Architecture Tools: 30 Essential Tools for Architecture Students and Architects

Architecture Tools

Architecture, a discipline as ancient as civilization itself, has undergone profound transformations over the millennia. From the meticulous hand-drawn blueprints of the past to the highly sophisticated digital models of today, the tools architects employ to bring their visions to life have evolved dramatically.

The change has been particularly pronounced in the last few decades, with the advent of computer-aided design (CAD) and various other technological innovations.

In the eras of pencils and paper, architects relied heavily on their drawing skills and an array of physical tools to draft plans and visualize structures. The drafting board was an architect’s constant companion, and precision tools like compasses, rulers, and protractors were indispensable.

However, the digital revolution ushered in a new era in architectural design, offering unparalleled precision, efficiency, and flexibility.

Despite this technological shift, the essence of architecture remains unchanged: it is a blend of art and science, creativity and precision, vision and pragmatism. Tools, whether traditional or digital, serve as extensions of the architect’s thought process, enabling the translation of abstract ideas into tangible forms.

They facilitate communication, foster collaboration, and empower architects to push the boundaries of design and construction.

From the drafting table to the computer screen, from sketchpads to BIM software, here we unravel the multifaceted world of architectural tools, underscoring their significance in shaping the buildings and spaces that define our world.

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Architecture Tools and Equipment List For Students and Architects

Starting architecture school (and any other new course for that matter) can be stressful and intimidating, and none more so than not knowing what you’ll need to give yourself the best chance of doing well.

So here we provide a shopping list of the equipment and tools for architecture students that we feel is the most necessary for any young designer or in fact architect to own and have access to.

But please note that not all of this needs to be bought at once, it can be built up over time.

To summarize the architects tool list:

  • 101 things I learned in architecture school
  • A good set of drawing pens
  • A good set drawing of pencils
  • Modelling scalpel
  • Architect student bag
  • Scale ruler
  • Steel ruler
  • Cutting mat
  • Tablet
  • Drawings tube
  • Metric handbook
  • Tracing paper
  • Ear Phones
  • Yes is more
  • Laptop
  • Laptop sleeve
  • Mouse
  • Sketch book
  • Note book
  • Sketch book
  • Tape measure
  • Book of your favorite architect
  • Drawing board
  • UHU glue
  • Architectural graphics
  • Adjustable triangle
  • Mechanical pencil
  • Note taking pen
  • Mitre Box Kit
  • Tool Box
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When first starting architecture school, you tend to get given the classic book and equipment architecture tool kit list that had been recycled year upon year, with a lot of it just not being relevant.

It was a good list, but we barely used half of what was recommended, with a lot of the books still collecting dust even now.

Every architecture school is different, and will have specific reading lists for specific units and projects. What we provide here is an essentials list that can be applied to any school, which will hopefully guide and help you through your first year and the years to come…

  1. Apple 10.9-inch iPad

    Tablets are a great addition to your studio equipment and life as a student in general. With them being small and light enough to carry just about anywhere, they are an excellent everyday tool for studio work, tutorials and lectures. In our opinion an iPad’s our favorite product, but there are many more to choose from. Dedicated drawing tablets are also an extremely useful tool and highly adaptable for a surprisingly large amount of architectural tasks.

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  2. Dell Inspiron 15 3511 Laptop

    A blend of performance and budget ...powerful, efficient and well designed, much like the above XPS.


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  3. Cricut TrueControl Knife Kit

    A large part of Architecture school is model making, and in your first year it will be encouraged, if not made mandatory to produce everything by hand, and so a good, sharp scalpel is a fundamental tool to have.

    It will also be one of the first of many model making tools you accumulate over the years, and if you buy a good quality one at the beginning, it will last you all the way though to when you’re qualified. 

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  4. 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School

    This is a book that students of architecture will want to keep in the studio and in their bags. It is also a book they may want to keep out of view of their professors, for it expresses in clear and simple language things that tend to be murky and abstruse in the classroom...

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  5. Rotring Pen Set

    As first year architecture students one of the most essential items of equipment you will need, is a good set of pens that you can both draw and take notes with.

    Architecture school almost always starts off with drawing and sketching, and so these will become your best friend.

    …Even when you eventually start working digitally.

