As architecture students, we are entering into an extremely competitive working profession, one which is benefiting, or some would say suffering, from an increasing variety of channels through which architectural designs can be represented. The days of pencil and drawing board are numbered, and are being replaced instead by photo-realistic, idealised renders which in some cases deceive the client to buy into a proposal based on the quality of the graphic, rather than the quality of the design. So are these renders good or bad for the profession, or should we go back to the days of the pencil?
At university, speaking from personal experience, I have found that in order to get attention from other students and visitors to the school, your designs must stand out, either through striking visuals and colour or through quirky presentation techniques, ie video etc. Even the most exquisitely designed proposals can easily be lost under a smokescreen of artistic flair when students work is displayed together, as it usually is. This paradigm is worrying as it forces young architects to focus on graphic design and architectural design is often neglected. Time and time again, there is always a student who spend days producing exquisite presentation sheets and is reassured by other students that they are guaranteed a good grade. The issue comes when the student receives a lower design mark than a student whose presentation sheets were not quite as exquisite but were backed up by a solid design process. This student is then left feeling confused due to a misunderstanding of where his presentation lacked, after all, how could such a beautifully presented design receive such a low grade?
This student, like so many clients in the profession, has fallen prey to the deceptive nature of architectural renders, the only difference in the industry is that many clients are unable to see through this artistic smokescreen.
Many students look towards resources like precedents medals and top architectural universities for design inspiration, however many students, including myself, unknowingly find themselves taking away only graphic design inspiration rather than what we were searching for in the first place. I’m sure you can see how this vicious circle, encouraged by the current architecture education system and the industry itself can have a detrimental effect on the quality of building produced in the modern day.
Don’t get me wrong, artistic, realistic renders can be extremely useful in explaining complex concepts using only a few images, so long as they accurately represent the design which is to be built. As well as this, the emergence of sophisticated augmented reality software can greatly benefit firms trying to conveying a design to a client who is not likely to be able to interpret traditions orthographic drawings. What clients want to know is what the design is like to be in, and with this new software, they can be physically immersed into a realistic version of such a design.
Clearly there are major advantages which come with the use of realistic renders to convey a design, however, I feel that in order for their successful application, raw architectural design must be given greater attention, and not come as a byproduct of a graphic designers piece of art.
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By Edward Powe – Stage 2 BA (Hons) Architecture