Are Renderings Bad for Architecture?

  • 06 Jun 2013
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  • Articles Editor's Choice
Hotel + Congress Center Proposal. Image courtesy of OOIIO Architecture.

At the opening of a recent article for The Guardian, Olly Wainwright finds himself observing a slew of thesis projects produced by the best and brightest students of the UK. But Wainwright is most struck – not by the display of technical skill or imagination – but by the sheer lack of connection these projects had with actual, built, imperfect architecture: “Time and again, the projects seemed intent on fleeing the real world of people and places, scale and context; retreating instead into fantasy realms of convoluted forms with no seeming purpose.”

It’s a trap that many Architecture schools have fallen into, in the UK and around the world, but it’s not just a symptom of the misguided nature of architecture education. It’s also symptomatic of Architecture’s obsession with the image of architecture, an image completely detached from reality.

More after the break…

schmidt hammer lassen architects’ rendering of their Waterfront Development in Shanghai. Image courtesy of schmidt hammer lassen architects.

The idea of the perfect architectural image is not only propagated by professors who prioritize the rendering over its practical implications (causing students to spend hours perfecting visuals instead of perfecting the design), but also by the architecture media (and yes, we include ourselves in that category). Architecture media presents a flood of glossy shots that “sell” an idealized architecture to the public and, frankly, architects themselves.

In his essay “Digital Deception”, written for Design Observer, Belmont Freeman laments this obsession with the perfect, photo-shopped image, which has become – thanks to technology – far too easy to achieve: “our eyes are trained to believe that a photograph is a true representation of an existing condition. Thus in the digital age the graphic representation of architecture has moved beyond an exercise in persuasion; it has become an exercise in deception. [... The architect] has every incentive to indulge in digital dissimulation and little risk in doing so. Photoshop and similar software have become the architectural profession’s pharmacy of performance-enhancers; impossible to detect and absolutely ubiquitous.”

Freeman’s point of “deception” is an important one. I believe architects have bought into this idealization of the image not just because of their education or the influence of the media, but also, as I suggest in my review of CLOG: Rendering, because it’s a therapeutic act of self-deception. Working on the theories of Jonah Hill, I write that photo-shopping “allows the architect to see his work as it was before being built, an un-compromised vision.”

Rendering of BIG’s Waste-to-Energy Plant. Image Courtesy of BIG.

The danger of this is that, in the end, as CLOG contributor Wenzel says, “the image exists independent of the concept, to be evaluated as a graphic. Architecture by graphic design” (Wenzel 73). In other words, the architecture itself is erased, eclipsed by its image. And that has real consequences. As Freeman puts it: “I fear that the proliferation of such photographs leads clients and the public at large to expect from architecture and architects a degree of quality — perfection — that is impossible to deliver in the real world.”

So what does this mean for the rendering?

Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill’s rendering for a possible Penn Station. Courtesy of SOM.

, often slightly idealized, are necessary to try sell the idea of a design to a client, in which case a bit of artistic leeway is a necessary evil. However, once that idea is sold, what happens when a more realistic rendering, one which shows as truthfully as possible how the building will look (air conditioning units and all) is presented?

In an age in which the rendering (and the architecture media in general) has already set expectations far higher than reality could achieve, is the realistic rendering (forgive the pun) rendered useless? Could a stylized rendering actually be bad for the project, and bad for architecture in general? Should we all, like Peter Zumthor famously does, stick to models and foresake renderings altogether?

Model of LACMA by Peter Zumthor © 2013 Museum Associates / LACMA

What do you think? Is it OK that renderings be idealized in order to sell a design? Is it just plain wrong? Should we attempt to present architecture as realistically as possible, in both images and renderings, in order to eliminate unrealistic expectations (for clients and ourselves)? Let us know in the comments below.

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "Are Renderings Bad for Architecture?" 06 Jun 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 May 2015. <>
  • Thomas Batzenschlager

    Great article Vanessa ! I personnally think that this question is also a trap. Architects should not focus on architectural representation. They should focus on design and statement related to our current complex context and from that, from this precise analysis, architectural representation will rise. Every project should aim to have to most straightforward representation that only serve the idea without trying to transform it into a placebo of dreamed architecture. Personnally I also think that physical model are good alternative, just because it is at the same time, a tool of conception and a tool of representation (economy of time, money, and a better understanding of our own project). And more, a physical model is always accepted as a non realistic representation (compare to some render that tries to be as close as possible to a “reality”) so there is never any confusion betzeen what express the model and how the building is going to be. Seriously, line drawing + physical model, doest architect need more than that ? Nope. Oh yes, more than that : content.