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  6. DAVID CHIPPERFIELD

    We describe here how useful it can be to know everything (or as much as possible) about your favorite architect, and as a first year architecture student, even just one of their books can be an invaluable resource. If you don’t yet know, then start looking on Pinterest first and discover the type and style of architecture you like, and go from there. We recommend a couple here also.

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  7. Drawing Tube

    These fantastic adjustable tubes enable you to carry your drawings without the paper getting torn and/or damaged, and as a first year architecture student you will have a lot of drawings!

    So for a relatively low price, they can be a life saver.

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  8. Fjallraven, Kanken Classic Backpack

    We have a list the bags we would currently recommend for architects here, and we think it goes without saying that you’ll need one on a day to day basis.

    Students often find themselves having to carry large amounts of equipment, so please don’t think you won’t need one.

    Try to choose one that will be both versatile and comfortable to carry on field trips and site visits.

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  9. Staedtler  Drawing Pencils

    Much like the above pens, first year architecture is all about exploring different media and developing your drawing and sketching skills. These pencils provide the range of hardness and softness required for just about any sketching situation. The metal case they come in also helps to protect and keep them together.

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  10. Architectural Graphics

    The sixth edition of "Architectural Graphics," a classic bestseller by global authority Francis D.K. Ching, comprehensively introduces graphic tools and drafting conventions for effective visual architectural presentations, with hundreds of the author's unique illustrations, and updates on orthographic projection in 3D models, line weights, scale and dimensioning, and perspective drawing to elucidate complex concepts.

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  11. UHU ALL Purpose Adhesive 35ml

    UHU will be become your best friend throughout architecture school, we think it’s one of the best glues for model making, that can get you through just about any scenario. It’s best to buy more than one tube at a time if you can, to be the most cost efficient.

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  12. Portable Drafting Board

    Drawing boards aren’t essential, as there should be some in your college and university studios, but they can quickly get used up, especially when close to deadline. So having your own can be a life saver, even just an A3 one.

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  13. Stanley Tape Rule

    If you can, always carry a tape measure with you in your bag, and when you’re unsure of how high or wide something should be, simply measure it. Even when you’re in say a hotel room, if something that feels too tight or too wide, measure it, and then you’ll start to get a feel for what dimensions work well and what don’t. This is a good way of building up general design knowledge.

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  14. STAEDTLER Mars Plastic Eraser

    Invest in an eraser, especially as a first year student 

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  15. Black n' Red Notebook

    A note book will also be required to record information from lectures and tutorials, it’s nice to not mix this up with your sketch book. Your note book will also almost always be out and become more tired looking than your sketch book, so a hard wearing cover like these by Black n' Red are perfect. 

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  16. Moleskine Classic Notebook

    A good sketch book is obviously for sketching, but will also double up as an everyday journal of inspiration and observations. This and its contents, will prove to be very useful when bringing together your projects story and background.

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  17. Large Self Healing PVC Cutting Mat

    One that is often overlooked if you haven’t had much experience with making models is a cutting mat. This provides a stable non-slip surface to work on but more importantly protects the surface below. There is nothing worse than putting a fresh scalpel line across your desk, or even worse, a whole set across your studios glass meeting room table!

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  18. Helix Tracing Roll

    It hopefully goes without saying that a roll of tracing paper will be required. You are likely to need this on a daily basis when designing and sketching by hand. Its very useful to be able to overlay plans, sections and elevational compositions on top of each other.

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  19. Stainless Steel Ruler

    Steel rulers are a great tool for jobs requiring precise measurements, and are often different to scale rulers in that they just have the normal 1:1 mm, cm and inches measurements. We prominently use ours for model making, as if your rule is not made from metal, you will soon cut into it and ruin its clean drawing line …making it useless for both modelling and for drawing! …a good steel rule lasts forever

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  20. Architects' Data

    This is a very useful design guide that is full of data on just about anything you can think of, from the width of a hospital parking bay to the size of a football pitch stand. It’s one of the most useful books you can own as a student and professional.

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  21. Apple AirPods with Charging Case

    A good set of earphones will be a lifesaver for when you need to zone out and focus on deadlines. Nothing says do not disturb, like a pair of earphones.

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  22. BIG. Yes is More.

