The workflow of a good architect is greatly determined by three stages: designing a project, visualizing all the details, and creating a model of the final design. Three words should be part of the motto of every architect who wants to become an experienced professional: Design, Visualize, and Create.
To create a real and stunning work of art, an architect must first visualize the form of what he's about to create. The architect’s workflow is rarely covered in any standard and traditional form of education, yet it's the most important element of any project.
There are different elements and factors that need to be combined to create a workflow that will guarantee the desired result. Organization, communication, and collaboration, together with the process outlined above, should make up the workflow of a successful architect.
Before architects can approach a project, they need to understand the idea behind the project. The evolution of the working process took its natural course. It's closely related to the advancement of modern technology which gives more means and resources to the architects to organize their time much better than before.
In the early stage of a workflow, it's essential to establish the main goals of a project. Professionals and specialists usually use this stage to gather as much information about a project as they possibly can. It's also a stage where the essential decisions are made. Each information and decision are equally important for the final result and, of course, no one wants their project to fail.
Architecture is an exact science and there's no room for mistakes. Due to the complexity of its nature, architects usually collaborate with other team members working on the same projects such as engineers and other specialists. The design is considered to be the earliest stage in the workflow of architects, mostly because that's where they make decisions about the recommended approach.
Based on the performance, the feedback helps them to keep pace with design changes that happen very frequently until the design reaches its final form. Such a division of workflow brings significant benefits to the architects. It also enables them to apply any necessary changes without disrupting the entire project.
The first stage of the workflow leads to the second stage, where an architect starts visualizing the already-made design in terms of performance goals such as energy cost, daylight, comfort, and other criteria. Also, in this first or early stage, an architect explores facade design, program layout, building form, and the like. It's also the stage where early models are created.
The second stage of a workflow is where an architect decides between what's possible and what a client wants. Visualization is crucial to the success of the entire project. It's the stage where an architect has to think about all the elements needed to complete the project and it further determines the course of possible actions that they need to take.
Today, it's possible to do amazing things with visualization thanks to the advanced software technology. With such software built specifically for architects, professionals and specialists got an extremely useful tool that helps them optimize their workflow and get the finest results.
Such software can help you bring your design to life by adding compelling effects, foliage, objects, lighting, materials, and environment through an impressive visualization. Such possibilities give you a full picture of where you currently stand with your project, allowing you to plan the next move, staying on or even ahead of your schedule.
With almost instantaneous rendering and editing, adding artistic and conceptual aspects to your entire workflow is easy. The best thing about these tools is that they allow you to create big visualizations. This instantly gives you a full picture of everything that you need to change or add, making things much easier.
Therefore, it's absolutely safe to assume that visualization gives a full perspective of the final form of the project to both the architect and the client. Design, followed closely by visualization are the essential steps that lead to a well-executed project.
After the first two stages, the only thing left is to finish what you started. You already have all the necessary details, the wanted design, and a detailed visualization of how it will all look in real life. Now you can start creating a 3D model to get a full picture of the project.
Creating a 3D model puts all other team members on the same page. It's a way to remove any obstacles that might get in the way before the project reaches its final stage of realization. It's a stage where you actually create an object based on design and visualization, which were both shaped by the demands of your client. Even after this stage, it doesn't necessarily mean that the project is over.
Usually, more than one model is created to see how it blends with the variations proposed by the client and the rest of the team. If everything goes smoothly and by the book, a project is allowed to enter the stage where it's actually being built in real life. Being an architect today has numerous advantages over being one twenty years ago. This is simply because of the affordable and widely accessible advanced technology we now have.
The truth is, the success of a project greatly depends on the workflow of an architect. If you have these three distinct stages in your workflow, you'll ensure that the project is completed quickly and smoothly. This type of workflow has been implemented by many big architecture firms that have designed and built amazing structures. Follow this pattern and you can expect great success.