    • Croco Dile

      Renders are “advertisements” for architects AND clients.
      The advertisement for itself is nothing bad.
      Only the project can be bad !
      No one should blame a render (=advertisement)…..
      Also no one HAS TO BUY the project. Simple.

      • Paco

        check the small letters aside: Actual product may differ from rendering. In some cases a little bit of cynicism is needed.

    • Battistini Appien

      @croco: I have seen to many architects not able to do or read a perspective/render. What is the use of it if in the hand of someone how does not know and has the mathematical bases of 3d-technical drawings? Ok today the pc does most of the work, but there is the fatal error. Nobody can check the result on correctness. Since pc do the job I have not seen a correct perspective except if done by hand, see M.Botta.

  • Carlos Cristerna

    If I am not mistaken even before 3D renderings or “Photo Real” renderings there were hand drawn renderings that look nothing like the actual building once built, this is no different. Renderings are not new to architecture and have always been a part of the design process.

    The problem is not the media used to represent an idea (Pencil, ink, watercolor, 3D) that is ok, it has been done for a long long time. The real problem is the way this media is used to make people believe that what you see is what you are going to get (Architects, Renderers and Clients all included). That unfortunately will only be an approximation of reality, a way of helping your imagination see what it will be once built.

    That is the way we have been communicating ideas for the longest time, because there is nothing like seeing things with your own eyes.

    Carlos Cristerna

    • JenniferFranzke

      The real problem is that a lot of architects can’t/don’t sketch anymore. The photo-realistic renderings are important but do not take the place of sketching and its importance in developing a project. How many architects still draw in situ for inspiration? I think a lot of us don’t get our hands dirty anymore. Peter Z.’s method works and he is right not to convince himself with pretty drawings alone.

    • Earl Martins

      Good points. I think the question becomes: Which is more important – the reality of the built environment, or our perception and memory of it?

      As architects, our ultimate task is to make people happy about their built environment. If we present them an idealized image, that image excites them and becomes their vision and memory of the space, much more so than their memory of the actual building. When reflecting back upon an enjoyable outing at a museum or a spiritual experience in a chapel, we remember the idea and the feeling of the space, not the HVAC diffusers and fire alarm pulls. Is it a problem to have a memory that is more idealized than reality?

    • Amanda

      I disagree, I think there is a big difference between the “photo real” renderings and the hand drawn renderings. The argument here could be on the definition of renderings..yes, perspectival images have always been a part of the design process. But I think drawn images derive a different expectation than a photo realistic digital image. As quoted in the article, “our eyes are trained to believe that a photograph is a true representation of an existing condition. Thus in the digital age the graphic representation of architecture has moved beyond an exercise in persuasion; it has become an exercise in deception.” Although the intention may be the same of the drawn graphic and the digital graphic – to represent the idea or experience behind the design – the digital image gives a certain experiential quality that is not often achievable in hand drawn renderings. When a pencil drawing is presented it is more so perceived as a “rough representation” of what will be. When a photorealistic image is presented (with the reality of it being questionable) this is what “leads clients and the public at large to expect from architecture and architects a degree of quality – perfection – that is impossible to deliver in the real world.”

    • Philipp

      spot on Carlos!
      “because there is nothing like seeing things with your own eyes.”

  • Esteban

    I think that what we the students should do is create REALISTIC renders, if the realism is the problem, well, we should train and practice for creating real renders, and dont make renders that are so far away from the reality… If rendering is bad, what other way do we have for show our projects? I agree with the thinking that we should spend our time in the design of the project, so we have to program the time that we have and use it in the best possible way.

    • JP McDaris

      Hopefully your client won’t feel mis-led when your realistic renders fail to measure up to the fantasy they create….

      • Andrew Hall

        always with the pithy jabs…Hi JP!

      • Croco Dile

        At the end architects are doing what the client wants to be done. Architects are liars because clients demand lies from them.
        This discussion is pointless.
        Nothing will change !
        In a world wher everything is SOLD there always will exist people who will sell THEMSELVES.
        The same way people lie to themselves by electing the “lesser evil” in politics – they lie to themselves in business.
        No discussion will change that !