    This book by Bjarke Ingles (BIG) demonstrates how to present and break down your work in a way that can be easily understood. As an architect he is very good at bringing and creating architecture to and for the public. BIG not only inspires and demonstrates how...

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  23. Stanley Toolbox

    You going to need something to carry all these model making tools in, and so a small tool box will provide a safe and portable store. Enjoy!

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  24. Miter Box & Ultra Thin Razor Saw Kit

    Not essential for a brand new student, but once you start making models these are really useful for cutting edges at an angle, which when done by freehand can be really hard to get right.

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  25. rOtring 600 Ballpoint Pen

    Same goes for a pen. Notes often need to be taken quickly and fast, and so it needs to be reliable and quickly accessible. These Rotring pens last for years …so far 10 for us! (With re-fills of course)

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  26. rOtring 800 Retractable Mechanical Pencil

    Mechanical pencils are good because they are hard wearing, last, and don’t require a sharpener.

    So they can be left in your bag or model making tool box, knowing that when you need it, it will be there and ready.

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  27. Adjustable Triangle

    This is an invaluable tool for drawing board work, when getting the right and straight angle are incredibly important. We also used ours for model making

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  28. Laptop Sleeve

    With all the moving around you’ll be doing, you will need to protect your laptop. So at least buy a sleeve for it, and protect it from your other architecture tools and equipment that may be knocking around your bag.

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  29. Architectural Scale Ruler Set

    Professional Measuring Kit for Drafting, Construction - Imperial and Metric Conversion Table Included - Laser-Etched Markings, Anodized Aluminum

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  30. Logitech M510 Wireless Computer Mouse

    Enjoy Same Click Feel with 90% Less Click Noise, 2 Year Battery Life, Ergonomic Right-Hand Shape for Computers and Laptops, USB Unifying Receiver, Black

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To Sum Up..

The endurance of manual sketching and drafting in the architect’s toolkit underscores the irreplaceable value of hand-eye coordination and the instinctive connection between thought and paper. These traditional skills lay the foundational groundwork for creativity and conceptual development, serving as the initial spark in the architectural design process.

On the digital frontier, CAD and 3D modeling software have revolutionized the field, bringing unparalleled precision and efficiency. Building Information Modeling (BIM) stands out as a game-changer, fostering collaborative synergy among various stakeholders and ensuring consistency and accuracy across all project phases.

Analytical and simulation tools further augment this digital toolbox, providing architects with the resources to optimize structural integrity, environmental impact, and overall building performance.

Collaboration and communication tools play an equally vital role, ensuring seamless interaction within project teams and effective conveyance of ideas to clients. The integration of VR and AR technologies introduces an immersive dimension to design presentation and review, enhancing the architect’s ability to convey complex spatial relationships.

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As we stand at the crossroads of tradition and innovation, the future of architectural tools is poised for exciting developments.

Emerging technologies continue to push the boundaries of what is possible, paving the way for more intuitive design processes, smarter buildings, and a closer alignment between architectural vision and constructed reality.

In conclusion, the architect’s toolkit is a rich tapestry woven from the threads of creativity, precision, collaboration, and innovation.

Balancing the tactile wisdom of traditional tools with the dynamic capabilities of digital technologies, architects are equipped to navigate the complexities of the built environment, crafting spaces that resonate with both aesthetic elegance and functional brilliance.

The continual evolution of these tools reflects the enduring spirit of architecture itself—a discipline that seamlessly marries art and science to create the spaces we inhabit.

FAQs about architecture tools

What is an architectural tool?

An architectural tool is a device, software, or resource used by architects to aid in the design, planning, and execution of architectural projects. These tools can vary widely and serve different purposes throughout the various stages of an architectural project. Here’s a brief overview of different types of architectural tools:

Physical Tools:

  1. Drawing Tools: Includes pencils, pens, rulers, compasses, and templates for manual drafting.
  2. Scale Models: Physical models made to scale to help visualize and plan the architectural space.
  3. Measuring Tools: Tape measures, laser distance measurers, and other tools to accurately measure spaces and distances.

