Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

David E. Leatherbarrow


Despite being practiced in a documented way for centuries, architectural survey drawings have been understudied and overlooked as a form of inventive drawing. Although the architect-as-surveyor's scope of creativity may be more limited and nuanced when compared to other kinds of architectural drawings, it would be a mistake to assume this kind of image-making has no interpretive dimensions. This dissertation traces the historical trajectory of architects' drawing practices between the 1920s-1940s when the profession's interests and approaches to recording the built environment changed from examining architectural masterpieces in Europe to investigating buildings by collecting "data" across the US and China. This study compares various architects' drawing processes by examining archival records, field note sketches, and final published drawings. Drawings by architects Harold Van Buren Magonigle, John Russell Pope, Douglas Ellington, employees of the Historic American Buildings Survey in its first phase, and the "First Generation" architects Liu Dunzhen and Liang Sicheng as members of the Society for Research in Chinese Architecture, reveal the international scope and variety of interpretations resulting from a recording practice often described as objective. The dissertation discusses how the architects above created "architectural documents," final record drawings, and historical drawing plates to present existing buildings as heritage sites and sources of design knowledge. In conclusion, this analysis proves the architects' survey drawing practice to be a form of craft knowledge with interpretive qualities rather than a mechanical recording exercise. This history foreshadows contemporary heritage interpretation practices and the ongoing instrumental role of architectural survey drawings for attributing meaning to the past in the present.


Available to all on Friday, January 31, 2025

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