Photorealistic Rendering

The Perfect Image

Fig 01: Tower 6 Communal Space.

There are many ways to represent architecture. Today photo-realistic renderings of architecture have become normalized and eclipsed various older mediums. This obsession over the perfect image, as a result, the imagery becomes independent of the architecture.1 The architecture itself displayed as a decorative component of the image. The perfect image overshadows the concepts and ideas in the design. The framing elements and the balance of colors with over the top enhancements. Exaggerated light and shadows, bloom and glare effects, the sun setting at a perfect angle. We pay attention to an ideal scenery and overlook what the architecture is trying to express. Understanding and focusing on the architecture is essentially lost, but a perfect false reality is presented and sold to the viewer (Fig 1). Imagery idealizing a perfect scenario leads the public to expect perfection from the architecture, and it becomes problematic when it’s impossible to deliver in reality.1 Diagrams and sections communicate conceptual elements of design to a more effective degree. Still, the digital age abuse of social media platforms’ makes photo-realistic rendering desirable in developers and marketing agencies’ eyes. 



Obsession of details 

Fig 02: Grenville Homes, where countless revisions where performed on door frames, fixtures and plumbing.

When photo-realism is presented to an audience, the imagery is bound to the real world, we start to nit-pick all the in-accuracies presented. Instead of constructive meetings about improving the design, clients begin focusing on small details.2 Misled by photo-realism that the visualized medium is the final product. Insignificant things like door handles, light fixtures, carpet textures and furniture choices become the topic of discussion (Fig 2). It is fact that clients love renders, they get excited and attached to the imagery. The process then becomes reversed, there have been instances where the clients would compare the rooms after construction to the conceptual renders, and question why the proposed materials appear different to the final product?3 This is a common misuse of photo-realistic renders. Sensible use of architectural renders should be used at the conclusion of a project, where the focus shifts to marketing and advertising. They should not be confused with the design process. Conceptual renders are often used to “wow” clients and win them over in a favorable manner, where less work could be invested into the actual design. 



Fixation of a View 

Fig 03: Carillon City, Early design development.

For people who are not familiar with drawings and diagrams, renders create magic for buildings that have not been realized. However, to those people and communities, those visualizations are taken literally. In some situations, these buildings are still in early conceptual phases, especially those utilized in architectural competitions and are highly stylized. Once they go public, the architects are held to that vision. This can typically lead to disappointment when the design shifts over time due to cost control or building codes; communities become enraged as they are not delivered what was presented initially.3 Carillon City at the heart of Perth’s CBD went public very early on with imagery showcasing a luxurious urban jungle at the podium. To the present-day has gone through several iterations and scaled down significantly. The reaction of the Perth crowd after witnessing its final iteration would be a curious investigation (Fig 3). In a positive light, firms have realized these issues, and in the case of Mexican architect Tatiana Bilboa. She had banned rendering as her clients had stopped following the design process because they had fixated their mind on an early image, it was damaging to the creative process.4



References (Images provided by Author):

(1) Quirk, V (2013). Are Renderings Bad for Architecture?

(2) Keen, J (2017). The Problem with Photo-realistic Architectural Renderings: Computers have gone from magical tools to communicative liability.

(3) Nicolaus, F (2020). Renderings are everywhere: Is that good for designers?

(4) Frearson, A (2019). We Banned Renders from the design process