Unreal Visualizations: 3 Pros and 3 Cons of Rendering with a Video Game Engine

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In recent years, we’ve reached a point where visualizations have become all-prevalent in the architectural profession. Whether we like it or not, stylized imagery is seen as a commodity, and ultimately, renderings win competitions and commissions. Architects have become enamored with beautiful renderings because clients understand pictures better than plans, and yet, the tools used to produce these glitzy images are changing faster than our industry can keep up. But with constantly evolving, we may face a new wave of visualization techniques, as the same render engines used to produce the tantalizingly realistic visuals in movies and video games are, for the first time, easily within our reach.

The lines across industries are blurring and companies behind the rendering engines for the most popular video games are now marketing their software directly to architects. This year, the original developers of the game Gears of War have made their proprietary rendering software Unreal Engine 4 free to architects, and many other video game render engines are available for less than the cost of those used by architects. Founder Tim Sweeney believes that the world of visualization is changing, telling The Verge “We’re realizing now that Unreal Engine 4 is a common language between all these common fields.” Creating a common language between the presently disparate fields of architecture, film, and video games, for example, suggests that the industries themselves may begin to hybridize and learn from one another. For instance, video game developers may look to architects to understand how to construct 3D buildings, while architects may learn from the navigable virtual environment of video games in order to discover new means of . Add to this the fact that these software packages are capable of producing lifelike animated walkthroughs and we are left wondering, why is this not an industry standard? Read on after the break for the pros and cons of being an early adopter.

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AD Classics: Robarts Library / Warner, Burns, Toan & Lunde

© Wikipedia User Dr. K

If the architectural volte face of the late 1960s heralded the genesis of postmodernism, deconstruction, and a golden age of theory, it came at an equally destructive cost. Escaping the totalizing regime of modernism demanded from architects more than the promise of new ideas; it required the falsification of modernist axioms and the wholesale annihilation of its spiritual eidos. In this critical moment of death and rebirth, some pieces of the modern project survived only by hiding under the cloak of the technological progress, while others—like modern city planning—persisted only because there was no way to turn back the clock.

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3 New Films Showcase 7 Architects Redefining the Role of Women in Architecture

E1027, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin by . Image © Julian Lennon 2014

“I cannot, in whole conscience, recommend architecture as a profession for girls. I know some women who have done well at it, but the obstacles are so great that it takes an exceptional girl to make a go of it. If she insisted on becoming an architect, I would try to dissuade her. If then, she was still determined, I would give her my blessing–she could be that exceptional one.”
– Pietro Belluschi, FAIA from the 1955 New York Life Insurance Company brochure, “Should You Be an Architect?”

With great fanfare, in mid-October 2014 on the opening night of the 6th annual Architecture and Design Film Festival in Manhattan, Festival Director Kyle Bergman announced that the festival’s special focus this year was on women in architecture. “We’ve been wanting to feature women in architecture for a while now,” he told me, “and this year we finally have the films to make that happen,” referring to three new documentaries: Gray Matters (2014), Making Space: 5 Women Changing the Face of Architecture (2014) and Zaha Hadid: Who Dares Wins (2013).

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Why “Young Architecture” is a Detriment to the Profession

The Artworks Elephant by Harper Downie. Image Courtesy of

As one of the first organizations to implement a regular award for young architects, The Architectural has had its eye on youth for over a decade and a half. But with awards, exhibitions and media coverage of those conspicuously labeled as “Young Architects” proliferating in the years since, has the concept now been co-opted by those who merely seek to monetize and exploit architecture’s most precarious practitioners? In this polemical article, originally published by The Architectural Review as “The problem with ‘Young Architecture’,” AR Assistant Editor Phineas Harper and Phil Pawlett Jackson unpick how the cult of “Young Architecture” has been absorbed into the profession, with potentially harmful ramifications.

When the romantic notion of the architect as auteur, a high priest in the cult of culture, is married to the virginal myth of untainted youth, a potent marketable commodity is brewed: the “Young Architect”. All but invisible when the AR launched its Emerging Architecture prize at the end of the 20th century, this breed is now celebrated in numerous awards, exhibitions and published collections. But beware the cult of youth − there is a broad landscape of risks as well as opportunities facing designers who choose this identity willingly or have it thrust upon them.