    • Kyle

      It seems to me the last thing students need to do is perfect a rendered image. This distracts from learning how to represent the design concept in other diagrammatic ways. Behind the veil of a perfect rendering is likely to be a design filled with poor understanding of circulation, program, typology evolution, structural integrity or building systems. These need to be the focus in the academic world.

      • Karl

        what you have listed is the enginer work not architects

      • Keys 5000

        You could have the most perfectly functional scheme, harmonious proportions and purring program and integrated building systems in your building, if it is not presented in a visually appealing manner, no-one will care.

  • Ben Huser

    Nothing against renderings, they should be part of the presentation of an architectural or urban planning project: drawings of horizontal- and vertical-sections, elevations, basic detail, a model and text.

  • Georgi Bonchev

    Very interesting article. As someone who works in the arch-viz area I notice that often architects rely on the final CGI to make their project visually appealing, often because they are hard pressed by client/competition deadlines. Rendered images are not to blame, though – physical models and hand made perspective drawings also interpret the project in their own way (and in their maker’s way). They all aim to present the project as attractive as possible. And this is normal.

    The problem comes from the fact that projects nowadays lack analytic models and renderings which help to study the building and its relation to the surrounding environment. If they are part of the design process, the architect can use them as a guideline for the final “marketing” renderings, better showing the ideas behind the project. Otherwise we are creating fairytales to sell and impress.

    • Andrew

      Completely agree with you Georgi. I think the author of this article would be less agitated if the representations were more analytic rather than matter of fact. If they were at least telling the story of the design rather than presenting a beautiful new object in context they would have more meaning. If the piece of representation (regardless if it is a rendering, model, or drawing) is not progressing the design or telling the story of it, its presence in an ACADEMIC!!! presentation is meaningless. Save your time and do the rendering after your final and then use it to get a job with Zaha or BIG….not sure that will get you into Zumthors office though.

  • Scott Smith

    This sounds like another case of old people talking about things they know nothing about. No offense.

    I do a lot of imagery at work and free lance, it’s about creating a mood, a story, a longing for the person looking at that image to say “damn, I want to go there”. It’s meant to evoke emotion. Doug and wolf are one of my favorite rendering firms and a lot of their images aren’t even about the building, it’s about the surroundings and the experience.

    What do you expect architects to do? I agree with Carlos C, this is no different from what architects have done in the past.

    Scroll down on that page for an hour and make yourself feel better and tell me that it’s any different from the images we see on this website everyday. It’s beautiful and provocative just like the imagery that’s done today. There were bad versions of renderings back then just as there are now.

    • Esme

      A Shampoo commercial also evokes a mood, tells a story and seeks to create longing in its viewers. Do we designers want to fully embroil ourselves in the world of advertising? I think there is definitely reason for more abstraction in renderings. That way we wouldn’t be seeking to create a specific emotion or desire in viewers, allowing them to critically form an opinion about the subject of the rendering.

      • Raymond

        “Do we designers want to fully embroil ourselves in the world of advertising?”

        That depends on whether architecture should be considered a business/service or an art form. Businesses require advertising in some form to succeed, but art only requires creative intent. While the notion of architecture as art is often scoffed at as naive, the irony is that market demand and the desires of clients may very well push professional-minded designers further away from reality than stubborn “artists” ever could.

  • connor covey

    Its just like anything else, it must be in moderation. There is no way you can say that renderings are useless, they bring character to the project and show a little bit of what it could look like. It lets the imagination roam free. Its not the Architects fault if the blind developer and other people can’t realize that the building is not going to glisten and have a yellow glow in real life. I mean who can’ realize that? This is the future and I find once again this is an article interviewing someone who is very old school and doesn’t like all the computer graphics, well let me tell you something, GET USED TO IT. Projects are only going to become easier and better with technology, since were leaving hand drawings it is more likely things we will be dead on and not just close. Plus lets be honest most of these dramatic renderings do a better job for clients then any hand drawing there is. If this wasn’t the truth well then everyone would be hand drawing! Its time to move on and realize things are changing fast and for the better. I mean to pick on how the renderings only go for perfection seems a bit stupid, considering all of architectural drawings are striving for perfection. Oh and also Mr Freeman, didn’t people put just as much time and effort if not WAY MORE into old school hand drawings thus wasting a lot of time hand drawing and NOT designing. Its a two street and now with photoshop you can cut that time in half. So if anything photoshop is more efficient and better then hand drawing will ever be, I agree during design you must draw a lot but when its time for professional production photoshop should be your first stop. Also when you 3d model you build the WHOLE building, not just draw one or two perspectives of it. I feel this gives the architect more of a grasp on what he is making. I could go on and on but I feel there really is no logically arguement here.

