Is Architecture Cosmetic? The Reality of Imagery in Architectural Visualisation

Architectural visualization, reducing architecture to cosmetics. We hide the ugly sides of the development, and the key spaces are celebrated as eye-candy for people to indulge. We showcase dreamlike properties promoted alongside fancy lifestyle footage and blemished imagery.3 As an architectural visualization artist, we are guilty of our creative freedom within the digital realm. Like fashion designers and magazines, they are just as guilty, covering up faults and photo-shopping out/touching up blemishes.2

With concurrent technology, constructing appealing digital mediums has gained prevalence in marketing agencies and developers’ hands. They are our clients, and to help them sell their projects, and we become liars, we put cameras behind through walls to make spaces feel larger than they are, we brush out unsightly cranes/construction sites from the view. We make the sky appear as if it were from a Hollywood blockbuster film. It’s easy to get carried away with enhancements, and we often forget that we have drifted away from reality. When the images become so convoluted with artistic decisions, sometimes they fall entirely out of context.2

Image 01: An interior visualization, in which I had brushed out the unsightly cranes and bleached the sky pink to create an exciting mood for the client. 


Illustrated below is raw, unedited photography, compared to the final photo-montage I had put together for the client. In our line of work, exterior facades wear the most makeup, usually glorified, with an unrealistic amount of lush and vibrant vegetation.1 The building has been much exaggerated, enhanced with a glowing beacon at the crown with brighter interiors than the stars. As compared with the original photography at that time of day, we can expect the streets to be much duller.


 Image 02: Exterior visualization. Left: Original Drone Photography Right: Superimposed imagery I created with enhanced visuals. 


High-end architectural visualizations often have the power to push back on clients when asked to present unrealistic skies or extremely blemished facades. They have a mutual understanding that they are the imagery’s artistic drivers, and the client respects their decisions. They can achieve photo-realistic imagery based on real-life photography skills and composition; they do not rely on cheap cover-up tricks to put a veil over what they are presenting.

 Image 03: Exterior visualization, Lindsay St, created by Mr P Studios. No exaggerated blemishes and effects, just simple shadow play and contrast was enough to convince their client.
Image Source:


Due to the accessibility of modern-day technology, we see a surge of freelancers pursuing architectural visualization, often promoted on Instagram. But this is where we should be mindful of our work; where do we draw a line between appropriate enhancements before it becomes an outright false interpretation of the building? It’s not that we want to be deceptive. As architectural visualizers, we enjoy creating beautiful exaggerated imagery; therefore, we often happily play into this game of seduction;3 a piece of visually engaging content is no more than a sales ambition to the client; still, to us, it satisfies our artistic aspirations. Sometimes we may take this too literally, and we run the risk of deceiving buyers when our interpretations are too dissimilar to the built structure.2


(Image 01&02 provided by author)

(1) Voegeli, A (2020). Expectations Vs. Reality: When Architectural Visualizations arn’t accurate. 

Expectations vs. Reality: When Architectural Visualizations Aren’t Accurate

(2) Rafferty, T (2015). The Deceptive nature of Architectural Renderings:

The Deceptive Nature of Architectural Renderings

(3) Minkjan, M (2016) What this MRDV Rendering says about Architecture and the Media:

The Deceptive Nature of Architectural Renderings

(Image 3) Mr P Studios. Lindsay St, Hub Property and Architecture. Melbourne, VIC.