A work of great beauty and erudition exploring the diverse ways in which architecture has been represented–from 2130 BC (the earliest known architectural plan, carved into a statue of a Sumerian ruler) to 2018 (an atmospheric inkjet print by Caruso St John). It’s rewarding to browse the images, arranged in complementary pairs, making discoveries and encountering old favorites. Madelon Vriesendorp’s witty cartoon for the cover of Delirious New York confronts Bernini’s design for the Louvre. Da Vinci’s sketch of a church faces a computer image for Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Guggenheim. Freehand sketches by Alvar Aalto of Finlandia Hall and by Erich Mendelsohn of the Einstein tower are juxtaposed. You’ll find all the usual suspects here, from Boullé to Archigram, and many obscure treasures. Some comprise no more than a few lines, others are richly detailed. Visionary fantasies share space with detailed analysis of structures and cities.

But this is more than a compelling compilation of pictures. Helen Thomas is a London-based architect and professor who has written a scholarly introduction to the art of representation. In her texts she discusses the materials and techniques of architectural drawing, the use of color and perspective, from Old Master drawings to computer software. And she makes it clear that drawing remains an invaluable tool of creativity and promotion in the digital age. Architects of every generation follow Gehry’s lead in drawing and modeling by hand before opening their computers. Others—like Steven Holl—paint for pleasure and preparation.

Drawing Architecture. Helen Thomas. (Phaidon, $79.95)

Michael Webb

Author: Michael Webb

Michael Webb Hon. AIA/LA has authored more than twenty books on architecture and design, most recently Moving Around: A Lifetime of Wandering, Architects’ Houses, and Building Community: New Apartment Architecture, while contributing essays to many more. He is also a regular contributor to leading journals in the United States and Europe. Growing up in London, he was an editor at The Times and Country Life, before moving to the US, where he directed film programs for the AFI and curated a Smithsonian exhibition on Hollywood.