphorical message of defying economic and ownership conventions. Thousands of small lines crave out shadows and thick borders make it appear as of the flying planes are shooting out of the page.

Wuhe Fantasy

By Hao Du

A month of research followed by a month of drawing is what took to create this large artwork that spans about 20 feet in width and 6.5 feet in height. The artist visited and documented 14 urban villages along the Wuhe road in Shenzhen, China to understand what makes each one so unique. Based on these observations, they create a fictional narrative around each one that shows their aspiration for the future. These ideas were then turned into detailed Rhino models that were later edited on Illustrator. The perspective shows those villages and how they lie in the urban fabric represented by generic buildings and warped text. Brighter colors draw eyes to these pockets and help them stand out in a sea of pastels.

Milk Falls: An Architectural Prophecy of Uganda’s Agriculture by Atim Kilama-Oceng

This flourishing setting is a vision of what Uganda would look like when it becomes an agricultural superpower. The scene focuses on the intricacies of processing goat milk, giving it the name Milk Falls. According to the artist, the milk is transported from the milking parlors and down the falls to the pasteurizers. In this step, the milk passes through hot tubes and the temperature difference gives rise to white vapor or Milk Clouds that add to the beauty of the landscape.

City of Nothing // Island of Everything : Park Avenue Elevation

By William Bayram, Declan Wagstaff, Christopher McCallum

Manhattan is known to be one of the most iconic cities in media and architecture. The New York borough is a city, but also an island. Its complexity lies in its individuality as well as its connectivity to the rest of the world. However, the increasing popularity and growing density requirements call for imaginative solutions. This drawing explored both the pragmatic and fantastical outlook for this space and separates the drawing into the seen and the unseen. It overlays the vertical and horizontal drawing elements to show Manhattan as “a blended world of consumption, sustainability, cultural and political iconicity”.

The Holy City of Detroit: The Kingdom of Heaven

By Qaisy Jaslenda

This complex graphic is a take on former US President Donald Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again”, questioning the policies under his administration. The artist images Detroit as a holy site that is a pilgrimage destination for Christianity, with Trump at its helm. Also taking inspiration from the artwork of Edmund Burke, the drawing uses two guards at the bottom right corner set against a flat projection of the city. What seems like a pretty picture actually stands in for a harsher possibility. The gilded wings are surveillance drones and the whimsical clouds are meant to be chimney emissions. Furthermore, the vibrant red background depicts water contaminated with harmful minerals and red algae.

Judging for the Fourth Annual One Drawing Challenge is officially underway. Check out the Top 100 Finalists and stay tuned — we'll reveal the two competition winners in the coming weeks.  

Nidhi Upadhyaya Author: Nidhi Upadhyaya
Nidhi Upadhyaya is an architect and journalist from Mumbai, India. When not working, she can be found binging on DIY videos, experimenting with art mediums or making a dent in her large to-read list. She has previously worked as Features Writer for Elle Decor India, Assistant Editor for India Inc, Art Director for the print edition of Bombay Binge and is currently the Editorial Assistant at TED-Ed in New York.
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