Main Street USA Project

The next phase in our architecture project will introduce the elevation drawing.

An elevation is a view of a building seen from one side, a flat representation of one façade. This is the most common view used to describe the external appearance of a building. Each elevation is labelled in relation to the compass direction it faces, e.g. the north elevation of a building is the side that most closely faces north. Buildings are rarely a simple rectangular shape in plan, so a typical elevation may show all the parts of the building that are seen from a particular direction. *

More below the fold:

Examples of Elevation Views

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The above is a set of elevation views for a standard contemporary big box store. Note that the architect provides a view of all four sides, labeled: East Elevation, North Elevation, West Elevation (Parking Side), and South Elevation (Street Side).

Here is another set of elevation views for a Tim Hortons restaurant at the same location:

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Main Street USA

Here is a photograph I took in Newton, Kansas in 2006. Ever since I started spending a chunk of every summer vacation in Kansas I have been struck by how there are so many examples of great old buildings everywhere you turn. Depending on the town, some of these old buildings are falling apart, some have been modified a great deal, while some have been lovingly cared for or restored.

Newton Kansas 2007

We have examples of this type of architecture in California as well:

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Of course, Main Street USA at Disneyland is an idealized version of a turn-of-the-last-century midwestern town. The buildings on Disneyland’s Main Street are also not to scale; the bottom floor of the building is significantly shorter than a traditional building and the 2nd story is even shorter still. This gives the buildings a doll house like feel and kept the scale from getting out of hand in the limited space they had when building Disneyland.


A Short Digression on the Revitalization of ‘Old Town’ Main Streets

zwxnvu2ihgmxabfpclozCould Disneyland’s Main Street have contributed to revitalization efforts in towns and cities across the US?

That’s the idea behind this short post on Southland:

But could Disney’s nostalgic reimagining of small-town America actually change the way architects and planners approached cities? That’s the conclusion renowned architectural historian Vincent Scully—an unforgiving critic who once wrote that Disney “so vulgarizes everything he touches that facts lose all force”—reaches in his foreword to Building a Dream: The Art of Disney Architecture (1996):

In the period of the 1950s and 1960s when Disney came up with Main Street, it and indeed all traditional urbanism was despised by modern architects and planners alike. Disney, with whatever hokum, revived it, and in doing so brought into being a public awareness of architecture’s fundamental dimension, which has to be that of the town, the city, the human settlement entire. So the visitors to Main Street, pedestrians all, and looking for all the world like actors in a play—how affecting that was, because the city is, after all, a theater for human acts—took back home with them the unshakable conviction that their own Main Streets might be saved from the automobiles and the shopping malls and all the horrors of Redevelopment that were destroying them everywhere.

But Main Street did more than provide a foil to modernist urban design. It also, Scully writes, inspired Americans to think more carefully about their architectural heritage:

…for whatever complicated reasons, Historic Preservation grew stronger every year from the opening of Disneyland onward, and the incomparably popular mass movement it represents is beginning to bring to fruition everywhere those revivals of the vernacular and classical traditions of architecture, and of traditional urbanism, which Disneyland, as perceived by Charles Moore long ago, so effectively suggested. This has been the great architectural achievement of the past generation, and Disneyland plays an honorable part in it. [emphasis added]

Monrovia, California is a good example of a community that revitalized their walkable downtown while preserving their architectural heritage:

2013 Taste Of Old Town Morning GCI

As well as Old Town Pasadena:

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Old Town Pasadena in 1972:via Pasadena Digital History @flickr

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More Elevation Views

Our assignment will center around drawing elevation views of classic Main Street type buildings. What follows will be examples that you can turn to for reference and inspiration. On your own time, hunt down Main Streets using Google Maps and Street View like we did in class to find your own reference as well.

An artist at Disney works on an elevation view of Buena Vista Street for the California Adventure Theme Park:

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This is a very nice set of elevation views that were on display at California Adventure to promote the changes to the park. However, I wish I could find a better ‘straight on’ view of these images, but this will have to do for now:

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Minty Sainsbury

Taking a break from ‘Main Street USA’ let’s take a look at Scotland based artist Minty Sainsbury at work. While I’m impressed by buildings in Kansas that have been standing since the 1870s, Sainsbury lives someplace where 300 year old buildings are not uncommon.

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A modern architectural rendering for a building that attempts to capture the look of an old main street:

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More Reference

Below are additional images to refer to or use for inspiration. I took most of these pictures in Kansas, except for one photo from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and another from Savannah, Georgia.

Ottawa, KS:

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Washington Square, Savannah, GA: The building on the right is actually new construction designed to fit with the style of historic downtown Savannah.

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Albuquerque, NM:

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The next several photos are from Peabody, KS:

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McPherson, KS: Note that there are some obvious modifications made to the scene below in McPherson. It was common in the 1950s and 60s to ‘modernize’ the look of a town by covering the old buildings with sheet metal designs like you see in this image.

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Another example of mid-century modification can be seen on the building on the left:

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Mount Hope, KS

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The Process

Start your drawing with light pencil pressure.

Ink your drawing then erase after the ink dries.

Mix and blend to create your own custom colors.