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“A Truman Show-Style Nightmare”? Critics React to BIG and Heatherwick’s Designs for Google

© Google / / Heatherwick Studio

In their designs for Google’s new headquarters, released last week amid much excitement, Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick have taken cues from the utopian visions of the past to create a radical solution for the sprawling tech campus in Mountain View, California. Citing the lack of identifiable architecture in the technology sector, a promotional video on Google’s own blog reveals how the company plans to embrace nature, community, and flexibility with the new scheme.

Chief among the company’s concerns was creating a building capable of adapting to future uses in addition to serving as a neighborhood-enhancing environment to welcome visitors from the surrounding community. As with any news related to Google, the design has already attracted the attention of the media – read on after the break for our rundown of the most salient reviews so far.

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Walter Netsch: The “Radical Mind” That Designed SOM’s Air Force Academy Chapel

© Hedrich Blessing

Having joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill after World War Two at the age of 27, was promoted to become a partner at the age of 31. Netsch entered the firm during what was arguably its defining era, when the reputation of Gordon Bunshaft and the image of a corporate-driven, teamwork-minded made SOM one of the most recognizable practices in the US. He was also, at the age of just 34, responsible for one of SOM’s most recognizable projects of the decade, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and its striking geometric chapel.

To honor what would have been Netsch’s 95th birthday, SOM recently republished an interview between Netsch and architecture theorist and writer , which had originally been published in 2001 in SOM Journal 1. In the following extract from this interview, Netsch discusses the story of how he developed the design, and what it was like to participate in one of America’s most influential practices among a host of strong characters.

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The Robot Revolution: Coop Himmelb(l)au Founder Wolf D. Prix on the Future of Construction

With a recently released animation entitled “We Start the Future of Construction,” Coop Himmelb(l)au announced their intention to take digital fabrication to a radical new scale, demonstrating how  is impacting almost every aspect of the architectural profession. The advent of building information modeling and other modeling software has transformed how architects and engineers navigate the construction process, allowing us to achieve increasingly complex forms that can be modeled with the aid of CNC machining and 3D Printing, but still there remains a wide gap between the technologies available to architects and those employed by builders. When it comes to a building’s actual construction we have been limited by the great costs associated with non-standard components and labor – but now, the automated practices that transformed manufacturing industries could revolutionize how we make buildings.

Last week, ArchDaily sat down with co-founder, Design Principal and CEO of Coop Himmelb(l)au, Wolf D. Prix for his thoughts on the future of construction and the role of the architect in an increasingly technological practice. Read on after the break to find out how robots could impact architectural design, construction, and the future of the profession.

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Vienna to Build World’s Tallest Wooden Skyscraper

© OLN/office le nomade

Rüdiger Lainer and Partner plans to construct the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper next year in Vienna’s Seestadt Aspern area. 76 percent of the 84-meter tower is expected to be made from wood rather than concrete, saving approximately 2,800 tonnes of CO2 emissions (equivalent to driving a car 25 miles a day for 1,300 years).

“I think it is important everyone now in 2014 thinks in different ways. We have , which is a perfect material for building,” she said. “It was used 200 years ago and it was perfect then and is perfect now,” says Kerbler project developer Caroline Palfy, commenting on the architects’ decision to use wood due to its environmental benefits.

An interior loft view and more details, after the break. 

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AR Issues: Architects Don’t Invent, They Transform

Courtesy of The Architectural

ArchDaily is continuing our partnership with The Architectural Review, bringing you short introductions to the themes of the magazine’s monthly editions. In this editorial from AR’s February 2015 issue, AR Editor Catherine Slessor reflects on Álvaro Siza‘s ouevre, from his early work in Évora to his latest effort in China. Though the latter is admittedly elegant, Slessor concludes that in comparison to his older transformative designs the recent incarnation of “brand Siza” is a “predictable triumph of style over content.”

The great Portuguese Modernist Fernando Távora once remarked “Style is not of importance; what counts is the relation between the work and life, style is only the consequence of it.” His friend and protégé Álvaro Siza echoed this sentiment when he said: “Architecture does not have a pre-established language nor does it establish a language. It is a response to a concrete problem, a situation in transformation, in which I participate. In architecture, we have already passed the phase during which we thought that the unity of language would resolve everything. A pre-established language, pure, beautiful, does not interest me.”

