written by:
illustrated by:
November 17, 2011
Originally published in Prefab Perfected

Carlos Diniz’s astounding hand-done renderings, illustrations, and screen-prints helped to push more than just a handful of buildings—they sold the very idea of modernism itself.

Hollywood Suites rendering by Carlos Diniz

This heroic view of the Hollywood Suites at Sunset and Vine in Los Angeles is indicative of Diniz’s style—epic architecture rising out of the surrounding bustle.

Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2009 Angela Kohler & Ithyle
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Office interior rendering by Carlos Diniz

One of Diniz’s most vaunted clients was arch­itect Minoru Yamasaki, whose “City” development in Orange County, California, got the Diniz treatment in 1965 with a wholly modern office interior.

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Orange County California site plan rendering by Carlos Diniz

Here's the site plan.

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1961 Hollywood Suites rendering by Carlos Diniz

The esplanade of the 1961 Hollywood Suites suggests both the California sun and the push of progress.

Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2009 Angela Kohler & Ithyle
4 / 18
Canary Wharf development rendering by Carlos Diniz

Though some of Diniz’s output had a kind of flat, highly graphic feel, he was unquestionably a master of perspective and could work in various visual modes. His renderings for the massive Canary Wharf development in London shows a clean, realist style.“CAD systems can create and manipulate visual imagery so much faster than the pen... Canary Wharf would have taken months of painful labor to accomplish in the old days of pen and ink. Now you can set up the drawings and alter them at the touch of a button.” —Carlos Diniz, from a 1988 Los Angeles Times interview

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1983 Chicago Masterplan rendering by Carlos Diniz

A masterplan for Chicago from 1983 is inspiring for its detail and depth.

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Monarch Bay Homes rendering by Carlos Diniz

Diniz’s 1961 renderings of the Monarch Bay Homes designed by Ladd and Kelsey Architects offer a bucolic vision of mid-century living.

Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2009 Angela Kohler & Ithyle
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Exterior Monarch Bay Homes rendering by Carlos Diniz

Ferns, palms, and Japanese maples around the Monarch Bay House's outdoor dining room underscore one of the key tenets of California modernism: Connect inside and outside.

Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2009 Angela Kohler & Ithyle
8 / 18
manual architectural renderings

Starker is his portrayal of the Danziger House by Frank Gehry in 1964.

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World Trade Center rendering by Carlos Diniz

This ink drawing on mounted paper board is from 1963 and shows how powerfully tall the World Trade Center would be.

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World Trade Center sketch by Carlos Diniz

Here's a view of what a floor of Minoru Yamasaki's World Trade Center would look like from 1964.

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Monarch Bay Homes rendering by Carlos Diniz

Indoor-outdoor living was one of the main elements of Diniz's work on the Monarch Bay Homes from the early 1960s.

Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2009 Angela Kohler & Ithyle
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Monarch Bay Homes rendering by Carlos Diniz

Here we get the same idea again within a controlled, rather groovy color palette.

Courtesy of 
Copyright: 2009 Angela Kohler & Ithyle
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Faneiul Hall Marketplace rendering by Carlos Diniz

Moving back to large-scale work, Diniz was chosen to render Boston's Faneiul Hall Marketplace, a massive public shopping and gathering place just off the Freedom Trail.

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1983 Chicago Masterplan rendering by Carlos Diniz

Here, in a perspective drawing from 1983 for the Chicago masterplan, Diniz invites the viewer down a wooded highway into the city center.

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Chicago Masterplan rendering by Carlos Diniz

In this illustration for the Chicago masterplan Diniz shows the view north from McCormick Place.

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Canary Wharf sketch by Carlos Diniz

Here's another view of the Canary Wharf project, this time looking across the Thames.

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Pasadena Art Center sketch by Carlos Diniz

This 1968 perspective view is of Craig Ellwood, James Tyler, and Stephen Woolley's Art Center in Pasadena, California. 

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Hollywood Suites rendering by Carlos Diniz

This heroic view of the Hollywood Suites at Sunset and Vine in Los Angeles is indicative of Diniz’s style—epic architecture rising out of the surrounding bustle.

Architectural illustrator Carlos Diniz (1928–2001) is one of those characters in the history of modernism who ends up filed away in the archives as styles and technologies change. But without him and his immense talent, some of the most iconic buildings and developments of the movement might never have gotten off the drawing boards. For more than three decades, Diniz’s pen propelled the spread of mid-century design. One of the top renderers of his generation, he was the go-to illustrator in Southern California from the late 1950s until the early 1990s, and his influential hand-drawn perspectives were commissioned by some of the preeminent architects and real estate firms of the time.