3D rendering artists have a lot on their plate. Between finding work, doing the work, and making sure the work is good enough to get them more work, there’s little time to spare. The most successful artists find ways to shore up their workflow in order to streamline their process and do the best job they can do in a reasonable timeline.
That’s where 3D warehouses come in. They provide artists with ready-made 3D models they can insert into their work without the need to create the content themselves. They are shortcuts that can cut schedules in half, and lead to professional grade renderings that are delivered on truncated deadlines.
This is a list of 7 3D model warehouses that have been developed to host diverse libraries of 3D models spanning a variety of visualization sub-industries. Whether you are a game designer, architect, or marketing professional, these warehouses can help aid in moving along your rendering work and leaving enough time to focus on the things that really make your business tick.
From cars and characters to animals and architecture, Turbo Squid has it all. It’s quality that counts here, and everything down to the slick interface bursts at the seams with it. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single 3D model in their library that doesn’t pass whatever high standard of excellence you use to judge them by. Turbo Squid is simply the best, and one 3D model warehouse you should keep bookmarked for life.
The operative word here is ‘free.’ You might not find the most high-res, Pixar level 3D models here, but what you do find won’t cost you a think. Free 3D is the perfect place for beginners and rendering noobs to cherry pick some content and get their feet wet. You can browse models by category, or based on which modeling program you use. For being 100% free, there are a lot of extras here that make looking for and downloading 3D models fun.
SketchUp has come a long way since it’s initially rocky launch over a decade ago. This is due in large part to the ever-growing coffers of its proprietary 3D model database, simply called ‘the warehouse.’ It’s populated with thousands upon thousands of models created by none other than the robust base of SketchUp users worldwide. Not every model is top notch work, but you’re bound to find something you can use among the stacks.
If CAD is your 3D modeling bag, than GrabCAD has a lot to offer. It’s made up of a community of designers, engineers, architects, and students who all contribute to growing the library of CAD files members and users can browse. The GrabCAD community is vast, meaning the shear amount of 3D models available is large and ever-growing, ensuring you’ll be able to find something to contribute to your next 3D rendering or animation.
CGTrader is a storied, well-stocked 3D marketplace where users can find both high-quality paid for 3D models, and lesser-quality free models for use in their rendered scenes. It comes with a healthy amount of browsing filters that help artists narrow down what they’re looking for and spend less time thumbing through content they have no use for. The site also as a number of VR-ready models that can take your work into the future of 3D visualization.
For rendering artists whose primary mode of creation is fine art, 3DM3 has the database of content to make your lives easier. It’s a crutch used by computer graphics artists around the world, and has cultivated a robust library of resources that goes beyond your typical street lights, fire hydrants, and guys walking dogs. It’s also a place where artists can learn new skills, engage in a community, and share their work with the world.
There’s nothing difficult about using Archive3D, which for its laundry list of users is its most attractive feature. There’s no need to hold a membership card or even provide an email address to start downloading models from one of the largest 3D model databases on the internet. No matter the format or software you’re using, Archive 3D will have something you can put to good use.
Materials and textures make up one of the cornerstones of 3D rendering and visualization. A professional-grade texture library can be the difference between good and great work, and is worth the investment for anyone looking to make 3D rendering a career choice.
Every rendering artist has spent many hours cultivating their own personal collections, and are always on the lookout for more, and better 3D textures to improve their work.
And not only do they have their own collections, they have the resourcefulness to know where to look when trying new things or upgrading their work with the latest and greatest available 3D textures. Some of these files don’t come cheap, but a select few online resources will give you high-quality materials and textures for nothing more than an email address.
Here are 7 free 3D material libraries to up your visualization game.
The 3D material library so outstanding they gave the name an extra ‘i.’ Poliigon is home to some of the most impressive materials and textures on the internet, regardless of cost (or lack thereof). You’ll only find the best of the best here, and even though they technically aren’t free (subscriptions start at 13$ per month), they are so reasonably priced for the quality it was still worth mentioning (please don’t hate me).