Software Tools:

  1. CAD Software (Computer-Aided Design): Tools like AutoCAD, Rhino, and Revit for creating precise and detailed architectural drawings and models.
  2. 3D Modeling Software: Software such as SketchUp, 3ds Max, and Blender for creating three-dimensional visualizations of architectural designs.
  3. BIM (Building Information Modeling): Tools like Revit and ArchiCAD that allow for the creation of intelligent 3D models, encompassing a building’s physical and functional characteristics.
  4. Simulation and Analysis Tools: Software for analyzing various aspects of a design, such as structural integrity, energy efficiency, and lighting.
  5. Presentation Software: Tools for creating presentations, animations, and visualizations to communicate design ideas to clients and stakeholders.

Mobile and Web Applications:

  1. Mobile CAD Applications: Apps that allow architects to work on their designs and view CAD files on the go.
  2. Collaboration Tools: Software like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Trello for team communication and project management.
  3. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) Apps: Tools for immersive visualization and interaction with architectural designs.

Other Tools:

  1. Reference Materials: Books, magazines, and online resources for inspiration, design standards, and technical information.
  2. Prototyping Tools: Equipment like 3D printers for creating physical prototypes of design elements.

The choice of tools depends on the specific needs of the project, the preferences of the architect, and the phase of the project. Technological advancements continue to introduce new and improved tools, further expanding the possibilities in architectural design and execution.

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What is the most important tool in architecture?

It’s challenging to pinpoint a single “most important” tool in architecture as the field is vast and diverse, and different stages of architectural design and construction require different tools. However, some of the most crucial tools and skills in architecture include:

1. Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software:

  • Significance: CAD software has revolutionized architecture. Tools like AutoCAD, Revit, and Rhino enable architects to create precise and detailed drawings, improving accuracy and efficiency.
  • Applications: Used for drafting, modeling, and creating construction documents.

2. Building Information Modeling (BIM) Software:

  • Significance: BIM tools go a step further than CAD by integrating physical and functional information into the 3D model, facilitating better coordination among various stakeholders and improving the overall efficiency of the design and construction process.
  • Applications: Used for collaborative work on complex building projects, enabling better decision-making and clash detection before construction begins.

3. Sketching and Drawing Skills:

  • Significance: Despite the prevalence of digital tools, the ability to sketch and draw remains a fundamental skill for architects. It allows for quick communication of ideas, conceptual thinking, and creative expression.
  • Applications: Used during the initial stages of design, client meetings, and brainstorming sessions.

4. 3D Visualization and Rendering Tools:

  • Significance: These tools help in creating photorealistic images and animations of architectural designs, crucial for helping clients and stakeholders visualize the final product.
  • Applications: Used for presentations, marketing, and design analysis.

5. Analytical and Simulation Tools:

  • Significance: Tools that analyze structural integrity, energy efficiency, lighting, and other critical aspects of a design ensure that buildings are safe, functional, and sustainable.
  • Applications: Used to optimize design for performance, safety, and compliance with regulations.

The importance of a tool also depends on the specific needs of a project and the phase of work. While digital tools have become indispensable, foundational skills like sketching, critical thinking, and communication remain crucial. The integration of these tools and skills helps architects navigate the complex process of bringing a building from concept to reality.

What tools are used in architectural drawing?

Architects use a variety of materials for drawing, both traditional and digital. The choice of materials often depends on personal preference, the type of project, and the stage of the design process. Here are some of the most common materials that architects use for drawing:

  1. Pencils: Architects use pencils for sketching, drafting, and rendering. Different pencil grades are used to achieve various line weights and shading effects.
  2. Pens: Technical pens and fineliners are used for precise line work and drafting.
  3. Markers: Architects use markers to add color and shading to their designs. Alcohol-based markers are preferred because they blend well and provide a smooth finish.
  4. Charcoal: Architects use charcoal for sketching and rendering, especially for creating dramatic and expressive designs.
  5. Watercolors: Architects use watercolors to add color to their designs, often for presentation purposes.
  6. Colored pencils: Colored pencils are used for adding detail and texture to drawings.
  7. Digital drawing tablets: Architects use digital drawing tablets with software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for creating digital designs.
  8. 3D modeling software: Architects use 3D modeling software such as SketchUp, Rhino, and Revit for creating complex 3D models of their designs.
  9. Projectors: Architects use projectors to display their designs on a larger scale during presentations and client meetings.

The choice of materials may vary depending on the architect’s personal style and the needs of the project.

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