A Century Of Design & Innovation In Architecture

Over the last 100 years, architectural design and construction have undergone significant changes along with technological advancements. Architectural design has come a long way, from hand drawings to full-blown CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) and even AI-generated imagery. This article will start at the beginning of architectural design and take you all the way through to the present day so you can explore the journey and see how it has evolved over time.

The History of Architecture Drawing

Before we explore the last century, it is essential to know a bit about the history of architectural design. Some of the earliest examples of architectural drawings date back to 2200 B.C. These designs can be traced back to the ruler of an area in Mesopotamia that was celebrated using the creation of a statue with a plan for a temple he had commissioned carved into his lap.

Design was utilised from an early time period. However, formal teaching of architectural education didn’t start until the inauguration of the December 1671 Académie d’Architecture in France.

Then, in 1834, The Institute of British Architects, known as RIBA, was founded.

Today, 115 Universities in the UK offer Architecture degrees and courses, and the National Architectural Accrediting Board states there are 175 NAAB-accredited programs provided by 139 institutions of higher learning in the U.S. and worldwide.

The early 20th century: The era of hand drawings


The early 1900s contained the beginnings of modern-day architectural design by formally trained architects. Though hand-drawn, it was expertly created and directly used in the construction of buildings during that time.

The most common styles of architecture in the early 1900s were the Colonial Revival and the Classical Revival, inspired by early American buildings of Georgian, Federal, or Greek Revival style.

The techniques of hand-drawn architecture included:

Many significant structures were built utilising architectural drawings in the early 1900s. These included:

At the start of the 19th century, the population of the UK rose from 1 million in 1801 to 5,567 million in 1891, which forced builders to create homes with more rooms than ever before to help with overcrowding. This increase in population changed the design of homes moving forward.

Mid-20th century: Introduction of photography & basic software


Many technological advancements shaped architecture throughout the mid-20th century.

First, photography saw major improvements in quality, and people began to use it more frequently as it was more accessible to the general population. These advancements created a shift from using illustrations to show buildings to more truthful images and increased the popularity of different types of architecture worldwide.

In addition, the first Computer-Aided Design (CAD) was introduced in 1957. Still, while it was an incredible feat, it would not be fully adopted into the architectural world for another 20 years.

Many significant structures were built utilising modern construction design in the mid-20th century. These include:

Late 20th century: The rise of digital tools and Photoshop

In the 1970s, early CAD programs allowed architects to produce 2D designs equivalent to hand-drawn drafts, allowing the profession to switch to the new method.

CAD programs quickly grew in popularity until, in the 1990s, programs like AutoCAD became an industry staple, and architectural and engineering firms began to use them everywhere.

Photoshop was also released in 1990 and is still used today to help architects annotate, label, and highlight key design elements.

With all of these advancements, it’s no surprise that after the 1990s, computers began to replace drawing boards. This switch was due to their newfound ability to create rendered images printed into glossy visions of projects that even included clip-art features of humans that made architectural drawings art instead of just a vision of a soon-to-be-built building.

In the late 20th century, Deconstructivism and its derivative imagery took over the architectural style.

Famous buildings built in the late 20th century include:

Early 21st century: Advanced software and CGI


As mentioned previously, CGI was invented in the 1950s. However, it was not adopted into the architectural space until far later. In the early 21st century, this technology was developed to offer even more benefits to architects.

In 2010, 3D visualisation began being used widely by architects because of its increased ability to create and share high-quality images.

The early 2000s architectural style was Neo-Eclectic, and notable architecture built in the early 2000s include:

Current trends: Integration of VR and AI in architectural design

Today, 3D images showcase future properties as if they were already built. A well-made CGI is a professional montage of camera work paired with a soundtrack to attract clients and help them truly visualise their future building.

There are four types of architectural 3D animation projects. These include:

recent study discovered that 68% of computer applications are integrated within the formal architecture curriculum, while the others are set as standalone courses. This means not every architect can successfully utilise CGI, even with its growing popularity.

Because of this lack of integration into formal education, many architects outsource the CGI portion to ensure they are created properly and meet the customer needs.

In 2023, CAD was used to create 3D designs by 74.8% of engineers, architects, and designers worldwide, while the other 24.2% were still utilising 2D design.

Current architectural trends include:

CAD is projected to increase to 75.8% of 3D rendering usage by 2028.

The Global CAD market size, which was valued at  $9477 Million in 2022, is expected to reach $13544 Million by 2028, with a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 6.13% expected from 2022-2028.

As for new technology, one example that is already changing the world in many ways is AI visualisation, which began in 2022. AI uses text to create images without the help of a human, while machine learning can improve workflows. Though they won’t replace the importance of humans in this work, they are an excellent tool.

Some other future innovations to look forward to include:

Over the past century, the field of architectural design has undergone a transformative journey, evolving from hand-drawn sketches to the complex marvels of 3D visualisations that bring to life structures that have yet to be built. As we navigate the future, it becomes imperative for professionals to stay informed of technological advancements, for these innovations will continuously redefine the contours of architectural design.

In our ever-evolving world, it is essential to recognise that despite the advancements in AI, the unique human touch remains irreplaceable in many sectors, including architecture. In addition, the challenges posed by environmental changes call for a reimagined approach to design that prioritises creativity and sustainability. As we look ahead, it’s clear that these elements will play a crucial role in shaping the future of architectural design, ensuring that the built environment not only meets the demands of the present but also embraces the possibilities of tomorrow.