In 1670 the phrase "Grand Tour" first appeared in the preface of Richard Lassel's The Voyage of Italy. By the eighteenth century the Grand Tour, which often lasted from a few months to several years, had become part of the expected education of every European nobleman, and then every student of architecture. The primary destination of this Tour was Italy, with its heritage of ancient Roman monuments and picturesque landscapes. "The man who has not been to Italy," wrote Sammuel Johnson, "is always conscious of an infreiority from his not having seen what is expected a man should see."
The lessons of the Grand Tour were more personalized by Sir John Soane than probably any other eighteenth-century British architect. In 1776 Soane was awarded a travelling fellowship by the Royal Institute of British Architects. During his twenty-seven month voyage through Italy, he created a compiled hundreds of drawings and paintings that would later serve as the foundation for his Royal Academy lectures. The collection primarily contains archaeological records and includes measured drawings, sketches, and comparitive illustrations that detail issues of proportion and scale.
Another important figure of the eighteenth-century Grand Tour is the German architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Schinkel's archtecture responded to the classical forms of the mediterranean that he observed and sketched on his travels throughout Italy. To suppliment his accurate sketching, Schinkel developed a series of historical re-creations, inventive paintings possessing a strong narrative quality. He used the drawings and paintings from his travels to investigate the relationship between space and vision, a topic that would consume his career and define his architecture. The American architect Julia Morgan, the first woman admitted into the architectural program at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1898, not only studied in Paris but took several trips around Europe, visiting sites and sketching her impressions.
Italy continued to play an inportant role in the education of the architect into the twentieth century. Even when photography replaced drawings as the primary method for producing images, architects still chose to draw in order to better impress the physical reality of a scene into their memories. The Swedish architect Erik Gunnar Asplund returned home from his journey through Italy with hundreds of postcards of architecture, paintings, and sculpture to supplement more than three hundred pages of drawings, sketches, annotations and portraits. Le Corbusier carried a camera with him on his earliest voyages to Rome in 1911, yet relied most heavily on the sketch to record the image. He stated, "When one travels and works with visual things...one uses one's eyes and draws, so as to fix deep down in one's experience what is seen...All this means first look, and then observe, and finally to discover. Once the impression has been recorded by the pencil, it stays for good, entered, registered, inscribed." The architect Louis Kahn claims to have found himself architecturally during his sketching trips through Italy. Kahn captured what he called the "little village" of Italian medieval and vernacular architecture in a series of graphite drawings and watercolours.
excerpt from Michael Graves: Images of a Grand Tour by Brian M. Ambroziak