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How Should Cities Prepare for an Aging Boomer Population?

CannonDesign’s plan for Jaypee Sports City features a continuous 10-mile park woven through a dense urban fabric of high- and low-rise developments. This entirely walkable parkland links all the city’s neighborhoods and social amenities. Image Courtesy of CannonDesign

Since the end of the Second World War, one of the biggest agents for social change has been the “Boomer” generation, those born in the postwar years who thanks to a spike in birth rates in those years represent a disproportionate amount of the population. But as this group ages, what will their effect on our cities be? In this article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “How Boomers Will Shape the Future of Our Cities,” principle at CannonDesign Peter Ellis outlines what his generation will need from the places they live as they get older.

I am an architect, and a designer of cities. I am also among the Boomer generation, the 65-year-plus demographic that, due to our increasing numbers, is creating a giant bubble at the upper end of the population charts.

We are not, however, aging like the generations that preceded us. “We will be able to give many people an extra decade of good health, based on what we are able to do in the lab now,” says Brian Kennedy, President and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California. The primary triggers for most disease can be controlled, enabling people to remain productive well into their eighties, nineties, and beyond.

How will this “revolution” in human longevity impact our cities? Unlike our parents, Boomers have not moved to retirement communities, preferring, rather, to stay as long as they are able in their urban neighborhoods—where they can continue to lead active lives.

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Frank Lloyd Wright and Fay Jones on the Web: The Value of Online Exhibitions

Alexander Residence (Raheen) Swimming Pool. Image © Fay Jones Collection, Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries

Yesterday afternoon, I was able to visit the University of Arkansas exhibition “Fay Jones and : Organic Architecture Comes to Arkansas” – without purchasing a ticket or leaving my apartment. This extensive exhibition on the life and development of these two notable architects was made possible through a collaboration between University of Arkansas Libraries’ Special Collections and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Library and Archives. Exhibitions such as this are part of a broader movement in recent years towards making archived content more easily accessible to the public through web platforms. The concept of the online exhibition, however, is still in its infancy and there remains significant room for innovation.

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Ten Buildings Which Epitomize The Triumph Of Postmodernism

Via Archive of Affinities. Image © Nils-Ole Lund

Being such a recent movement in the international architectural discourse, the reach and significance of post-modernism can sometimes go unnoticed. In this selection, chosen by Adam Nathaniel Furman, the “incredibly rich, extensive and complex ecosystem of projects that have grown out of the initial explosion of from the 1960s to the early 1990s” are placed side by side for our delight.

From mosques that imagine an idyllic past, via Walt Disney’s Aladdin from the 1990s, to a theatre in Moscow that turns its façade into a constructivist collage of classical scenes, “there are categories in post-modernism to be discovered, and tactics to be learned.” These projects trace forms of complex stylistic figuration, from the high years of academic postmodernism, to the more popular of its forms that spread like wildfire in the latter part of the 20th century.

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Marble Quarrying Looks Even More Awesome Than You Imagined

In this video from NOWNESS, an excerpt from Yuri Ancarani’s documentary “Il Capo” (The Chief), the filmmaker captures the mesmerizing business of Marble extraction in the hills of Northwest Italy. The prized delicacy of the Carrara stone’s surface is juxtaposed against the dramatic size and weight of the blocks they are removing, which eventually fall with an earth-shattering thud. Similarly the rugged power of the excavators is in marked contrast to the precise, understated gestures of the chief himself, who directs his workers with a complex series of predetermined hand signals.

“Marble quarries are places so unbelievable and striking, they almost feel like they are big theaters or sets,” explains Yuri Ancarani. “I was so taken by the chief, watching him work. How he can move gigantic marble blocks using enormous excavators, but his own movements are light, precise and determined.”

