2.3 Architectural illustration

Create an architectural illustration that shows the contrast between a building or structure of your choice and its surroundings.
This contrast may be the relationship between an old building and its more modern neighbour, its location, or perhaps the contrast is more embedded in its alterations and renovations. Alternatively you can choose a structure such as a bridge or pylon to work from and explore the contrast with its surroundings.
Think about how you deal with this contrast creatively, through your choice of materials, approach to image- and mark-making and use of colour and composition.
Pick somewhere that’s easy to access and draw. Use your sketchbooks to capture as much information as you can. When you get home either pick your best ‘live’ drawing or use your notes, photographs and sketches to create something more finished. You may find that you didn’t capture as much detail as you needed on your first visit, so you may want to return to get more information. Find out when your building or structure was built and do some research into the architectural style of the building you have chosen.

This project was done on the same weekend trip to London as the Travel project There and Back Again.

Sketches on Location

I started by sketching a range of buildings – I really like the tall Skyscrapers in London.

In terms of choosing a contrast between buildings I decided on the final sketch – the Walkie Talkie and Port of London Authority Building. Unfortunately this vantage point was quite difficult to stay to sketch for long – there was a lot of traffic pollution. It was also very cold. So I took a lot of reference photos.

Researching the Buildings

I did not know much about the buildings themselves. When I got home I started to do some research on the web about the buildings to think through how I might meaningfully illustrate the contrasts.

Port of London Authority Building

Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10_Trinity_Square

10 Trinity Square is a Grade II listed building in London overlooking the River Thames at Tower Hill, in the southeastern corner of the City of London. The structure was designed by Sir Edwin Cooper and built by John Mowlem & Co in 1922 as the new headquarters of the Port of London Authority. (The PLA is now based elsewhere in theCity of London and at Gravesend.)

The building was badly damaged by enemy bombing during the Blitz in World War II and when renovated in the 1970s a functional rectangular office block was built to occupy the central part of the building which was destroyed in the War. It was occupied as the European headquarters of insurance broker Willis Faber Limited following the relocation of the PLA to Smithfield. Willis is now based in the Willis Building in nearby Lime Street.

In 2006, 10 Trinity Square was acquired by Thomas Enterprises Inc. It was sold to a partnership of KOP Group and Reignwood in 2010. KOP lost their stake to Reignwood in 2012. It will be developed into a 98 bedroom hotel with over 40 private residences under the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts brand known as Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square.

The building featured in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.

Walkie Talkie building

Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20_Fenchurch_Street

20 Fenchurch Street is a commercial skyscraper in London that takes its name from its address on Fenchurch Street, in the historic City of London financial district. Designed by architect Rafael Viñoly and costing over £200 million, 20 Fenchurch Street features a highly distinctive top-heavy form which appears to burst upward and outward. A large viewing deck, bar and restaurants are included on the top three floors; these are, with restrictions, open to the public.

It has been nicknamed ‘The Walkie-Talkie’ because of its distinctive shape. Construction was completed in spring 2014, and the top-floor ‘sky garden’ was opened in January 2015. The 34-storey building is 160 m (525 ft) tall, making it the sixth-tallest building in the City of London and the 12th tallest in London.

The tower was originally proposed at nearly 200 m (656 ft) tall but its design was scaled down after concerns about its visual impact on the nearby St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower of London. It was subsequently approved in 2006 with the revised height. Even after the height reduction there were continued concerns from heritage groups about its impact on the surrounding area. The project was consequently the subject of a public inquiry; in 2007 this ruled in the developers’ favour and the building was granted full planning permission. In 2015 it was awarded the Carbuncle Cup for the worst new building in the UK in the previous 12 months.

Developing the Image

I put the sketches and photos together in my sketchbook, and used these to think about different types of contrast and draw up some thumbnails. In fact I really like the Walkie Talkie Building – particularly reflecting the dawn light in the photo right below. I also liked my quick sketch of the building from the lift.

The PLA Building which I find too cold, bland and curly – with its rather lifeless statue of Poseidon and uninspired neo-classical horses. Though I do like the gleaming white stone in the sun.


The PLA Building using rubbed out graphite or charcoal, also as a glue drawing. Also possible uses of white pastel. I needed something with a clear contrast, and within my current drawing capacity – and time available.

I decided to experiment further with drawing on photographs for the PLA Building – my sketch did not convey the stiff neo-classical feel I was looking for. I converted the photo above to black and white, increased the contrast and printed it out onto thick inkjet paper. Then I covered the image in white gouache, and drew over the lines of the building with a merchanical 2B and 3B pencil, using a torchon to blend. This was not actually an easy option because many details in the image were not clearly lit in the photo. Ideally I would have had more sketches. But overall I like the image – particularly the veiny marble-like tree branches that show through the gouache.

For the Walkie Talkie Buidling I thought of a number of interpretations eg using aluminium foil and collage to show the reflections, or layered masking tape to exaggerate the folds. I photographed scratched aluminium foil with different lighting as part of this, or possible backdrop. But I did not think a straight-edged, technological treatment would contrast sufficiently with the PLA Building. In the end I used the quick sketch I liked – it looks like a dirty water tower ‘carbuncle’.

I then took the 3 images: PLA Building, cropped WT Building and aluminium foil into Photoshop and experimented with duplicating layers, masking and blend modes. I tried many different permutations and combinations to make the white/black contrast on PLA as great as possible, while maintaining the marbling from the branches. The final version has an outer glow and drop shadow which makes it stand forward. I inverted the Walkie Talkie to give it a ghostly feel, to give a dreamy space age feel and black background to contrast the white of the PLA Building. The aluminium foil I used as a textured backdrop.