With HDR supported textures and not a single bad egg in the batch, this is a great place for professionals and beginners alike.
The free 3D materials library formerly known as CGTextures is still a great place to find high-quality, free 3D textures. They have a massive collection to pick from, and include both 2D and 3D versions of their files. So whether you are working in Photoshop or V-Ray, there’s something to stop by for.
Free accounts allow you to download up to 15 files per day without committing to their premium service, which offers different credit packages for more frequent users.
Let me stop you right there. We’re not talking about free beer (though I wish we were). Free BPR is a modest, but impressive library of free material and texture downloads that will make you forget about not having free beer. It’s a no-strings-attached option great for newcomers and amateurs looking to bolster the stock textures that came with your 3D rendering program.
Free PBR is easy to navigate, and has a straightforward interface that will have your computer fully loaded with top notch textures in no time.
3DXO implements a Pinterest style interface for searching and browsing free material and texture files. The site itself is clean and tidy, and reflects the quality of the textures themselves. It isn’t the largest 3D material library on the planet, but it has enough really good files here to give rendering artists something to come back for.
3DXO is a snap, and is entirely free for anyone with an internet connection to use to their heart’s content.
With enough extra ‘r’s to tie your tongue, and enough unique and interesting free textures to populate your next rendering job, Texturer just about has it all. Compared to others on this list, Texturer’s library is massive, with a variety of subcategories to explore that branch off from the typical architectural and industrial materials you’re used to seeing.
In fact, you could get lost down rabbit hole after rabbit hole trying to find the perfect file, so be warned. There’s lots to do here and lots to like about this free service.
3D total is more than just a robust material library (which it has). It is a massive community of artists, teachers, students, and people who are simply jazzed to be around other like-minded CG artists and visualizers. But let’s get back to that texture library. It’s huge, and has something for just about anyone working in the 3D rendering industry.
Do yourself a favor and sign up as a member with 3D Total. You’ll be rewarded with a ton of great content, and a community that will make you feel like you’re part of something bigger than your three parallel computer monitors.
While their headline of “Free Samples” might evoke visions of street-level drug pandering, Marlin Studios has been giving out free textures and materials to 3D rendering artists for over 20 years. And while, yes, they are hoping you’ll like that taste and come back a paying customer, you’re certainly not obligated to do so.
However, offering up a few dollars will give you access to some truly great textures provided by people who care about the work they do and the content they sell.
Landscape architecture and design traditionally leans towards the more artistic and ephemeral side on the spectrum of building design disciplines. It requires a vast knowledge of plant life and natural elements, and also the ability to ground a work of architecture into a building site. This is no easy task, and takes years of experience and work to become good at it.
As landscape design is unique, so are the tools people use to do it. Many landscape firms still rely on tried and true methods of hand drawing and rendering to produce their production drawings, but more and more are finally merging their efforts to a more digital approach to visualization.
The tools on this list are tailor made for landscape designers who are looking to improve their process and better inform their workflow. Being able to render landscape work will result in better architect relationships, and an end product that aligns with the initial idea.
These are the best rendering tools for landscape design.
While Lumion is a powerful rendering program for a host of different applications, it’s toolset lends itself particularly well to the landscape field. It allows you to take a base 3D model - say something made in SketchUp - and add lifelike trees, plants, people, and other landscape elements that will add the appropriate level of detail to your images.
Lumion is fast, relatively easy to use, and comes with an incredibly robust library of objects and foliage designed to help architects and landscape designers create large, beautiful visualizations.
While not technically a rendering tool, SketchUp should be installed on every landscape designers’ machines. It is the easiest 3D modeler to understand and use, and has a large catalogue of ready-made components that landscape architects might find helpful as they are conceptualizing and refining their designs.
SketchUp works well with most rendering tools available, offering a smooth transition for anyone looking to take their visualization game to the next level.
