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SG209 Program A

Sketching and Analyzing Historic Buildings

3 Units
Instructor: Prof. Max Cardillo
Instructor: Prof. Michele Benucci
Instructor: Elena Lorenzetti


Mornings: Lectures 1.5 hours (4 weeks)
Afternoons: 4 hours field work (2 weeks restoring stone work of the facade of the Church of San Carlo in San Gemini)

Course Description

USEFUL SKILLS: Freehand drawing, digital photography, Photoshop

USEFUL TOOLS: Laptop computers, digital camera, Photoshop software

The aim of the course is to develop intellectual skills in analyzing historic buildings. Participants will use freehand drawing as the main recording and documentation tool.

The course is composed of two parts: the morning classroom lectures and the afternoon sketching workshop.

The morning lectures focus on the nature of historic buildings both from a material and contextual point of view, so that students can understand buildings in order to analyze and read how they evolve through history. The afternoon workshop is the analysis and documentation of historic buildings in the medieval core of San Gemini, as part of a study of the urban evolution of the city.

In the workshop students receive basic instruction about free hand drawing techniques.

This course also includes a series of classes led by external lecturers who deal with various issues related to the field of conservation.

Course Objectives

The objectives for this course are for the participants to record and document buildings through sketching (free hand drawing) using pencil on paper. A good tool for recording, sketching is also a useful analytical tool because it is a slow, systematic process that forces the eye and the mind to observe in detail the building or object that is being recorded.

Summary of Lecture Content

Documenting Buildings

  • Graphic documentation of buildings

  • Basic sketching techniques

  • Written documentation

  • Thematic documentations

Historical and Cultural Analysis

  • Use of the building

  • Historical documentation of the building

  • The building’s evolution

  • Urban context

  • Archaeological evidence

  • Stylistic analysis of its art and architecture

  • Iconography and artwork

  • Building contents

State of Conservation

Structural condition

  • Weather enclosure

  • Condition of finished surfaces

  • Condition of mechanical systems

  • Condition of art and contents of building

Contextual Overview

History of San Gemini and the region

Physical Evolution of the city of San Gemini

Italian city typologies

  • Classical

  • Medieval

  • Renaissance

  • Industrial

Italian building types and styles

  • early Mediterranean

  • Etruscan

  • Hellenic

  • Greco-roman

  • Romanesque

  • Gothic

  • Renaissance

  • Baroque

  • Illuminism

  • Revivals

  • Industrialis

Traditional building structural systems

  • Traditional structural systems

  • Bearing wall

  • Post and lintel

  • Vaulted

  • Arch

  • Domes

  • Buttressing

  • Beams and trusses

  • Modern structures

  • Traditional building materials

    • Mud

    • Stone

    • Twigs

    • Brick

    • Mortars and cement

    • Wood

    • Iron and Steel

    • Glass

    • Various metals

    Traditional construction methods in Italy

    • Foundations systems

    • External walls

    • Floor systems

    • Roof systems

    • Interior and exterior finishes

    Building Systems

    • Heating

    • Lighting

    • Ventilation

    • Power

    • Water and sanitation

Workshop Field Work & Topics of Discussion

Field Work

Students will sketch and analyze the facades and evolution of a number of buildings in the medieval core of San Gemini. This work is part of a continuing study of the evolution of the city’s historic center.

5 elevation sketches

4 sketches of building details

1 perspective sketch

Report on the building sketches, summarizing a conclusion of analysis

Methods of describing buildings


  • Plans

  • Sections

  • Elevations

  • Axonometry

  • Perspectiive



3D animation

Mixed Media

  • Drawings

  • Text

  • Photographs

Freehand  Drawing (sketching)


  • Pencils

  • Pens

  • Color pencils

  • Watercolors

  • Erasers

  • Horizon

  • Vanishing points

  • Construction lines

  • Margins

  • Drawing Layout

Transformation Patterns in Buildings

Core structure and typology

Expansions and additions





Seams: changes between phases

  • Material Structural systems

  • Construction pattern

  • Architectural style

  • Iconography

  • Foundation settlement


H. Hearder, H D.P. Waley, A Short History of Italy. Cambridge University Press
Peter Connolly and  Hazel Dodge, The Ancient City. Oxford University Press
Jean-Pierre Adam, Roman Building : Materials and Techniques,Taylor & Francis

Earlier Event: May 27
SG204A Program C
Later Event: June 23
FT1 Intersession Field Trip