The Different Purposes of ArchVis

Working alongside some of the most established architectural studios (several AJ100 practices, RIBA competition winners, WLA Awards nominees) and interacting with hundreds of others on a regular basis has allowed us to notice a few emerging patterns in the architecture, urban and landscape design industries. Let’s try a quick classification:

๐Ÿ. ๐’๐“๐€๐๐ƒ๐€๐‘๐ƒ ๐€๐‘๐‚๐‡๐ˆ๐“๐„๐‚๐“๐”๐‘๐„ ๐…๐ˆ๐‘๐Œ – started as idealistic. Clients tended to regard their work as a commodity, forcing them to become competitive and thus enter a race-to-the-bottom scenario, making it very difficult to focus on design quality and to become recognised as an emerging talent.

๐Ÿ. ๐„๐Œ๐„๐‘๐†๐ˆ๐๐† ๐“๐€๐‹๐„๐๐“ – a growing, recently established team, having a clear sense of mission, creates bespoke conceptual work, participates in international competitions, has already won a number of regional awards.

๐Ÿ‘. ๐„๐’๐“๐€๐๐‹๐ˆ๐’๐‡๐„๐ƒ ๐๐‘๐€๐‚๐“๐ˆ๐‚๐„ – has offices in several cities, AJ100 member / nominee, has won prizes in several architectural competitions, works for international clients.

๐Ÿ’. ๐‘๐Ž๐‚๐Š ๐’๐“๐€๐‘ – Pritzker Architecture Prize, RIBA Stirling Prize, World Landscape Awards. Questions the status quo, generates technological innovation, shapes architectural discourse and theory.

Do you agree with this classification?

It only takes a quick glance at a website to instantly place a studio in one of the four categories.

In the following lines I will focus on each of them, offering tips on improving the quality of the online portfolio in order to increase the perceived value of work, increase fees and creativity and thus ascend into the next category, assuming that is your goal.

 

๐Ÿ. ๐’๐“๐€๐๐ƒ๐€๐‘๐ƒ ๐€๐‘๐‚๐‡๐ˆ๐“๐„๐‚๐“๐”๐‘๐„ ๐…๐ˆ๐‘๐Œ – started as idealistic. Clients tended to regard their work as a commodity, forcing them to reduce fees in order to stay competitive and thus entered a race-to-the-bottom situation, leaving no time to focus on design quality, R&D and being recognised as an emerging talent.

๐“๐ฒ๐ฉ๐ข๐œ๐š๐ฅ ๐ฐ๐ž๐›๐ฌ๐ข๐ญ๐ž: contains hastily taken photos of completed projects and artificial renders made in Revit, Lumion, ArchiCAD. Skies are too blue or have dramatic sunset colours. The portfolio lacks stylistic consistency, presenting attempts at photorealism side by side with flat illustrations.

If you find yourself in this position, it is likely that your work is, in fact, concept-driven. It just happens that the online portfolio fails to convey your vision because you barely have time to manage it.

๐–๐ฒ๐ซ๐๐“๐ซ๐ž๐ž ๐“๐ข๐ฉ๐ฌ:

#๐Ÿ ๐ฎ๐ง๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ. Opt for a recognisable rendering style – illustrative / photoreal / atmospheric / painterly. Make sure your photos match that style.
Clients always rely on first impression. They rarely stop to think ‘this is a render’ or ‘this is a photo of a completed work’. They rarely differentiate between the quality of the visual and the quality of the design. And even if they do, if their first impression is ‘the images look cheap, flat or artificial’, overcoming that emotional reaction through persuasion will be very difficult.

#๐Ÿ ๐ข๐ฆ๐ฉ๐ซ๐จ๐ฏ๐ž ๐ž๐ฑ๐ข๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ฏ๐ข๐ฌ๐ฎ๐š๐ฅ๐ฌ. If you cannot invest in new visuals or retake quality photos of completed works, editing the existing visuals can be a good start. Slightly desaturate the cheesy renders, fix the greenery so that it doesn’t look like Chernobyl, replace the rudimentary 3D people with quality 2D ones, soften the hard landscape, overlay better skies. Subtle but thoughtful changes can dramatically improve the atmosphere of an image. For bad photos, Photoshop Camera Raw or Lightroom can work wonders.

If you have a render of a completed project you are not fully satisfied with, send a link to juliana@wyrdtree.co.uk and we will be happy to try a few post-production techniques for you for free.

