The Ultimate Guide To Mastering Architectural Diagrams

What are Architectural Diagrams?

 

Architectural diagrams are effective visual tools for architects that help to communicate complex design ideas in much clearer ways to diverse audiences, be it to your clients, tutors or fellow professionals.

The inclusion of a few simple and catchy diagrams in your presentations or client meetings, can make more of an impact than lengthy paragraphs which may easily be glossed over in situations where time is of the essence.

In this blog post, we will help you get to grips with the world of architecture diagrams. By exploring the various types of diagrams, we aim to equip you with some helpful insights and practical tips that will hopefully inspire you to make your own incredible architectural diagrams.

Scroll to the end to download this article as a handy PDF guide!

What are Architecture Diagrams Used For?

 

Being incredible visual aids, architecture diagrams can serve numerous uses. They can come in handy when collaborating with others as they provide a platform for brainstorming ideas and finding innovative design solutions to complex problems. They also create great opportunities to gain some valuable feedback.

Architectural diagrams can serve great storytelling purposes. Looking back to ancient cave paintings we can see our earliest ancestors making use of diagrams by etching their narratives into cave walls. Today, many architects and popular firms such as BIG and MVRDV make use of architecture diagrams to construct compelling narratives around their designs.

Examples

The following architecture diagrams show the thinking behind the architecture of ‘The Spiral’ building designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).

The Spiral by BIG
Architecture Diagrams Example 3
Architecture Diagrams Example 1
Architecture Diagrams Example 2

We have found another example of how architectural diagrams can be used, by the firm MVRDV, for the presentation of their installation project called Architecture Speaks: The Language of MVRDV.

Architecture Speaks The Language of MVRDV
Architecture Diagrams Example 5
Architecture Diagrams Example 4
Architecture Diagrams Example 6

Despite their 2D nature, architectural diagrams can convey both 2D and 3D dimensions. Additionally they can be used to produce creative hybrid architectural results. There are many ways to do this, one is to create diagrams by experimenting with the style of architectural projection using your software of choice. Nowadays you can even find animated architectural diagrams that are quite captivating and effective.

Since designing a building is an iterative process you may find yourself circling back to your initial diagrammatic sketches and ideas, refining them in order to develop your thinking and perhaps to even generate alternatives.

All in all, understanding the various types of architecture diagrams and what they are used for will greatly help you pick the best ones to enhance your designs. So let’s take a look at the different types of architectural diagrams, next.

8 Different Types of Architectural Diagrams

 

There are various different types of architectural diagrams you can use to best communicate ideas relating to your design, concepts and other relevant information you wish to convey. Let’s explore some of them below:

Concept/Parti Diagrams

Concept or Parti diagrams are often used to represent the key concepts that underpin your entire design and building composition. Think of them as little diagrams that show your main idea in the most simplest form.

They serve a pivotal role in the architectural design process. You will find architects and students referring back to the concept diagram when developing designs, as it describes and defines different elements of the overarching vision of the project.

Parti diagrams become quite useful ways to succinctly showcase your key design idea on your presentation sheets.

Concept diagram
Concept diagram 2

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Programmatic Diagrams

This architectural diagram is used to show the programme of a building. They basically include the breakdown of spaces or functions that a building needs to have. For instance they make highlight spaces like reception areas, waiting rooms, offices, and other designated functions within the building.

A Programmatic diagram often make use of text, colors, and function showing icons to represent the diverse functions or spaces within the structure. This helps stakeholders, including architects, designers, and clients, to understand the types of activities taking place within a building.

They are essential tools in the early stages of the design process for brainstorming and deciding the layout and configuration of spaces within a project.

Programmatic diagram

Adjacency Diagrams

Adjacency diagrams are also referred to as bubble diagrams and space planning diagrams. In essence, they depict the spatial relationships within your building in a 2D format often with the help of lines, simple shapes and arrows. So thinking about the approximate size of a kitchen and how it connects to the dining room and then to the rest of the spaces involved etc.

You can also make these bubble diagrams according to the different user groups occupying your building and highlight the spaces they would most interact with. This can especially be helpful for say a hybrid design project where there are multiple functions and uses.

Adjacency diagrams help architects explore various design possibilities and spatial arrangements before creating detailed floor plans.

Since these share a visual likeness and structure to mind maps which are widely used across many disciplines, you are sure to find a diagramming tool online to quickly put an adjacency diagram together.

Adjacency diagram

Massing Diagrams

These diagrams focus on the overall 3D form, volume structure, scale and organisation of a building. They help architects explore different possibilities and models for the arrangement and scale of volumes in a design without detailing specific functions or spaces.

Massing diagrams can particularly be useful in the early design stages when you wish to test out different formal operations to best suit your design’s concept.

Massing diagram
Massing diagram 2

Analysis Diagrams

As the name suggests, these architectural diagram types are intended to help you understand or showcase the key features, core components or processes that may be taking place in and around your building. The following are the main types:

Site Analysis Diagrams

The most popular examples of these types of diagrams are site analysis diagrams. These help to provide a clearer view of the defining features of the specific context surrounding a site or space. All the information like the adjacent buildings, topography, weather conditions etc can be included in these.

Site analysis diagrams are great tools that help an architect make informed design decisions and ensure the building responds well to its immediate environment and context.

