When we think of architectural visualization, we think of renders, probably typical real estate CG imagery mass-produced from an outsourced overseas outsourced company. Overused stale and sterile images of unrealized architecture are everywhere, all over your social media and billboards in your city. If our goal is to create photo-realistic architecture images, why are our work obvious that it’s a render? Possibly dropping the cliches that are typically used in renders is a good start, too much reflections, forests on top of podiums, taking bad angles and going sci-fi crazy; the biggest giveaway however is a lack of photographic sense.1 Perhaps, we need to change the perspective on how we approach visualization. The reality is, with the innovations in AI and machine learning, our work processes will become streamlined. Spending hours and hours learning how to make the perfect concrete texture or timber veneer would be redundant. Achieving convincing photo-realism would be effortless in the future with upcoming technology.2
Ronen Bekerman, an industry leader in architectural visualization and many other leading studios such as MIR, believes that taking a photographer’s approach is where visualization should aim. This perspective can help architectural visualization break free from the stagnant and stale state it has currently been stuck in for years.3 Architectural photographers are the professionals at the opposite end of the spectrum; they capture the built architecture, where we capture the un-built. We can benefit by spending our resources learning from aspiring architectural photographers such as Dion Robeson, Martin Siegner, Rory Gardiner to name a few. Good images of architecture can define, isolate, interpret, exaggerate, and extract cultural value.4 These are skills we lack as visualization artists. We spend a majority of time mastering how to use the software but spend little time learning about photography. Theoretically, we should be able to apply these same principles to our work, as the building exist for us in virtual form for us to capture.
To illustrate the disconnect between the typical imagery we produce in visualization and good photography (Fig 01), we can compare side by side below, various projects and photographs taken by Martin Signer (Fig 02), and a couple of typical commercial developments visualized in CG. The disparities are obvious, overuse of colors, jamming too many elements in the frame, lack of compositional drivers and unrealistic presentation of light. In contrast, the photographs by Martin Siegner are soft with an honest depiction of color, framed and composed well with leading lines and rule of thirds. They are composed as a set of imagery, rather than a whole perspective that contains it all. Segmented moments in architecture, presented in vignettes, where the viewer can focus on details and piece together an architectural journey in progression.
Fig 01 Renders provided by Author: Banksia Apartments, Shenton Park, One Mabel Park and Lincoln Street
Fig 02 Photographs by Martin Siegner: The Cali Hotel, Brisbane
The imagery presented in (Fig 03) is a mixed gallery of photographs by Rory Gardiner and CGI imagery from Mr P Studios, a leading studio in Melbourne. Can you distinguish which ones are CGI? MR.P studios have been working closely with photographers in their pipeline, and their work transcends the boundaries that most architectural visualizations artists cannot break free from. When the imagery becomes indistinguishable compared to well photographed architecture, that’s a clear sign that they’ve escaped the dystopian cycle of stale imagery. We can take these leanings and apply it to our workflow, to educate our clients when they make requests to “show everything” or “the sky needs to be more blue”. These will be the first steps to breaking free.
Fig 02 From Left to Right – Image 01, 03, 05 Renders by MR Studios. Image 02, 04, 06 Photographs by Rory Gardiner
(1) Keskeys, P (2020). The art of Rendering: 7 Common Mistakes made in Architectural Visualization
(2) Musungu, P (2020). Artificial Intelligence Rendering is here and integrated in a Bim software for architecture
(3) Bekerman, B (2019). The art of Rendering: The photographic Approach
(4) Company, D (2015). Architecture as photography: Document, publicity, commentary art
(Fig 01) Provided by Author
(Fig 02) Photographs by Martin Siegner: The Cali Hotel, Brisbane
(Fig 03) Photographs by Rory Gardiner, Renders by Mr P Studios