Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Perspective - One Point Perspective - Interior Elevations

You may have notice in the previous post that many of the one point examples were of urban street scenes. This is because one point perspectives are not very good at “seeing” the complete shape of a building. You typically see only one elevation, while the others are hidden or foreshortened to illegibility. If you shift the vanishing point far enough to one side to reveal the side of the building, you start to introduce distortion (discussed HERE).

Interior views, on the other hand, are well suited to one point perspectives. The drawing above shows a surprisingly complete and undistorted view of the interior rooms. As long as the space is not too deep this technique is both quick and effective. 

This elaborate rendering of the Paris Opera Grand Stair by Charles Garnier, is basically a simple box. The box is decorated like a wedding cake, but the perspective work is straightforward.

This sketch of Ickworth House staircase by F.C. Penrose illustrates the sketching utility of one point. The complexity of the staircase has been set into the far wall elevation. The result is inexact, but gives a good feeling of the space.

Theatre Set design is a natural use for one point. This design by P. Chaperon creates a sense of serious drama both in the formal detailing and the symmetrical view. Since most theaters are built to put the audience on one side of the stage, a variation on one point is almost always used.

Mies van der Rohe was famous for being a miserable draftsman, but even Mies could master the simple one point in this pencil sketch of the Hobbe House.

Paul Rudolph is famous for sharp rectilinear designs, and equally sharp rectilinear renderings.  This rendering of Flap House uses the one point to create an abstract grid within a realistic drawing. 

The Yale Architecture Building by Rudolph is a bit too brutal for my taste, but the finely hatched rendering above is a masterpiece. I have at least one rendering from way back on which I uses the same technique; and yes it was a fairly shallow building section seen in one point.

Foster Associates have followed in the steps of the modernists in both design style, and in the use of crisp one point perspectives. The Olsen Center in London is a perfect subject for this drawing style, being a large open space based on a strict grid.

This pencil drawing by J.G. Campbell of an academic courtyard lends itself well to one point.  Indeed I would guess that a courtyard is the iconic use of one point perspectives.

A linear design is also a natural for one point.  The Con Edison building in Buchanan, N.Y. by Mitchell Guirgola (1970), illustrates the ease of construction and efficacy.

Although leading to a curve, the narrow hallway in James Stirling’s Town Center Derby is also a natural.

While attending architecture school I was blown away by this drawing by Friedrich St Florian. The graphic simplicity contrasted with the spatial suggestiveness sparked my imagination. You could say that his drawing pushed me toward the drawing side of architecture. 

(Ignore the two-point perspective view at the bottom of this image). The one point section perspective, and Rossi’s Trieste Administrative Building are a perfect match. (Actually, DO look at the exterior view below it to see why a one point could never have captured the full shape of the building).

Quartier de la Villette by Leon Krier is another example of the courtyard one point perspective. The insane grandiosity and the unappealing colors aside, it is an excellent and information filled drawing.

I have to admit that one point perspectives of barrel vaults do a lot for me. This drawing of an Exhibition Hall in Frankfurt am Main by Oswald Mathias Ungers is a favorite, and, is obviously seen best in one point.

Serious, dramatic and symmetrical, the Guernica Museum by Iniguez & Ustarroz plays the one point perspective for all it’s worth.

Only one of the drawings in this post could be called a masterpiece.  The Houston Design Center by Steve Oles fits that description. Not only is a perfect example of the section perspective, but is finesses the office spaces, and highlights the cascading atrium space, making a beautiful and informative piece of art I’d love to see on my wall.

Here is another section perspective using the one point. Al Lorenz of Lorenz & Lizak is a well known delineator, artist, designer and teacher in the NYC area.

Although one point section perspectives were hot in the 60s and 70s, they have been brought to a more refined level in more recent times. This view of an auditorium by Robert Becker is just one example.

And the moral…

You may have noticed that nearly half the examples were section perspectives; which is hardly surprising since a section perspective is nearly always a one point perspective. In addition, any of the non-sectional drawings could easily have been converted to a section perspective. 

The examples that don’t easily work as a section are ones that might fit into the exterior “court” examples of the previous post. So why did I include them here? Just gut feeling.

There is one example that is an object in space, the Flap House by Rudolph, and It is included because of the unusual design. With the “flaps” up, it is a platform open on all sides; essentially the drawing is part exterior and part interior. A solid box with windows would not have revealed much in a one point. The very open nature of the architecture makes it suitable for the interior category.

NOTE: These posts are NOT meant to be a tutorial on one-point perspective. There are plenty of websites that do that. I want to illustrate some of the interesting examples, and point out the major problems and opportunities out there.


  1. Greetings.
    I'm glad to discover your site, and this interesting article. But one thing puzzles me: your writing that "Mies van der Rohe was famous for being a miserable draftsman..."
    Whether looking at his early, charcoal perspective drawings (like the concrete office building), or his exploratory plans for courtyard house projects, or formal drafting for construction documents (I've seen all types of these drawings, in the original, at various MoMA shows), it seems like Mies was a master draftsperson. So I'm curious at how your arrived at your assessment?
    Thank you!
    Thank you.
    Seth Joseph Weine

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