Almost three decades ago Architectural Visualisation became an independent field, with many emerging studios focusing exclusively on it, having no involvement in the design process. Traditionally, the visual representation of an architectural project was one of the architect’s tasks. Whether hand drawings or computer generated images (3D renders), the visuals were translations of abstract drawings aiming to make the building understandable to clients and users. Although most architects would limit themselves to drawing concept sketches, leaving the task of rendering to assistants and interns, not few of them spent a great deal of time in working on those images themselves, using them as exploration tools, statements and manifestos, giving them character and expression. In some unique cases (see Archigram or Lebbeus Woods), the projects were never meant to be built, the visuals being the only finished product.
Image source: Flickr.com Archidose
Image source: real-visuals.com
The only thing that – to my knowledge – has been left unaddressed by Visualisation studios is the production of a Theory of ArchViz, separate from Architectural Theory. Most studios opted for a heuristic hands-on approach, while dedicating only a few phrases to a written description of their vision. Practice without reflection destroys creativity and it is a known fact that architects who take time to ponder, read and write about their field of interest produce much better works than those who don’t. There are so many sources of inspiration that could be used by visualisers as a base for such a theory, as they dwell at the intersection of architecture, photography, scenography, painting, concept art, animation, generative algorithms etc.
In the following articles I will propose such a theoretical approach. It is my hope that this will materialise into a strong visual identity, one more deep and subtle than any rigid workflow, visual mannerisms, LUTs or Instagram filters would ever provide.