1961 Hollywood Suites rendering by Carlos Diniz

The esplanade of the 1961 Hollywood Suites suggests both the California sun and the push of progress.

Born in 1928 in Phoenix, Arizona, Diniz trained in industrial design and architecture at the Art Center College of Design, then located in Los Angeles, California. After school, he first worked as a designer in the large architecture and planning firm of Victor Gruen Associates. But as he found his footing in graphic presentation, he left to open his own rendering studio in the late 1950s. At Gruen’s office, he met Frank Gehry, who would later become part of a client roster of architects that included Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Craig Ellwood; Cesar Pelli; and others.

The renderer’s job went beyond mocking-up the project; Diniz had to draw all parties into a shared reality. “He’d visualize the buildings as people would use them,” says gallerist Edward Cella of Diniz’s signature “entourage” illustrations. Diniz’s ink renderings and screenprints of buildings such as Minoru Yamasaki’s Century Plaza Hotel and World Trade Center represented three-dimensional spaces staged with contemporary furniture and filled with people. His visualizations won over developers, corporate boards, banks, insurance companies, and community review panels. With perspectives, slide presentations, and brochures, his Los Angeles–based studio, Carlos Diniz Associates, could transform a sterile stack of blueprints into a world brimming with activity. “Diniz always chose decorative objects and fashions of the day that created an affluent sense of the future,” says Cella. “He created optimism through the details.”

Canary Wharf development rendering by Carlos Diniz

Though some of Diniz’s output had a kind of flat, highly graphic feel, he was unquestionably a master of perspective and could work in various visual modes. His renderings for the massive Canary Wharf development in London shows a clean, realist style.“CAD systems can create and manipulate visual imagery so much faster than the pen... Canary Wharf would have taken months of painful labor to accomplish in the old days of pen and ink. Now you can set up the drawings and alter them at the touch of a button.” —Carlos Diniz, from a 1988 Los Angeles Times interview

Diniz passed away in 2001, but a decade later there’s a groundswell of interest in his work. Edward Cella Art+Architecture gallery represents the Diniz family archive and in 2008 exhibited Visualizing a New Los Angeles: Architectural Renderings of Carlos Diniz, 1962–1992. The show featured a treasure trove of screenprints found stacked in the defunct Los Angeles offices of commercial screen printer Art Krebs. This past fall the Los Angeles County Museum of Art celebrated the illustrator’s contributions by including his work in California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way.” His hand-drawn optimism lives on.

Civic Projects

1983 Chicago Masterplan rendering by Carlos Diniz

A masterplan for Chicago from 1983 is inspiring for its detail and depth.

Diniz’s practice flourished as he took on large-scale civic and commercial developments. In the 1960s and 1970s real estate in California was booming, and his early renderings for Minoru Yamasaki’s World Trade Center helped bring in high-profile clients. At its height, Diniz’s office employed doz- ens of illustrators. Teams that once rendered icons such as Ellwood’s Art Center building in Pasadena turned their attention to urban-scale rede- velopments as Diniz’s firm expanded its scope to capture the exploding field of corporate architecture. Two career-defining works were Benjamin Thompson & Associates’ Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston and the 14- million-square-foot Canary Wharf along the Thames in London. “His work reflects that architecture changed in scale considerably after the 1960s,” explains Cella, noting that the newer developments dwarfed even the most civic-minded projects from the 1920s and 1930s. “It’s not one house or building, but 500 houses. It’s where China is today, but where we were 40 to 50 years ago.”

Residential Work

manual architectural renderings

Starker is his portrayal of the Danziger House by Frank Gehry in 1964.

Near the beginning of his career, Diniz illustrated the marketing material for the Monarch Bay homes, an early 1960s suburban development just off the Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County, California. Following the designs of Ladd and Kelsey Architects, he softened his precise linework with lush landscapes. Ferns, palms, and Japanese maples underscored one of the key tenets of California modern- ism: Connect inside and outside. This breezy approach carried through to his renderings of Westlake Village, McIntire & Quiros’s resortlike development built between the mid-1960s and the 1970s north of Malibu, Cali­fornia. A bird’s-eye visualization of the project hung in the project’s sales office. In it, Diniz shows an idyllic community nestled in a canyon with homes and shopping areas connected by lakeside pathways.

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