20 Stunning Hand-Drawn Sketches of Iconic 20th-Century Homes

Diego Inzunza uses his unique drawing technique to reimagine these architectural icons.

Sydney Franklin Sydney Franklin

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Detailed and compelling drawings hold major power in the profession of architecture. While renderings attempt to produce a realistic version of a project, architectural images and diagrams created using old-fashioned pens and paper retain a tactile, timeless quality. Now more than ever, as technology continues to transform the way buildings are designed, hand-drawn sketches are increasingly being held in even higher regard.

Lovell Beach House (1926) by Rudolf Schindler

Diego Inzunza, a young architect and illustrator from Chile, has created a series entitled “Architectural Classics” that beautifully depicts iconic pieces of residential architecture from the 20th century. These axonometric sketches reveal the architects’ overriding vision for each project in an understated and understandable way. From Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson to Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, Inzunza’s drawings bring a fresh perspective to these classic and beloved projects.

Villa Savoye (1931) by Le Corbusier and Fallingwater (1939) by Frank Lloyd Wright

Architizer spoke with Inzunza about his “Architectural Classics” series and what he hopes to do with his drawing skills in the future.

Sydney Franklin: What is your architectural background, and how did your Architectural Classics project begin?

Diego Inzunza: I was born in Chile in 1990 but was raised in Riverside, California, where I resided from age nine to 20. There, I became an avid admirer of street art. Through various friendships and high school classes I gained the interest in fine arts and became involved in the local art scene, but when I migrated back to my country, I saw that the artistic scene was far from what I had become accustomed to in SoCal.

It was then that I decided to enroll in the Architecture Major at Universidad Diego Portales, in the heart of downtown Santiago. I felt that my natural abilities in drawing, math and observation would be well applied in the art of building design.

Hill House (1904) by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Since the professional field of architecture demands a high skill level of software capabilities, I felt that my first love, which was drawing, had become completely sidelined. Even though sketching and freehand design is encouraged, it was very much overshadowed by renderings; there was a constant need to produce 3D models, and planimetric information was necessary to present each project.

This is why, during my senior year of college, I decided to go back to sketching and illustration and create this project in parallel with my thesis project. This helped me to not only expand my architectural knowledge, but also inspired my own thesis project.

Rose Seidler House (1950) by Harry Seidler and Eames House (1949) by Charles and Ray Eames

What drew you to these specific iconic structures?

In architecture school, we are introduced to the great modern masters from day one, which helps us to understand and assimilate our mindset to techniques and the fundamentals of space design. As the years pass and our projects become more complex, we start to value the true meaning of early modern architecture and begin to study them more in depth.

When I decided to start this series of drawings, I was instantly inspired to revisit these homes, in part because the house is the scale in which many of the ideologies of these architects were first tested and also because I have never had the chance to visit any of these in person, so I thought it would be a beautiful way to experience them from abroad.

Frederick C. Robie House (1910) by Frank Lloyd Wright

Have you considered adding onto this collection or creating an entirely new series on a different typology?

Yes. The Architecture Classics series currently has 20 homes drawn, but the idea is to reach a total of 30 homes from around the globe. This current series is set to feature homes built within the 20th century, but I intend on making other series of isometric drawings, some of which include churches and temples, iconic public spaces and a special collection of isometric drawings about my favorite city, Valparaiso, which is located in Chile. I also want to make a small series of isometric images based on iconic movie moments from some of my favorite films.

Farnsworth House (1951) by Mies van der Rohe and Casa-estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo (1932) by Juan O’Gorman

What types of tools do you use to create your illustrations? What are the benefits of drawing by hand rather than using digital software?

The primary tools are pencil and eraser. Then, as the rough draft of the building is finished, I have a number of fine-tip pens. I believe that up until this point, the actual drawing is very basic and unpolished, but the use of illustration markers is what really brings life into them. I use a variety of brands and a great variety of shades and tones. A ruler is also very important to compare proportions and to verify if the drawing is being true to the architect’s design.

Gehry Residence (1978) by Frank Gehry

The main benefits of drawing by hand is that you can easily create and sketch out complex geometries that would otherwise take long periods of time for many 3D-modeling architects, including myself. I also believe that the texture and line work created by hand creates a very specific depth in the image that is fascinating to look at in person. As a fine arts disciple, I believe that sketching by hand develops a unique connection to the subject being drawn — in this case the home — and this causes you to look at them in much more detailed and analytical ways, since you are physically engaging in every line.

Software brings a beautiful new dimension to architecture illustration because it can create limitless variations of an image by simply clicking and adjusting features of the model. I really enjoy that when creating diagrams and shadow studies, but I still believe that drawing by hand elevates this experience to a sort of art of its own.

Glass House (1949) by Phillip Johnson and The Prairie Chicken House (1961) by Herb Greene

You recently completed your undergraduate degree in architecture. How did you use your illustration skills in school and how do they inform your professional practice today?

Throughout high school, I always kept a variety of sketchbooks and used them to illustrate different interests of mine throughout the years. In college, I kept this habit and collected many sketches and inspirations, along with writing that would explain the meaning behind the forms. Also, my school encourages hand drawing a great deal and even encourages us to scan most of our sketches so that, when submitting a project, we can explain how each concept evolved.

However, even though I drew quite a bit, the overall volume of drawings I did diminished significantly in comparison to art school, so I decided to revisit this personal passion of mine within my last year of college. With regards to my professional practice, I unfortunately rarely use sketching, since 3D modeling is the main design tool utilized throughout studios nationwide.

Casa Giraldi (1976) by Luis Barragán

Many renowned architects who are decades into their career are famous for their lifetime collection of architectural drawings. Where do you see yourself taking your architecture or illustration work in the future?

My lifelong dream is to become a full-time illustrator. I see my illustration work crossing over different fields, such as architecture, street art, graphic design and even tourism. However, I hope to always maintain my architectural vision closely linked with my personal style of imagery. I hope to integrate fine art and architecture in a fresh new way that would link the general public to architecture and vice versa.

Koshino House (1984) by Tadao Ando and Melnikov House (1929) by Konstantin Melnikov

I hope that my collection of drawings is not only something that people want to see in an aesthetic manner, but also in a way that helps them to reflect upon how the world that surrounds us could and should be like.

I also hope that my illustration work inspires many other architects to pick up the pencil and utilize this wonderful tool, which is drawing to draw inspiration from their surrounding world and propose new and fresh ideas to implement in their own designs. I would also like to conduct illustration workshops for young students who have the interest in art and/or architecture.

Malaparte House (1937) by Curzio Malaparte and Adalberto Libera and Gwathmey Residence (1967) by Charles Gwathmey

Do you have any tips for students who want to draw more in 3D?

Even though most professionals in any given field will always say the same, I strongly believe that pure and simple practice is the absolute best thing that we can do to become better at anything. In the case of drawing, this helps to train the eye and improve your line work, and slowly you begin to understand how to combine colors and shades. I also advise students to look at other illustrators, not just in the field of architecture, but all creative areas, since there is always styles and color palettes that you can draw inspiration from.

As a more technical and objective way of drawing better in 3D, create a grid with lines in 30- or 45-degree angles, along with horizontal and vertical lines, and practice with a blank sheet of paper over it to draw the shapes that you desire. In time, your eye will become accustomed to this method without the need of a grid.

Schroder House (1924) by Gerrit Rietveld and Gropius House (1938) by Walter Gropius

Images courtesy of Diego Inzunza Rosamente; banner image: Villa Savoye (1931) by Le Corbusier and Fallingwater (1939) by Frank Lloyd Wright