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In defense of architectural visualization

Short answer: for the better. The long answer: well, it’s long. Architectural visualization has been the topic of debate for a while now. Ever since its emergence really. Skeptics have been criticizing the sometimes dishonest aspects of it, while enthusiasts have been praising the amazing visual appeal of it. These two aspects of it are two sides of the same coin really. When you are creating something that’s just a sketch as if it were a complete project you’re walking a thing line. You have to make it look good, while you have to maintain its integrity and build plausibility. That’s where most of the naysayers find ground to criticize, in the instances that have fallen off that line. However, even those naysayer will be hard pressed to deny the contributions architectural visualization has made to architecture as a whole. Innumerable projects have been pitched, and thank to stunning renderings, finished. Yes, some of them might’ve been too good to be true, but there are many more that have enriched landscapes around the world.

Approachability

Before architectural visualization made its debut the only way investors and laymen could see what a project would look like was through sketches, architectural drawings and models. These will always have a place in architecture, as they are still essential pieces of the puzzle. However, to say that they are somewhat abstract to anyone other than an architect would be an understatement. To the architect that drew a building every floor, every window, and every tile are apparent in a drawing, because they all dwell in the corners of his mind. To someone less educated and experienced, they’re just a bunch of lines and symbols they don’t really understand, yet they need to if they are to go through with the project. Architectural visualization completely revolutionized the playing field in this regard. There isn’t a project out there that can’t be created, or recreated, with 3D rendering software. Now investors and buyers can easily understand what they’re looking at, and look at it in extreme detail. Besides, saying that visualizations sometimes misrepresent the object in question is true, but you could do that with a model or drawing as well. As long as you’re responsible with your visualization work, the sheer breadth of work you can do is well worth the investment of time and money.

Revision

Perhaps one of the strongest advantages of architectural visualization over traditional methods, is the ability to go back and forth until the final image is perfect. You might be thinking: “Well you can do that with traditional methods as well.” and you would be absolutely right. However, remaking a large model, or re-drawing a whole lot takes significantly longer than making adjustments to 3D renderings. Communicating with clients, and making sure every single one of their ideas is implemented seamlessly in the finished image is much easier with architectural visualization. All it takes is a few well formulated sentences, and an architect can hop right into whichever program they’re using to make the necessary changes. Sometimes it takes just one go, and sometimes it takes twenty, as it’s always been. Many an architect labored for weeks over a model or drawing trying to make it perfect only to have it returned for one line or one wall. As it should be, because perfection is imperative in architecture. And, to be honest, it’s easier to attain perfection with visualizations than any other method.

Efficiency and exactness

This particular “trait” of architectural visualization is where it truly shines. Due to the nature of 3D rendering it’s easy to divide a particular project into smaller parts that you can distribute amongst your team according to priority and expertise. This speeds the whole creative part of the process up by a considerable margin. Dividing the project into smaller tasks also contributes to making it as lifelike as possible, ergo the exactness part. As technology is moving forward at an increasingly fast pace, the scope of what we can render into existence is widening. It’s now possible to simulate the surroundings of any architectural project with such detail that it looks as if the lot was never empty to begin with. Anything from nature, to lighting, to the surrounding architecture can be replicated with extreme accuracy, which adds to the project itself in a depth that couldn’t be attained any other way. Architectural visualization is also very efficient in terms of marketing. If you look at the time it takes for it to move from concept, to finished product, to being ready for marketing purposes it’s really a very short period of time. It’s also proven itself to be a formidable marketing tool many times over, largely due to its efficiency and the approachability we mentioned before.

Final remarks

We could write page after page of pros and cons, but the two we mentioned seemed the most impactful to us. To say that we’re biased would be an understatement, it is our area of expertise after all. But, we are architects before rendering artists, and we love architecture with a passion. If we thought that visualization was harming it in any way, we’d be long gone working on something else entirely. The truth is, it’s not. Some of our colleagues out there might be less principled but that cannot tarnish the beauty of the visualization world. Don’t let the few outshine the many in your minds, take a look at the hundreds of thousands of projects out there that have made it, and that were true to the image of themselves they sent out into the world. It’s truly awe inspiring.