Assessment / Hagia Sophia / Processing / Robert Van Nice

Architectural Sketches

Lately, I’ve been working on re-titling and alphabetizing the folders of the collection in the finding aid, but occasionally I get to go back into the collection itself to search for things, pull folders for researchers, or clarify something from my notes.

Today I was struck by a series of sketches in a folder that made me appreciate Van Nice’s attention not just to the details of Hagia Sophia itself, but also to the possibilities of representing that space on paper.  The architectural plates that he produced were spectacular for their quality and fineness of detail, but also, I think, for the various and creative ways he communicated the complex spaces of the building.  The use of elevations, plans, sections, and isometric views is common, but I was interested to see how much thought was put into determining which of these drawing techniques would best suit each part and view of the building.

I’ve reproduced a few sketches from the folder here:

“Possible Ways of Explaining Structure: an ‘exploded’ view with, eventually, arrows indication concentration and dispersion of thrusts.”

Sometimes, entire folders are filled with different ideas about how to represent a particular part of the building, like this example for a buttress:

“Possible ways of showing buttress,”

Floor plan view of Hagia Sophia


“INTERIOR SPACE: the actual space of the nave could be shown by an isometric limited by the introduction of the planes, curving and otherwise which bound the nave– following this crude example.

Van Nice’s status as a trained architect made his contributions to the study of Hagia Sophia fundamentally different than those of historians and archaeologists.  Many of the people we’ve spoken to who knew Van Nice have told us that it was common to hear him say things like “I’m not a scholar, I just record the information…”  This may have been a little too modest, but it does reflect his unique perspective.  His relentless attention to detail, combined with a keen, well-trained sense of space and a solid understanding the principles of engineering, made his project truly invaluable.


2 thoughts on “Architectural Sketches

  1. Pingback: Like Father, Like Son | The Robert L. Van Nice Collection

  2. Pingback: Like Father, Like Son | Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives

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