The View From Halcyon Farm: The Art of Architectural Drawings

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    Ever since there have been architects, there have been architectural prints, or plans. The person who built Stonehenge or the pyramids, probably had some crude drawing or scheme of what the edifice would eventually look like. The workers just didn’t randomly start putting stones in place and hope that they’d end up becoming a self-supporting structure.


    In architecture today, almost everything is done on the computer – it’s called CADD, computer-aided design and drafting. Although most architects older than about 50 or so were trained in hand-drawing, many of the younger ones weren’t, and aren’t learning that skill.

    For hundreds of years, people, including us, have collected architectural drawings and prints. If you’re at an antiques show, or in a shop like Halcyon House Antiques, you can often find beautifully engraved or hand-painted architectural prints.

    arch prints postcard

    The detail on these drawings is amazing, especially when you consider that they were hand-engraved at the actual size of the print. No Photoshop for these artists!

    Most architectural drawings are done either as an elevation or a plan. An elevation is as the building looks from a head-on perspective like this engraving of Hotel Dieu, an old hospital in Paris.

    dieu paris

    A plan shows the layout of the building, where the rooms and corridors are located.

    dieu paris2

    These two architectural prints are from the fascinating (!) 1880’s book on hospital construction and management, proving that the building doesn’t have to be some elegant extravaganza to have architectural appeal!

    Though they are similar, architectural drawings are different than blueprints, which generally have the specifications for electrical, HVAC (heat, ventilation & air conditioning) shown on them. They are for use by the contractors and builders. Their gorgeous blue color does have a certain appeal though! This is a very early plan of Johns Hopkins, made before the hospital was built and a number of changes were made.


    In mid-April, Halcyon House is hosting an exhibition and sale of a collection of beautiful 18th, 19th and 20th century architectural watercolors, which we have collected and assembled over the years. This is an opportunity to begin a collection of your own, or add to a collection which you’ve already started. In conjunction with the Baltimore Architecture Foundation, an organization which promotes the appreciation of the built environment for architects and lovers of architecture, Halcyon House is hosting an opening reception on Tuesday, April 14 at Halcyon House Antiques.

    The watercolors in this collection are beautifully rendered classical buildings with elements such as Palladian windows, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns, stone arches and much more. 



    We hope that you will be able to join us for this special presentation and reception in April. Please call Eric at Halcyon House Antiques at 410-828-8889 to make a reservation.

    The View From Halcyon Farm is sponsored by Halcyon House Antiques, located at 11219 Greenspring Avenue in Lutherville and open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For more information visit the Halcyon House Antiques website or call 410-828-8889.

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