#๐Ÿ‘. ๐ข๐ฆ๐ฉ๐ซ๐จ๐ฏ๐ž ๐ ๐ซ๐š๐ฉ๐ก๐ข๐œ ๐๐ž๐ฌ๐ข๐ ๐ง. If the quality of the visuals is acceptable, make sure the online portfolio loads quickly and is well structured. If you are looking for free website builders, Squarespace is a good solution.
Your studio’s visual identity should be expressed through everything you produce, online or offline – logotype, logomark, fonts, business card, printed brochure, office furniture, invoices, mugs etc.

#๐Ÿ’ ๐œ๐จ๐ง๐ฌ๐ญ๐š๐ง๐œ๐ฒ: relying on a go-to visualiser and graphic designer ensures that visual coherence is maintained over time

 

๐Ÿ. ๐„๐Œ๐„๐‘๐†๐ˆ๐๐† ๐“๐€๐‹๐„๐๐“ – a growing, recently established team, having a clear sense of mission, creates bespoke conceptual work, participates in international competitions, is featured in The Architectsโ€™ Journal and has already won a few regional awards.

๐“๐ฒ๐ฉ๐ข๐œ๐š๐ฅ ๐ฐ๐ž๐›๐ฌ๐ข๐ญ๐ž contains 2d illustrations, collages and sketches created in-house by passionate team members. Also contains a few unconvincing attempts at 3ds max photorealism. A few photographic vignettes of completed projects, with a focus on light and composition.

๐‚๐ก๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ž๐ง๐ ๐ž: You are competing against established practices that outsource their imagery to high end ArchVis studios. Their renders are instantly likeable, even though the architectural concepts are not always as good as yours. If the client likes what he sees, he will be content with a mediocre design. If the initial impression is negative, even a brilliant design will be hard to sell. You can picture with your mind’s eye what the building will look like once completed, but the client can’t because he is not accustomed to visual thinking.

๐–๐ฒ๐ซ๐๐“๐ซ๐ž๐ž ๐“๐ข๐ฉ๐ฌ: If you find yourself in this position, consider punching above your weight. Pick a visualisation studio with a clear signature style that suits your artistic vision. If this turns into a long term collaboration, your online portfolio will achieve organic unity over time. Potential clients will find your work just as compelling as that of established competitors with hundreds of employees and decades of work experience. The perceived value of your work will skyrocket without changing your workflow.

 

๐Ÿ‘. ๐„๐’๐“๐€๐๐‹๐ˆ๐’๐‡๐„๐ƒ ๐๐‘๐€๐‚๐“๐ˆ๐‚๐„ – founded decades ago, has offices in several cities in the UK, AJ100 member / nominee, has won prizes in several architectural competitions, works for international clients.

๐“๐ฒ๐ฉ๐ข๐œ๐š๐ฅ ๐ฐ๐ž๐›๐ฌ๐ข๐ญ๐ž contains renders in many different styles, produced over time by CGI studios with different approaches, some of them reflecting outdated software. The renders are mixed with photos of buildings of different eras. The site feels heavy and confusing, and this is accentuated by a variety of building scales and programmes.

๐‚๐ก๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ž๐ง๐ ๐ž: All large organisations experience a form of entropy when they cease to express the vision and ethos of their founders. That vision might still be influential in contemporary practice (think Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers) or it might have become dated, like the irony of Robert Venturi. In either case, when looking at the practice’s online portfolio, it is very difficult to see a link between its recently completed projects and the vision of its founders.

๐–๐ฒ๐ซ๐๐“๐ซ๐ž๐ž ๐“๐ข๐ฉ๐ฌ: Whether the established practice continues to express the initial ethos or shifts into a new direction, the online portfolio should read as unified and instantly recognisable.

If the founders relied on the aesthetics of Archigram, this can remain a feature in all their CG imagery. It doesn’t mean one must use the exact fonts and techniques of the 60’s, it just means that images can have the same vibe or Retrofuturist aesthetics, with or without photorealism.

The most important aspect is to ensure that the renders have a timeless, iconic quality. Even if the architectural design picks up on ephemeral trends that will look cheesy in 10 years, the CG visuals must refrain from doing so. We still love the paintings of Joseph Gandy, Turner or Constable but we cringe at CG renders from 30 years ago. This is because Romantic painters sought to express an iconic atmosphere, instead of glorifying the technical capabilities of a newly invented tool. We still love the Retrofuturist aesthetic of 40 years ago (Sci Fi, Steampunk, Cyberpunk) because it also focused on the whole atmosphere of the worlds it envisioned, not just the technical parts.

Achieving this implies opting for an in-house visualisation team or outsourcing your CGI to a visualisation studio that can infuse your projects with an iconic atmosphere that goes beyond mere photorealism.