  • Travis

    Competitions have a tendency to push architecture toward ‘graphics first’ as the RFP timeline is often too short for a fully-developed design. In lieu of a resolved project, it’s up to the renderings to be as convincing as possible to sell the proposal. I’m concerned too though – sexy images or not, if you portray it, you will be held to some semblance of it. The ease of making beautiful images pales in comparison to building excellent architectures.

  • Andrew

    I believe renderings (digital or analog) have had and are going to continue to have their place within the architectural profession. They portray certain type’s information that is necessary to communicate, especially for the lay public. I think the focus of this argument should be on where it started here, in terms of its role in architectural education. I think the meaning of renderings within academia and the real world is very different. The truth of the matter is renderings are produced to ‘sell’ the project; this is something that is not really necessary in school. 99% of those that view school projects do not need renderings to understand the project (unless extremely incompetent as a critic). They are often the most useless in the reading of the architecture. Only a very unintelligent critic is tricked or sold by renderings and idealized images of a work. Models!!! (As Zumthor clearly agrees), sections, Axos and plans are what is needed to present a work of architecture and renderings are secondary or tertiary to these representations. The problem today is that renderings of become the main obsession of most academic architecture projects. The money shot is what gets you published, awarded and revered. The issue is that in school so much can be hidden in a rendering; they don’t holistically present the work. I have seen many presentations that have beautiful renderings but are so vague in other representations it is clear the design is not worked out and the student is missing out on developing their architectural skills and instead become great graphic designers. These students come out of school being able to produce beautiful images but this perhaps does not confirm they can produce beautiful architecture.

    • Prostudent

      I think critics rely on rendered drawings just as much as anyone else. It is impossible to tell how good a project is from a set of black and white two dimensional drawings and would take very large and descriptive drawings to do so which is rare to find in architecture schools, especially when critics usually sit 6ft from presentations which plays a massive role on how students communicate.If you were to see the drawings of your favourite architectural masterpieces without ever seeing or experiencing them,i’m sure you would not have found them so appealing. Architecture is embedded in place,texture,light and colour and most importantly is experienced in three dimensions stimulated by all simultaneously. That is why rendered drawings will be the first drawing everyone will look to in a presentation. It is the one drawing that delivers the most information the quickest. Although I do agree that renderings have become a tool of deception. To a trained eye there is a big difference between a DESCRIPTIVE rendering and a DECEPTIVE rendering. one provides a description of a project through a drawing. The other is purely suggestive and loose with much emphasis on creating an atmosphere or romanticism within the drawing. saying alot without saying anything at all.

  • Juan

    How sad is it when you meet a beautiful girl and then look at her without make-up and can’t recognize her? Illusion-ism is a marketing strategy and not an architectural necessity; we “dress” our views in order to make them more attractive. There is nothing wrong with renderings, only with those that intentionally try to fool us, and that is quite easy with today’s tools. In the end, it all comes down to the ability to produce architecture beyond its representation and we should distinguish between academia and building profession, in school it’s ok to explore and twist, but when you face a site, context, code, budget and contractors, the foolishness will take its toll.

    • Ryan

      perhaps ‘scale and context’ are outdated concepts?

      • Juan

        when you build nothing nowhere, yes, they are.

  • Chocolate.

    LMAO @ physical models being a less deceptive form of architectural representation than the rendering.

  • Dan

    (maybe architects are bad for architecture??)

    But for what it’s worth – a few points to make:

    1. Never in the history of architectural education has a professor spent more time requiring a student to make a rendering more real at the expense of developing an idea. (I’m sure someone out there has had that experience, but they’re definitely the smallest of minority)

    2. Architectural representation is advertising. I know that strikes the gut of all the black turtlenecked idealists out there, but sorry charlie, you’re out to make a buck. Oh also, the clients you can’t seem to win over despite all your astute Heidegger references just might understand your high-brow concepts better with a neatly polished image. You know…so you can finally make that buck.

    3. You’re probably not helping your case of the dangers of architectural deception by showing a 2-tone physical model that does just as much to represent the “lack of connection these projects had with actual, built, imperfect architecture”. The whole idea of physical modeling is predicated on removing the reality of the context.

