An elevation is one of the 3 principal kinds of architectural drawings, in which a three-dimensional layout is described in two dimensions. Others are section and plan. In each case the viewer’s line of sight is perpendicular to the plane upon which the building’s elements and surfaces are projected. In the instance of an altitude, it is a vertical plane in front of and parallel to a building’s facade (exterior elevation) or a single side of a room (interior elevation).

To help clarify how an altitude depicts a construction, these two elevations of the Farnsworth House (Mies van der Rohe, 1953) are followed with photos of the same. The top drawing is tagged the south elevation, meaning the elements and surfaces which are depicted are facing south; we are awaiting the north. The identical reasoning applies to the bottom drawing, that is the other side of this construction on the north.

Here we are looking at the Farnsworth House’s south elevation. Notice the measures in the foreground on the flip side, like in the drawing.

Here we are looking at the Farnsworth House’s north elevation. Notice the measures on the best, that can be depicted beyond the floor slabs at the drawing.

Dylan Chappell Architects

Of course, elevations are not simply for documenting completed buildings. For describing designs which are in 10, they are also. This very helpful mixed-media drawing shows an altitude of a multifamily project positioned next to an present Victorian building. The rendering enables the architect to observe how the new construction relates to the old one, important in a historic district.

Dylan Chappell Architects

Most houses (at least ones composed of predominantly 90-degree walls in design) need four elevations to describe the whole exterior. Putting them on a single page is helpful in viewing all cardinal directions.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

An interior elevation functions in precisely the same fashion as an exterior elevation, in terms of the airplane’s being parallel to wall surfaces and vertical to the line of sight, however its extents (the top, bottom, left and right edges) are defined by the floor, ceiling and adjoining walls. These helpful drawings by Bud Dietrich reveal a variety of things considered through interior elevations: wall materials, layout of built-ins, heights of different components (note the scale characters in a couple elevations) and the shapes of distances.

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