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Photo: Image of existing shopfront at 56 Artillery Lane

Sketch 01: Measured Drawing of a Georgian Shopfront

Date Posted: 25.08.2019

Location: 56 Artillery Lane, Spitalfields, London

Some of you might be wondering, ‘what exactly is a measured drawing?’, and if it is what the name entails, ‘why on earth would you ever do one?!’. Well, allow me to explain. A measured drawing is simply a drawing which has been produced from hand measurements. They are usually produced for the purposes of understanding the design of a building or detail and less for the purposes of documenting an all-inclusive survey of the existing conditions.

Measured drawing seems to have been gaining wider popularity in the traditional and classical architecture world in both the US and UK. George Saumarez Smith, Director of ADAM Architecture, is in my opinion, the man leading the impetus for architects to do more measured drawings and has taught courses on this for the ICAA, University of Notre Dame, INTBAU’s Classical Architecture Summer School, and for the Prince’s Foundation.


His grandfather was renowned architect, Raymond Erith, who once told a young George that one of his regrets in life was not doing more measured drawings in his life. Since then, George has made it a personal hobby to do measured drawings and has been filling up sketch book after sketch book of drawings – mostly of details in England, but sometimes drawings from his international travels. The subjects vary from public squares, molding profiles, full building facades, door details, column capitals, plasterwork details, to even floor patterns. 

I was inspired by George to start doing measured drawings myself since it was not something I had ever done previously. It wasn’t until I had completed one myself that I fully appreciated what the experience was able to offer. When measuring, you are investigating every nook and cranny of a building and are able to observe and analyze all parts of a building. The inferences you had made at first glance may be wildly off in reality. Perhaps that central element wasn’t central after all, or maybe all of the columns weren’t actually the same size with equal spacing. Perhaps you notice a peculiar solution that you wouldn’t’ have normally seen if you had just simply taken a photo.

Through measuring you begin to realize the design constraints and the subsequent solutions made by the architect or builder. Those measuring a building will start to make conjectures on the storyline and timeframe of the design and construction of the building. You start to collect construction details in your memory which can be quite useful in the office if you’re a professional in the construction industry. The knowledge gained from measuring a building is immense and it is a great way for architects get away from the computer screen and to experience something tangibly, to better understand things in three dimensions, and to grasp the actual sizing of materials in construction.

Over time you start to collect measurements on similar building elements which becomes an archive for comparison. If a client or contractor asks for the approximate size of things you could readily answer and even draw a 1:1 detail for the discussion, as George regularly does. The noting of width to height dimensions also gives you higher awareness of typical proportions which is always a helpful piece of knowledge to have when designing under time constraints.

TAG Award Ceremony with Francis Terry

I recently won the Traditional Architecture Group’s Measure Drawing Prize which was actually one of the first completed measured drawings I’ve ever done. So with that in mind I’d like to share my process in case some of you were interested in trying it yourself. For my drawing, I decided to measure the beautiful Grade 1 Listed Georgian shopfront at 56 Artillery Lane in Spitalfields, London.

56 Artillery Lane is an 18th century building located in Spitalfields, London. It is not known exactly when the building was built, but there is evidence that the building was rebuilt between 1750 and 1756 as a shop for Hugenot silk merchants. More recently, the building was sold to Alex Sainsbury who converted the building into the Raven Row free art exhibition space today.

  1. CONTACT THE OWNERS – To start, always clear it with the individuals who use or own the building. I initially had other buildings in mind and several of them would not allow me to measure their buildings, so I was very pleased to finally receive a response from Raven Row who stated they were happy for me to measure the shopfront. I then lugged a big ladder, a tape measurer, sketchbook, scale rule, and pencil on the tube and went to the site.                              

  2. MEASURE ON SITE – Because of the scale, complexity, and level of detail on the shop front, I spent two days on-site measuring the building extensively, taking photos throughout to take back home with me to Winchester where I would draft and watercolor the measured drawing. When starting a drawing it is important that you take note of the overall width and height of the subject since this will determine what scale and paper size you should ideally use. My measurements were done loosely and more importantly, legibly. I took all principal measurements the first day, and came back a second day to measure the finer details in between.                                        

  3. DRAFTING ONTO WATERCOLOUR PAPER – I then drafted the image onto 140lb Cold-Pressed Arches watercolor paper paying close attention to lineweights and making sure that my pencil was sharp to make sure areas with a lot of details would be clear. There will always be some discrepancies between your dimensions so this part usually takes longer than anticipated.  I scanned the line image in case the watercoloring went terribly wrong.                                        

  4. 3D SHADOW STUDY – The bays and columns made it a bit more complex to cast shadows easily by hand, so I modeled the building in 3D on the computer using ArchiCAD to understand how the shadows would fall more accurately. I then drafted the shadow outlines over the line drawing to help me through the watercoloring process.                                                             

  5. WATERCOLOUR – after much of the tedious drafting work was done, I was finally able to move on to the slightly less tedious task of watercoloring the whole building. I started with the building washes first, making sure I was grading the building properly and differentiating the depths of different planes. I taped the ground line and borders to make sure that they stayed clean. Then I began to watercolor the shade and shadow, making sure the tones were convincing and evenly balanced throughout. Near the end of the whole process I put in material colors and final touches on the reflected shade and shadow in the cornice and ornament. The borders and lettering were left for last which I always forget needs to be just as carefully painted.                                         

  6. FRAME - I then went to the framers and spent about an hour to choose the right frame that fit the color scheme of the painting. I went to Frontispiece who is run by a friend duo who are passionate about what they do, attentive to detail, and offer competitive prices.  


I’d encourage anyone to try it at least once. Can it be tedious and mind-numbing sometimes? Yes, and you will have to exercise a bit of discipline but you can always make it enjoyable for yourself. Invite another archi-geek friend to do it with you, buy some pizza to eat while you’re measuring if it’s a particularly big building, or heck, even play some music out loud if you’re able to. Perhaps have some fun in the rendering method – use a medium you like or something new you’d like to try.


Now what are you waiting for – get measuring!

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