    4. The state of architectural education, architecture as a profession, and the building industry as a whole, have issues far more pressing than wondering if the inclusion of a happily dancing child in a field of grass is giving a misleading impression to the client and the larger community as a whole.

    Hooray!! :)

    • Lasse Rode

      you nailed it!

      actually the worst thing for architecture is bad architecture.
      blaming “rendering” is unfair and just plain wrong. Perspective drawing have always been part of architecure-communication (19th century drawings by Schinkel or Boulee e.g.) just because it shows how a project might look like from a human’s perspective.
      But: always with a certain degree of abstactiation. A scale modell is absolutely useless for doing this. Unless the scale is 1:1.

      Thinking an absolutely photo-realistic render could do the job better also reveals the big misunderstanding: a photo is NOT the reality! it is ONLY A REPRENSTATION of it! Look at architecture-photography for a while and you will see designs only shown from their best side! Hell, most of the buidlings even glow yellow because they were shot within the 15-minute time-frame of the day when they actually do! Why? because it looks nice. You would also hire a good photographer with high-end gear to take these pictures. You would never use pictures taken with your 1-megapixel cell-phone cam for presenting your built architecture in the magazines.
      But: most of the time the house is just a house.

      And we know most of the houses only from photos. Or have you ever been in the Farnsworth-House?

  • architina

    A rendering should be an opportunity to see how a building connects to what is already present (neighboring buildings, a landscape) or begin to visualize some of the qualities of a smaller space (how light comes in, material texture). The problem with renderings like the ones above, is that they view the buildings as objects without getting in to any of the actual design. With competitions and school projects it’s very easy to fall into this trap because the image is a pretty thing to fill space on a board. When you try to bring reality into the rendering through collage, or rendering of a smaller detailed space, there is a higher margin for error and imperfection, which may attract negative attention.

  • Alex

    There is an underlying subtext here that says:
    writing > physical models > hand renderings > digital renderings
    You can use any of these to obfuscate (remember decon essays) or impress and distract. From experience, I will tell you that nothing impresses or distracts a client more than a physical model.
    In the end, they are all reflections of “real architecture”. They all hide and reveal different things.

    • Juraj Talcik

      Exactly. I am tired of the notion that rendering is somehow less authentic than the God-given physical model or any other form of more traditional media used in architecture.

      Visuals aren’t responsible for any misinterpretation of architecture, they simply follow the demand of market and that of architect who ordered them.

  • Sonny Sultani

    I’m not sure about the comparison of scale models to renderings as scale models are expensive and are not environmentally friendly way to showcase architecture. I think in a world where the push for green is important, scale models become outdated. From my experience, it is important to sell an idea through a narrative and a visual is an aid to the narrative. I work for a studio that does 3D renderings for Architects and I hear that the image helps them collaborate with a client and aids as a design tool. Which I think is great that it functions this way so that a design can be looked at and interpreted from various perspectives thus allowing the architect to make better decisions regarding their design.

  • Andrew

    Again, clarification needs to be made between renderings in school and renderings in professional work. My problem is when doing a rendering one is not really designing but when doing a model (if not laser cut/3d printed), section or plan you are figuring things out, discovering issues and you are then forced to react to them. The rendering doesn’t require this, if there is an issue you photoshop it out, put a tree over it etc. One rarely learns something from the production of a rendering. i.e. which questions the validity of them in academia.

    • Prostudent

      School should not be any different from the profession. The biggest problem with the architectural education is its attempt in recent years to remove itself from the real world. Instead of architecture being about creative problem solving with a realistic brief and site, it has become about sci fi architecture, wrapped in overly academic positions that no one can pronounce or understand.
      I disagree that model making is any more important to the process of designing than rendering. 3D models are the heart of most renderings and are a form of model making in their own right. The reason 3D models have become so popular during design is because of its speed and destructibility. It is rare to find students pull apart models that have taken 20 hours plus to make. If your still not convinced look at last months issue of AR magazine dedicated to architectural representation, where EBV architects explain how their work is refined continuously through rendering.

