Linework: 3 basic things about line

Linework: 3 basic things about line

In architectural language, Line is the basic graphic symbol for all plan and section drawings. Line defines spatial edges, renders volume, creates textures, and connects to form words and numbers.

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Linework in plan and section should be sharp and dense with uniform width and consistent value for the purpose of legibility.

There are three basic characteristics of lines in plan and section drawings:

1   Line type

dotted, short-dashed, long-dashed, and continuous line; each type has a specific function and meaning.

Dotted or short-dashed lines represent unseen edges of an object.

Continuous lines represent the visible edges.

Short-dashed lines, in general, represent hidden or unseen objects in front of or below the observer.


In plan drawings, these lines are often used to indicate objects underground.

In sections and elevations, they are often used to indicate the location of objects behind any opaque planes.

Long-dashed lines, in general, represent hidden or unseen objects behind or above the observer. They also indicate items within the construction limit that are to be removed.

For example, the roof overhang line in a floor plan is often represented with long-dashed lines.

Existing contour lines are shown with long-dashed lines while finished or reshaped contours are drawn with continuous lines.

2   There are four basic line widths:

Extra thick, thick, medium, and thin.

These are arbitrary subdivisions and there are no standardized measurements for each width. The width of lines is relative and depends largely on the content and the overall size of the drawings.

Thin lines may be quite appropriate for a small drawing but become invisible in a large and busy plan.

In principle, thick lines are used for objects closer to the observer and thin lines are used for objects farther from the observer. Strong spatial edges such as an edge of a building or the edge of a tree should be rendered with thicker lines than elements that do not have such a strong vertical break. Paving patterns fall into this category.

3   The quality of the line depends largely on the drawing medium.

In architecture, there are standard symbols and line types for a designer to use. Landscape drawing tends to be less restrictive but designers likewise have to follow many of these symbols. The quality of a line can be more fluid and expressive in the schematic and conceptual design phases. These drawings focus primarily on the design message and are therefore less restricted by standards and formats.

Depending on the design subject, conceptual and schematic plan and section drawings are more likely to emphasize the artistic side of the message. Line quality in these drawings becomes more ‘poetic’ and lively than their counterparts in design development and construction documents both of which can be static and lifeless.

Design process directs the diversity. Subject matter sometimes dictates the difference. A situation such as presentation may decide the choices, but it is the designer that ultimately will make the choice based on his or her skills and talents.



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