Site analysis diagram

In case you are interested, we have put together our own Architecture Site Analysis Bundle, which can help you out if you struggle with analysing sites. Check it out here:

Site Analysis Complete Pack

Structural Diagrams

Another version of analysis diagrams are structural diagrams. In these you highlight certain structural elements, detail components, or even technical processes taking place within your design. Things like a dynamic facade system or maybe a rainwater harvesting process are examples.

Their main aim is to show the organisation of elements and their interactions to help both the architect and stakeholders understand the systems structures better.

Structural diagram

Circulation Diagrams

These are a common type of architectural diagram and are used to show the movement of users or certain processes within a building. They can be quite handy for designers to visualise if the circulation in their building is on par with building regulations. Elements like fire exits, staircases, stair cores, lifts, pathways etc are mostly displayed using sections or exploded axonometric diagrams.

Knowing where these circulatory elements are located within the layout system is important for an architect to ensure the building is optimally designed to meet crucial regulations such as those concerning access and fire escapes.

Circulation diagram

Sequential/Process Diagrams

As mentioned earlier,  you can use diagrams to tell a story. You can represent your initial ideas, your design developments as well as your resolved designs all in one diagram.

Massing diagrams can also be good examples of this type of diagram, as you are able to describe the different stages of development that took your project from its initial form to the final form. You can use the same base drawing to create multiple diagrams, and highlight the main stages of development with each drawing. This will help you create a snapshot image of your design process.

Sequence diagram
Sequence diagram 2

Making Architectural Diagrams

 

There are numerous ways and methods to make your architectural diagram.

Hand Sketching

Most of your ideas will probably be a result of hand drawn sketching as it remains an integral part of the design process for architects. It is quick and helps you explore ideas in a free and less restrictive way.

Architects often use their initial sketches as diagrams to depict their thought process. These also carry a certain charm and character that sometimes digital outcomes may lack.

Architectural Software

The most obvious way to make a more precise and curated diagram, would be through the use of architectural software. These could be any architectural software of your choice. Popular ones include Photoshop, Illustrator, SketchUp, Rhino etc.

These software offer various features that can help you give your diagrams and drawings a very polished and professional look.

Online Diagramming Tools

Nowadays, there are various tools and websites available online that help you quickly produce architectural diagrams in no time. These can be a great option for when you want to quickly brainstorm ideas and test out design iterations.

Tips for Creating An Impactful Architectural Diagram

 

The following are some useful tips to help you get started on creating your own awesome architectural diagrams:

  • Choose what you wish to represent and conduct relevant research if needed.
  • Make a rough sketch to have a starting point.
  • Look for inspiration on the representation style you want to emulate. An architectural diagram can consist be a simple line drawing to a more rendered style, so it will be helpful if you have a clear picture of what you are aiming for.
  • Select a cohesive colour palette.
  • Try to maintain a good level of visual hierarchy. Ensure that you keep the text, shapes, lines, icons and other elements you use, fairly consistent.
  • Pick the right software and tools – For vector diagrams opt for Illustrator and raster images choose Photoshop. For 3D diagrams, you can use the various 3D software options available to model your ideas and then extract images to trace over in order to create accurate diagrams. When using architectural software, make sure you work in layers so that it becomes easier to edit.
  • Experiment with different architectural projections when creating your architectural diagram. There are various drawing styles and projections you can use such as: Planimetric diagrams, Sectional diagrams, Axonometric diagrams.
  • Think of mixing digital and analogue methods to produce a more expressive result. For instance you could overlay your architectural diagram on top of your physical model photos to create a more dynamic visual.
  • Refine and add relevant details to make your architecture diagram more legible. Include a key/legend. Consider adding some entourage to show scale.
  • Try not to go overboard. The intention is to simplify your ideas, not make them more difficult to understand.
  • Finalise your architecture diagram.

Helpful Links

Books:

Experimental Diagrams in Architecture: Construction and Design Manual
https://amzn.to/49bXvBF

Architectural Diagrams 2: Construction and Design Manual
https://amzn.to/42lulhs

Pinterest Board:

We also have put together an ‘Architecture Diagrams’ Pinterest board to help inspire you. Feel free to check it out:

 

You might also be interested in:

 

We have loads of other incredible architecture content. Be sure to check it out:

Architecture Drawing Projections FI
Understanding Scales and Scale Drawings FI

Conclusion

 

In summary, visualising your concepts through architectural diagrams can help you save a lot of time expressing your complex design thinking and processes to a wide range of audiences. They are simple and easy to understand visual aids that can have stronger impacts when compared to text alone.

Understanding architectural diagrams and knowing how to effectively create, communicate and use them is a crucial skill for both architects and architecture students. They not only help define how you work on your own design process but also act as effective ways to communicate your ideas with others.

We hope this blog post helped you learn more about these awesome visual tools.

Thank you for reading! 🙂

 

 

Your Comments

 

What types of architectural diagrams do you find yourself using the most? Do let us know in the comments below.

Also, feel free to share this post with a friend.

Thank you!

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Author

Written by Valanne Fernandes, a Part 1 Architecture graduate. Valanne is a content creator with First In Architecture, spending her time researching, writing and designing inspiring new content for the website.

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2 Comments

  1. Architectural diagrams are the best way to truly visualise plans. We work with lots of architects on projects and we’d be lost without diagrams and drawings.

    Reply
  2. Well done

    Reply

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