  • Change is GOOD

    To all the old farts out there. This article is terribly bothersome to me for a multitude of reasons. There is a generation of architects that fail to see that the world around us is changing along with every single profession, skill, trade, industry that makes up our lives. And yes architecture is a part of this no matter how disillusioned we are as feeling we are somehow different than everyone else. Computer generated renderings are a product and representation of our time. Saying that they are useless is completely a load of garbage. And I am sorry but there is a large group of well established architects out there that are primarily but not solely responsible for not allowing architecture to progress to the next stage of what it needs to be…A lot of people say architecture is a dying profession and lot of them are correct. It is due to a variety of reasons but also to the people that make up the industry by not allowing it to grow and become something new and refreshing…So whoever doesnt want to spend the time learning and researching new techniques of representing new information…go ahead and waste your time building physical models of buildings…it has been done for hundreds of years so that must be the only way to explore…right?

    • SD

      I agree with you totally, and with your “name”. Change is always good, but it is even better if you will have benefit from that change.
      New technologies in architecture, as well as in other professions, are bringing something new, something that you have to follow in order to improve yourself, to get better. Renderings in this case are something new in our profession and there is a lot of positive things that come with it like easier way for selling the idea, easier way to show your building in the best way etc. When we look deeper into this we have to admit that renderings are becoming more and more just an illusion, they are not used for what they should be used, and if we take a look on finished buildings and their renderings, there is a huge difference.
      I personally think that renderings are good but they should be more connected to the “traditional” way. Architecture is always architecture, and we are loosing that sense of architecture. It is not all about business. It is, but there is something else.

  • Vince Marchetto

    Lets not forget that architecture is a business and if you want to sell a job you have to play to win. If some fantasy world rendering achieves this then so be it. Also digital rendering or animation can be easily shared over the internet and is much more effect in cyberspace than a photo of a physical model (with a few exceptions). The trick is to know your audience and calibrate your media accordingly.

    And also remember that if your create high expectations with your renderings and can’t deliver the reputation will follow you. In order to have a successful practice over the course of your career I believe you need to do more than one building. I think this discussion is useless, in the end the market will drive the imagery, architects are not going to band together and refuse to make pretty pictures to make the profession “more pure.”

  • V N

    Absolutely agree!

  • JP McDaris

    I want to add a unicorn to all of the renderings above… badly! Anywho, while teaching (in 2 countries – one third world and in the other – the U.S.) I have come to find that students rely heavily on Renderings (And their computer models amazing feats of defying gravity) to resolve and represent their final product. The students cannot make a model to save their lives…..nor will they attempt building a physical model unless they have a digital version to produce cut files from……in the end a horrible burnt edged model that won’t stand up…the horror (not to mention determine framing plans…organize space…resolve details important to their concepts). This is the fault of the teaching institutions to try and be “cutting edge” and “Hip” schools of design that produce “cool” catalogs full of “hot” images for recruiting the next crop of non-detail oriented designers…….

    • Change is GOOD

      it is my guess that those who are most against the these computer-aided architectural renderings or the more vindictive term “fantasy abominations of architecture” completely lack the capability to produce such images. I am not saying that we must lean on digital renderings but we should definitely explore every avenue of our skillsets. EVEN if some are not capable of doing so.

      • JP McDaris

        Actually I have very strong rendering skills, as I though 3D Rhino, Parametric modeling with Grasshopper, Vray rendering and photoshop / illustrator for vector based graphics. After teaching it you realize there is no real skill or secret…..just style and fashion of what OMA or REX is doing on their latest renderings. SKILL comes from the hand and eye coordination – hence CRAFTSMAN ship – a word that is being lost and can not be tied to Rendering. You should listen to a lecture or read a book from Juhani Pallasmaa regarding this issue…….

  • bobo

    While it seems obvious to me I would remind that renderings, like essays, collages and other forms of artistic or theoretical architectural expression (constructivist or burnham watercolor imagery for example) can exist in the realm of ideas, on their own as a ‘work’ or oeuvre, and change forever the way we think…

    Does the author here purport the liberal arts realm of the architectural academy should be restricted to the realm of trade school…?

  • TES

    As a current MArch student in the UK i developed my thesis project through rendered views set up in Max and photoshop – i aimed for realism and because of that the three views i set up became necessary design tools with which to resolve my project and to test the scheme’s engagement with its context and site as well as exploring its tectonic strategies and detailing. yes i also drew/sketched everything by hand using Rotring pen – but digital visualisation really allows for a level of realism that is impossible using analogue methods – rendering if done truthfully and faithfully really is the best way to show a project’s, materiality, lighting, textures, form and experience.