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London’s Battersea Bridge Competition is a Symbol of a Divided City

“The Spaffy Tangle”. Image Courtesy of Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership

The recent unveiling of the 74 entries to the Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge competition was undoubtedly intended to cause a media circus, hoping to emulate the furore that surrounded the much larger Helsinki Guggenheim competition when they released all 1,715 of their entries to the web in October of last year. The competition, which asked designers to propose “one of the most expressive and visible landmarks in London,” is the latest in a series of  dramatic changes taking place on this stretch of the South Bank of the . This new community, one of London’s most prestigious new neighbourhoods, includes Keiran Timberlake’s new US Embassy and a slew of residential developments, culminating in the highly-touted renovation of Battersea Power Station, complete with accompanying buildings by Foster + Partners and Frank Gehry, and a public space by BIG.

Initial reactions to the competition entries has been mixed at best. The Guardian’s architecture critic Oliver Wainwright took the opportunity to poke light-hearted fun at a selection of designs, using his considerable powers of wordplay to dub entries with titles such as The Greenhouse Funhouse, The Spaffy Tangle, Razorwire Party Bridge, and The Flaming Mouth of Hades. Similarly, City Metric ran the news with an article titled “The 12 Most Ridiculous Designs for the New Battersea Bridge”, sparking a debate on Reddit in which users branded the projects “varying degrees of insane” and “ridiculous doodles.” But beyond all this jovial name-calling, these designs are symptomatic of an unhealthy approach to wealth that London seems unable (or perhaps unwilling) to address.

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Here’s How BIG’s Power Plant Ski Slope Will Blow Smoke Rings

When BIG‘s proposal for Amager Bakke, a waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen, was unveiled in 2011, there was a lot for skeptics to pick apart. Is it really possible to run a publicly accessible ski slope on the roof of an industrial building? Would they really be able to make it blow giant smoke (or rather, steam) rings? The whole idea seemed rather too good to be true. The project’s ground breaking in 2013 may have silenced some critics, but the video above should convince the rest of the design’s feasibility.

The video shows a test from August in which a miniaturized version of the smoke ring-blowing chimney finally demonstrates the concept. According to Danish website Ingeniøren, in the months since, the design has undergone further refinement by Peter Madsen, the artist, aerospace engineer and inventor that BIG brought in to develop the chimney, and is ready for another major test tomorrow at Refshaleøen in Copenhagen.

Walkable Cities? Rooftoppers Want Climbable Cities

© Demid Lebedev

“The city for the people!” is the familiar rallying cry of the reformist architect – but which people, exactly? That’s the question at the heart of rooftopping, a new and thrill seeking variant of which has recently captured the attention of the media. Spreading via social media outlets such as Instagram, the stunts draw attention by design, but why has coverage of the form of Urban Exploration climbed to such great heights?

Urban exploration has been at the fringes of the public consciousness since the mid 2000s as a form of punk sub-culture; anarchists poking around in sewer tunnels and proto-pinterest ruin exploration (although unsurprisingly the habit of people breaking into abandoned, closed off or normally inaccessible buildings dates back much, much farther). The way has captured the public imagination, though, is as a form of public discourse: how it meshes with social media, the way corporate groups have attempted to market stunts, and the way these groups are interacting with the urban environment.

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Oscar-Nominated Film Captures Life with Modernist Architect Parents

Minimalism has its challenges and for this seven-year-old sibling of two, it’s not for children. Nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 87th Academy Awards, Me and My Moulton captures the unconventional life and struggles of three kids with modernist architect parents. Watch the trailer above and see what director Torill Kove believes are five sure signs your parents were architects, after the break.

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AD Interviews: Xiaodu Liu / URBANUS

At the end of 2014, we had the opportunity to catch up with Xiaodu Liu, one of the three founding partners of Chinese firm URBANUS. Telling us about the role of architects in today’s society – especially in China – he discusses how the creativity which URBANUS is known for plays a part in the business of their practice: “Innovation is actually everything for URBANUS, because the firm is doing projects for very challenging jobs. That’s the only way we do marketing; we have to do something creative, otherwise we don’t have any marketing tools to get something more conventional… we push ourselves to the limit.”

Connected to this, he sees intellectual exchange as the foundation of their success, a mechanism that has allowed them to eschew more traditional marketing: “We have some people similar to us, that are well connected, people understand our work and support our work and they like us. Then we have that network and people refer to us and they actually bring jobs to us… networking is more like in the academic level – a more intellectual exchange.”

Watch the full above and check out our past coverage of URBANUS below.

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