During the first stages of architecture design architects must find the best way to convey their ideas to their clients so that despite having no technical knowledge, they can fully grasp the concepts. Therefore, professionals often rely on a certain tool or set of tools to represent what they have initially idealized, either through two-dimensional drawings, physical models, or perspective images. The latter seems to be the easiest for laypeople to comprehend, so architects have constantly sought to incorporate a set of new artistic approaches with the support of technological resources.
However, if we look back at the past ten years at least, we will certainly notice that the boom caused by the development of software and rendering programs has led, or even “seduced", professionals to create hyperrealistic images, capable of confusing what’s real and unreal, triggered by the marketing effort to sell the architectural concept to their clients.
From another point of view, a nostalgic movement regarding architecture representation seems to be emerging and architects from all over the world have revived the traditional process of architectural collage, typically used during the mid-60s and 70s by several modern architects, such as Mies van der Rohe and Lina Bo Bardi. However, while these were formerly made from several pieces of paper combined with pen and ink drawings, they are now achieved by intersecting virtual textures and quick bases produced in modeling software, introducing us to a new approach.
As part of our June monthly topic - Visualizations - we talked with the offices, Diagrama Arquitectos, fala and PALMA, to know their opinions on the benefits of using this technique of architectural representation and how their clients react to this approach. Read their answers below.
"When we start to design a space or a project, we usually think of a specific environment, with a certain type of light at a precise time of day, where the materials give the character or personality of the space. Through collages we can experiment in that premature part of design. We can superimpose one material on another, we can experiment with the intensity of light, thinking more about the light itself than about the size or shape of a window. In a way, these collages are sketches of what we want to do, they are a promise of what the building we are designing can become."
"The collage technique also has the quality that it is easy to intervene, it is easy to make changes on the same image, unlike a conventional rendering where you first need to have a detailed model finished and then apply the materials and start testing, where the result is closer to hyperrealism than an exercise of imagination. The collage leaves space for the viewer to complete that image with his personal background. A collage, having pieces of other famous paintings evokes memories of landscapes or places we have seen before.
With the exercise of collage, we are given a sensitivity to imagine and graphically represent spaces in a very natural way. Ideas exist in a world where the possibilities are still infinite, and we can try them out."
"Much depends on the personality of the client. I once worked with a client who was much older than me. He was 70 years old and I was 20sh. When I presented the project to him I showed the collages of our proposal, it was a cellar for a vineyard in Mexico. In the background were the landscapes paintings of Velasco, the famous Mexican painter. When he saw the image, this client, who was always quite serious, was very excited because Velasco was his favorite artist. We began to talk about his work and then went into the project. His attitude changed completely and from those images we were able to establish a much more honest and efficient communication.
There are clients who understand collages in the first glance and there are others who don't. I guess it's about trying to read the environment at the moment of meeting them and make the effort to try to discover which language suits each type of client better. There are people who have more facility to understand projects through plans, or models or images. At the end, all of these are communication tools and we as architects can use them as we see fit. This does not mean that one is better than another, but they complement each other in order to transmit an idea in a clear and persuasive way."
"Our studio uses many different types of representation and each one serves a certain purpose and ultimately all complement each other. The collage, which the question specifically refers to, is a way of being real but keeping a limbo to reality. Everything is there, but at the same time, nothing is concrete. The space and the intentions are clear, but the whole weight of reality is ignored. They are pure images of intention."
"Collage ensures distance. In other words: it allows the discussion to focus on architecture on full scale and not on detail. It is a mechanism of thought. Collage is not an illustration of a finished project; it is a process tool".
"The people we deal with react well to collage. Not knowing what to expect from a design process, they accept the tools we use. The perception is very simple; even a 4-year-old child can understand what the collage is showing".
"To be honest, we started using it because our clients kept asking for some renders of their projects, and we were terrible at doing them... so we started experimenting with the collage and we found it really fun, we were all the time imaging different scenes that could happen in the projects we were doing and the collage gave us that possibility."
"For us the collages are really important in the first stages of the projects, it allows us to give the client a preview of what we are thinking, something more abstract where we can not fully commit to an idea and we can continue to explore different issues such as materials, spaces, proportions, etc."
"We´ve had different reactions, i believe it depends on the clients, they are sometimes more in touch with this pictoric side of architecture representation and there are some other cases in which they ask for realistic renderings. We love to use them for competitions as they are a great way to communicate ideas in a faster way and also it becomes a more playful way to do so which helps when jurors are not only architects."