    All my work was created from a very detailed Rhino model which took mabye 200 hours – i would say that this is the crucial point – like in any medium – if you put crap in you will get crap out!

  • Adriano Riosa

    I believe that the point is not if the renderings are a positive or negative type of tool used by CGI artists or architects cuz also years ago, using all the possible tools that they had there was always the goal to sursprise and try to make imagine to the client how was going to look their project. If we think in a totalistic way: any kind of RAPRESENTATION is a fake if its purpuse is different of the constructive needs. A sketch, a hand drawn perspective a plant or an elevation are not real in the same way as the rendering. The problem is social, is global and there are no ways for coming back, the technology and evolution made the image be the shortest and easiest way to apsorbe information and the lazy human got abituated to it. Also in this case, at the end, the most important thing is to use always well, in an appropriate and intelligent way, the tools that the techonlogy offers to us.

  • James MD

    Renderings have become too close to realistic but too much like watercolors. They’ve become more about marketing and persuasion than about ideas. The renderings are just a representation of the project. If the project isn’t about a typical building concept, then the rendering won’t be either. I have no problem with that, school is for experimentation and understanding deeper ideas about space than just sites and buildings. I actually think renderings have lost the abstractness that once made them relevant architectural/artistic creations. Look at almost every well known architect these days. They no longer produce art, they produce images they think will sell their projects to the public. I understand why they do it, they figure the most important thing is getting the project built (and that’s true), but it’s dumbing down the profession and dumbing down clients by lowering our visualization techniques to the level of advertising and marketing. That’s never good.

  • Change is GOOD

    And please lets stay away from sketched perspectives…they show false hopes of what we expect or wish for…No creativity please.

  • Mark Li

    Renderings are just a tool to sell an idea! If you use renderings (3d programs) instead of brains than it becomes an issue.

  • James MD

    You can track the death of 2d visualization by looking at morphosis. Where they once created art, they now create advertising. That’s not to say they aren’t brilliant, because they are. But 3d visualization is now about selling architecture to the public – mainly by trying to simulate the effects of watercolors, which architects know the public likes. It’s a total misreading of why images look the way they do right now to see it as the architects making things more conceptual, it’s actually the opposite. To not recognize that is to be totally ignorant of the huge body of 2d work done in the 80′s, 90′s, and early 00′s before this light-filled whitewashed watercolor technique took over rendering styles. It’s about selling architecture and getting it built by showing it too realistic and too much like advertising. And it’s very very effective, which is why almost every office is using the same style right now. We’ve lost the abstraction that once made 2d visualization meaningful and replaced it with a neoclassical style that takes a JWM Turner painting and turns it into something far too realistic. But to think the solution lies in abandoning rendering for 3d models is silly. All of the architects doing these renderings produce models that are far more detailed and intricate than Zumthor’s, that explore tectonics and largescale details in a way that Zumthor never does. Again, that’s just a total misunderstanding of what’s being done in the profession. The reality is that all of the architects you mention do what Zumthor does, and then they do more.

  • Tommy Kim

    Architects should always remember that the only non-representative thing they create is the building itself. A lot of the times, the overdetailing and the falsification from renderings loses an abstract quality that is inherent in creating representations.

  • Prostudent

    Peter Zumthor does not render… but what he does do is photograph his models (really badly) and than drop people and entourage in on top of them in photoshop. The images are terrible, difficult to read and most of the viewers attention is directed towards the photoshoped people who are clearly photos and are full of information, leaving the space seem very clumsy and undetailed looking. I used to use the same technique in first year before i learned how to properly draw digitally.


    Digital Deception, the PhotoShop Pharmacy, some fascinating ideas at work here. We just awarded a local student a scholarship to look more closely at how drawing impacts architecture. Not trying to be spammy but if you are interested in this topic, take a look: I will be sure to forward this story to him as I bet he will be very interested. Thanks AD!

    • Nazirull Safry Paijo

      Something dat I always believe in. But architects and clients never agree on it – Bcoz it involves money. To sell, it has to look impressive. Hence the name, artist impression.
      It is also important that the artist impression and the architecture is on the same level.
      Because i believe that regardless of your rendering skills, u cant make a design that looks like a low cost flat to look like Troika. Dats why it has to be on the same level. And it is easier to make a nice architecture render of a nice architectural design, Like how easy it is to make a good looking magazine cover if u have a beautiful model instead of a normal looking person.