Behind the Scene: Carlos Diniz’ Collection in the Architecture Design Collection


Figure 1. 1961, San Francisco, CA Architect: Skidmore Owings and Merrill; Wurster, Bernardi, & Emmons; Pietro Belluschi Ink on Vellum

Carlos Diniz (1928-2001) is recognized as one of the most influential American Architectural Illustrator and Graphic Designers of the 20th century.  He has been working with lots of well-known and pioneering architects of the 20th century, such as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), and Frank Gehry. His works are mainly landmark, historical structures and developments through the1960s to 1980s. The AD&A Museum holds his archive. While the collection is not being exhibited this year, I believe it is worth being exhibited. Most of his illustrations are made before computers were widely used for architectural illustration. They show Diniz’s outstanding skills in delineating details and his talents for storytelling.

His impressive skills and talents were apparent from the beginning of his career in 1952. He was able to render the finest details of each architectural design. In his illustration of Bank of America Headquarter in San Francisco, designed in 1961 by Skidmore Owings and Merrill (Figure 1), he succeeded in showing the sense of awe that this skyscraper in 1961 was meant to evoke. This black and white sketch depicts the intricate change of light and dark on the surface of the building. The texture of the exterior is carefully rendered. Viewers can make sense of the solidness of concretes and the transparency of glasses. All the strokes give a gentle and gradual change of patterns on the outside due to the conditions of sunlight and clouds. The shadow behind intensifies the magnificence of this building. The scale of the drawing also emphasizes how tall this building is. Buildings next to it, by contrast, look tiny and mundane. To indicate the proper scale of the tall building was hard without the aid of computers. However, relying on his instincts to make sense of the relative space, Diniz successfully demonstrated the height of the building and its relation to the surroundings.


Figure 2. 1962 – 1965, New York, NY Architect: Minoru Yamasaki & Associates Ink on Mylar

Carlos Diniz was also good at creating narratives in his architectural illustrations, which pictured what life would be around the buildings. In his illustrations for the World Trade Center in New York designed by Minoru Yamasaki, he successfully showed the public what the soon to be constructed environment would be like and how people would interact with it. In this drawing (Figure 2), people are interacting with each other around the fountain in the center of the plaza. In the background, two world trade center buildings are shown. People are chatting with each other and walking around the fountain. Children are curious and touch the ring of the fountain, trying to understand how this fountain works. This illustration pictured a lively story: one of people’s lives in a sunny afternoon during the weekend.

– Hanzhou Chen, Curatorial Intern ADC


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