An elevation is a two-dimensional representation of a vertical wall surface. It can be an exterior view or an interior view.
It’s important to note that an elevation is useful for understanding a design feature or overall composition. Still, it’s not a realistic view as our eyes and minds see and perceive in three dimensions.
Elevations are always to a scale, even if unknown. In other words, they should (must) accurately represent the correct width to height ratio without having depth. Since they are to a scale, one can measure them as a tool for determining information for construction, material quantities, or even choosing how to hang a picture.
Exterior elevations are meant to quickly convey the overall appearance of one side of a building. They can be deceiving as two-dimensional images (flat) since porches, cornices, or other projecting or receding elements are not readily perceivable unless other graphic methods are employed to show depth, such as color, shade, and shadows.
Yet, their purpose is intended to establish the relationship of all the visible parts of one side of a building. Sometimes other graphic overlays are included to abstractly represent materials such as brick, stone, or wood.
Interior elevations serve a similar role, but materials and features are generally different. Architects and designers frequently use them to convey to owners and contractors the parts on a particular wall.
Items such as windows, interior trim, cabinets, countertops, wall tile, doors, or equipment are indicated to illustrate the relationship of the parts. Including a scale figure of a human quickly calibrates one’s mind to the size of elements as they relate to people.
For interior and exterior elevations, added colors, rendering techniques, dimensions, or annotations are helpful to relate more information depending on the intended audience. The information may be intended to explain the design or to quantify the design.
The vital aspect to remember is that they are two-dimensional and are not representative of how our eyes see. In other words, they are not experiential images; they are informational.