Understanding Architectural Drawings

Drawings for Clients, Exhibitions & Lectures

Here we see the sort of highly-finished drawings Soane would have had made to show a client how the building he designed for them would look.

We also see the drawings which were made for exhibitions which were an essential way to show his skills as an architect and we see the sort of drawings he had made to illustrate the lectures he gave at The Royal Academy as Professor of Architecture. This section contains an extract from one of his lectures which is illustrated by the drawing of domes.

Collections | Understanding Arch. Drawings | Drawings for Clients, Exhibitions & Lectures
RA Lecture Drawing: Domes

RA Lecture Drawing: Domes


Soane was Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1806 until his death in 1837. He took his lecturing there very seriously and had hundreds of drawings made, which were the equivalent of a slide or PowerPoint show. They were strong, powerful images to make a particular point, often copied from existing prints or illustrations. They were held up as Soane spoke. His friend J M W Turner, the greatest English painter of the time, considered it an honour to hold them up for him. Unfortunately, it seems that Soane spoke too fast as he gave the lectures. There would be lots of work in the office to get the drawings all done. This drawing, made by one of Soane’s assistants, Charles Tyrrell, in 1814, shows the comparative sizes of famous domes. The smallest is a section of Soane’s own design for the Rotunda at the Bank of England built in 1785. The next is an elevation of the Radcliffe Library in Oxford designed by James Gibbs and built in 1748, then a section of the Pantheon in Rome (drawings of which you can see in Elevation: The Pantheon; Plan: The Pantheon; Section: The Pantheon) built in the early 2nd century AD. The largest is an elevation of the dome of St Peter’s, by Michelangelo, also in Rome, completed in 1590. See how cleverly the draughtsman shows the different sizes of the domes.

Click here to read what Soane said about domes in his lecture.