Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hugh Ferriss — Drama in Architecture

Hugh Ferriss was an architectural illustrator known for his dramatic renderings of early skyscraper designs. He sketched from observation, but he also worked from imagination when commissioned to visualize proposed structures.

Here's an example of a rendering of a proposed building, the Convocation Tower designed by Goodhue in 1924. The building rises up like a rocket ship into the night from a flood of light at the base. 

How did he achieve such accurate perspective, but also such a sense of drama and atmosphere? 

"The first stage is a rough layout of the streetscape and the foreground traffic." (According to Drafting Room Practice by Eugene Clute, 1928, quoted in the blog Beyond Illustration). Note that important details of the building at far left are still unresolved.

"The second image shows a general defining of the forms by establishing values throughout."

 "The third image shows the final rendering with the various tonal areas detailed. The rendering was produced with carbon pencil on a fairly smooth drawing board. As you can see he drew and erased as needed to get the needed effect."

Ferriss made this drawing of an existing building, the magnificent Venetian-styled Madison Square Garden, before it was torn down in 1925. Note the unified dark tones of the foreground, and the counterchange from light-against-dark at the base of the tower to dark-against-light at the top.


krystal said...

Crap. I thought this was Sketchup. Just kidding.

Warren JB said...

I've seen that name and style years before, mentioned as a major influence on the look and feel of Gotham City in the early '90's Batman animated series:

Good to be reintroduced to little more of his work and practises here. Thank you!

Pierre Fontaine said...

I have a lovely book of Hugh Ferriss' architectural renderings.

He had a great imagination when it came to architectural design. My favorite is a bridge and a skyscraper merged into one unified building:

Strangely, while his drawings conveyed the excitement of the future, many of his concepts would have been stifling in real life.

As Warren mentioned, perhaps that's the reason why his images became the template for Gotham City in the 90's Batman animated series that Bruce Trimm designed.