Author Peter Dodge, FAIA, is Consulting Founding Partner of EHDD and a member of the arcCA editorial board.
Carlos Diniz was one of the greatest architectural draftsman/illustrators of the last half of the twentieth century. In a wide range of mediums he created extraordinary drawings—superb images of architecture and the places the architecture occupied, from small residences to aerial views of great urban expanses like New York or of the desert surrounding Las Vegas. Chuck Bassett, a famous design principal at Skidmore Owings and Merrill, said this about Carlos’s work: “Beautiful, technically correct drawings in the finest tradition of the architectural draftsman, assiduously researched, carefully detailed in every part, permitting the mind and eye to examine a sweeping, topographical view of London, or a busy street scene, or an intimate corner of dining terrace with nary a false note or the intrusion of arbitrary license.”
In his professional career, which spanned more than four decades, he exquisitely executed more than 2,500 commissions, many of them of some of the most famous buildings of the times for a wide range of prominent architectural firms. I first met Carlos when we were both studying graphics and industrial design at Art Center School in Los Angeles in 1948. From there, he worked in several architectural offices, ending up at Victor Gruen from 1952 to 1957, where he learned some of the everlasting basics, such as drawing the conceptual images and illustrations of shopping centers and city plans.
In 1962, after he had started his own studio, Minoru Yamasaki hired him to become a part of the team designing the World Trade Center in New York. Around the same time, he was hired to work with SOM on the Bank of America Building in San Francisco. He also illustrated SOM’s designs for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Then there was Faneuil Hall in Boston for Ben Thompson.
Carlos and I got to work together in the early ’70s on Praia Grande, an Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis design of an 8,000-unit destination resort complex on the southern coast of Portugal. His drawings for this complex were astounding. A coup in the Portuguese government ended that project for everyone. Another set of dazzling drawings for an unbuilt project was created for the Nevada Pyramids in Las Vegas.
A few of the many other world-renowned projects that first came to fame through Carlos’s magnificent illustrations are the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, the Union Station Rehabilitation in Washington, D.C., the Los Angeles Convention Center and the Pacific Design Center, the Central Area Plan and the rehabilitation of the Navy Pier in Chicago, and Canary Wharf in London.
Toward the end of his life, Carlos retired from the studio but never stopped drawing. He said he always was striving to be the Canaletto of our time. At his memorial celebration, there was an exhibit of at least fifty marvelous drawings and paintings of his favorite city, Venice, Italy, that made me think that he may have surpassed Canaletto.