Imagine you walking toward St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. But not on sidewalks. You rather stroll in the middle of the grand thoroughfare Via della Conciliazione, with the view of St Peter’s Basilica in front of your eyes. The basilica comes into view as a magnificent (though almost-2D) picture. You can’t see its sides. Thus you can’t guess its depth and real shape. Yet, it looks majestic. The effect is grand. This is frontal perspective.

basilica vatican
St Peter’s Basilica. Vatican. Frontal view.

Frontal perspectives are easy to master both in drawing and reality. In drawing you outline the building’s volume as if it were just 2D. Then add a bit of depth. How? Draw a dot in the middle of the building. This is your head. The higher the building, the lower the dot. All lines parallel to your line of sight (the line that connects your eyes with the building’s surface) converge toward that dot (in more technical terms: the dot is the vanishing point).

frontal perspective
Frontal view hides an optical illusion. Parallel (in reality) lines seem converging towards a point. This trick was discovered by Renaissance artists and employed in 3D drawing ever since.

 

In reality the effect of frontal perspectives is overwhelming. People seem dwarf-like, insignificant and submissive in front of a grand building perceived frontally. Reached from grand avenues, frontal perspectives have been handy tools for rulers to show off their power.

Practice with examples of communist architecture. Esthetically this is very poor architecture. It’s an addition of simple massive cuboids glued one next to, or on top of the other. Because of its poverty of shapes, communist architecture is easy to start with. To add depth you just double a couple of vertical lines. Fill the walls with endless window rows and … here is your frontal perspective! 

casa poporului
Parliament. Bucharest. 1989

 

 

government minsk
Government. Minsk

 

Drawings get always nicer than the reality they represent. Don’t be mislead. These two buildings deny the whole architectural wisdom. But in black-and-white they look almost nice. That’s an advantage of drawing. It has more power than a photo to convey meanings and stories. It stirs the audience’s imagination. A good incentive to start drawing!

 

 

 

 

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