Architectural Reference Book for Sketchers?

November 17, 2016 | 9 Comments

I occasionally get asked for a recommendation for a good reference book explaining architectural terms (styles and elements) for sketchers (not architects).

My answer: Rice’s Architectural Primer by Matthew Rice.

Although limited to a history of English architecture, it contains a wealth of information about architectural details and elements, all beautifully drawn in ink and wash. It contains pages of different elements and then pages showing specific buildings with their features noted. I have a more comprehensive and heavy duty illustrated architectural dictionary, but this book is pure delight.

There is also a book on churches and one on the villages of Britain. I have both of these as well, and they are great, but if you are looking for a single book, the Primer is the best.

Best thing for me to do is just to share a few sample pages.



  • Kate Powell says:

    I still recommend “Architecture: Form Space and Order” by architect and Urban Sketcher Frank Ching. If someone actually wants to know what they are looking at, I’ve found this gives them a book they can find everything in, including concepts that help architects draw architecture — rhythm, repetition, axis — so they can begin to see what they are looking at. And it covers many styles.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Kate, yes, agree that Ching is the best for understanding architecture. This book is more an architectural style and element/detail book.(just added clarification in the body of the text)

  • Glenn Tait says:

    Took a look at the introduction on Amazon and loved this insightful comment: “Drawings are better than photographs for this becaue so much can be left out.” That’s a primer in itself for drawing and sketching.

    Looks like a great book and it’s very affordable. Will add it to my list. Thanks.

  • Manuela says:

    The pictures below look really interesting and so I ordered this book immediately. It is not so expensive and will be good for my learning sessions. I will get more in details while sketching architecture.

  • Ros Crompton says:

    Hi Liz, thanks for this intro to a book which appears to create a bridge between architecture and sketching. I have ordered it from the Book Depository along with his book of Village buildings and look forward to their arrival. I’ve been on holiday in the Flinders Ranges recently and loved drawing old cottages in farming and mining communities.
    Best to you,

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi ros – hope you enjoy the book. Sounds like you have had an amazing trip – somewhere I want to go one day!

  • Suki says:

    I just discovered that a new book of his will be released in May 2019 – Rice’s Language of Buildings. Looking forward to seeing what that one is like too!

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