Hand sketch versus CAD – fundamental debate in architectural representation

Hand-drawn sketches and drawings are the language of ancient architects. Each architect had his own style, a unique selling point that expressed the architectural personality and signature. A drawing by Frank O. Gehry, Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer and many other well-known architects was so personal that the author could be identified immediately. It is said that Gehry’s sketches resemble a crumpled piece of paper. Niemeyer’s reduced sketches, consisting of a few concise lines, speak their own language. Does this type of design still exist, or is it a relic of an architectural era?


The original image of the architect working on his drawings armed with a pencil seems to be disappearing more and more and can hardly be found in reality anymore. Since CAD (Computer Aided Design) has become more sophisticated and developed, the time for pencil sketches seems to be superfluous. They seem like memories of an old time. CAD drawings, on the other hand, are more efficient because they are easier to change, contain elements that can be copied and some things, such as dimensioning, can even run automatically. This saves time and thus costs. Another advantage is the use of the drawings as a template for renderings and photorealistic presentations.

Is the drafting table and scetching dying out?

Designing on the computer is now a common method for most architecture students. Hand drawings are only made in basic studies. The graphical examination of the design is an important component in the design. Developing proportions on the computer is different than with a drawing pen. This also includes model building. These craftsmanship skills are necessary for the development of an architect.

As you are, so are your buildings. Louis Sullivan

To design buildings and rooms in such a way that both the function and the design form a homogeneous unit and that it becomes a high-quality design. Unfortunately, the number of architects who can also design is decreasing. However, I do not want to go into detail here about the course content of some architecture faculties. Today, good design is no longer necessary for investor buildings. It’s about cheap construction that sells at a high price.

Sketch Prof. Ulrich Kuhn 

Sketch Prof. Cord Machens

Professional CAD visualization certainly also offers great potential for presenting a design to customers in a realistic manner. However, sometimes the charm that only a handmade drawing can convey is missing. An architect who puts the execution of his planning ideas directly on paper in conversation and by hand drawing has great advantages when contacting customers. That’s where an Architect get Orders come from!

Sketch Archi+

Final Touch

It is not surprising that architects only use sketchbooks in exceptional cases. Hand drawing is an intensive examination of the design and direct communication with his customers.

Hand drawings are an individual and artistic medium that have a special expressiveness. We do both.
Hand sketches with the customer and in the planning workshop in the preliminary design phase or during corrections. Sometimes we use models to create a “better” sense of space. We produce Cad drawings for the next planning phase of the building application or the implementation planning. For special projects and after the design has been determined, we also create photorealistic visualizations. For us, both manual and computer-aided drawing work belongs to a professional architecture office.

Hand-drawn sketches are still irreplaceable in a design-oriented architecture office…


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