Let’s be honest, V-Ray is good at pretty much everything. For those landscape architects who have the highest of aspirations in terms of presentation quality and adaptive workflow, V-Ray is the only choice. It’s the most popular rendering engine on the planet, and can produce visuals and animations that will make sure projects get sold and built how they were initially designed.
However, V-Ray is not cheap, and represents a steep learning curve that not everyone has the time or patience to summit. If you do, though, you’ll be rewarded with a quality of work not likely to be rivaled by your colleagues.
Adobe has been developing photoshop for almost 3 decades, and continues to support the best, most widely-used post-production tool in circulation. It’s software that every design professional should know how to use, especially landscape architects and designers. If rendering trees and foliage isn’t in the cards, why not simply add images of real content to populate and image?
Photoshop, of course, lets you do more than just superimpose ficus trees over your SketchUp exports. You can add materials, change lighting effects, and make a flat image come alive with a bit of practice and technical know-how.
Revit was developed to be the BIM software that would usher building design and construction into a new era of communication and drawing. That sort of happened. For landscape professionals, the switch from 2D drafting software to Revit makes sense now more than ever. There are some very useful tools that help disseminate topographic information and use a highly detailed 3D model for direct rendering and visualization.
In fact, AutoDesk is working hard at using revit to create streamlined visualization loops that inform the design process unlike ever before. Learning Revit might take some time, but switching your office over can have effects that go well beyond simply drawing. It will help your office communicate with itself, and with architects and builders. And, it renders!
Okay, I’ll admit. I hate to deprive the landscape professionals of the rendering tools that have likely got them where they are today. Drawing by hand still has a lot of benefits, and should never be abandoned completely from an office or practice. It’s for ideas, and in certain situations makes sense for client meetings and presentations, too.
There will always be room in the landscape design industry for a drafting table, a few trusty pens, and a large bucket of colored pencils.
In the next 10 years, the building design and construction industries are going to undergo a monumental shift. The way in which buildings are designed, presented, and ultimately built will rely more and more on the computer aided transfer of information made possible by rapid growth in technology, and by the architect’s willingness and ability to venture into the next wave of innovation.
We’ve seen this kind of shift before - more than 30 years ago when designers began the glacial shift from pencil and mylar to mouse and keyboard. People thought BIM was going to be the next great tool for the conveyance of design and construction information, but it never gripped the industry in the way people thought it would. Architects used programs like Revit and ArchiCAD to quickly manifest their designs in drawings, but with it came an unexpected lack of discipline when it came to construction drawings. People assumed the power of such a piece of software would enable them to spend less time wrestling with it. They were wrong.
BIM has made architects, designers, and drafters lazy. Its component and assembly based drawing capabilities removes the drawer from the individual attention to detail required to put together a set of complicated instructions, then to be interpreted by a guy on some dusty construction site named Biff.
So, while BIM certainly ushered in a new age of workflow and drawing practice, it has yet to become universally integrated, and one could argue it has presented the industry with a one-step-forward-two-steps-back situation. And while architects are learning how to wrangle the beast that is Building Information Modelling, it now carries with it the same weight of issues that has plagued construction documents since limestone blocks were being ushered down the Nile.
And that problem is a conveyance of information and specification that anyone without an advanced degree in architecture can understand. Seeing is understanding, and the sooner we can truly see the thing before it is a thing, the faster and more inexpensively we can start to realize it.
By now, everyone under the sun should at least be familiar with the concept of virtual reality. However, until recently it was little more than science fiction dream to be able to put on a headset and transport yourself into another world. Last year a number of affordable, consumer friendly VR systems were introduced into the world, giving those who indulge the unique opportunity to experience the most immersive digital experience available today. Not only that, VR offers a level of interaction that is tailor made for the videogames and other interactive media outlets.
Mega-tech companies like Facebook and Google are throwing a massive amount of resourecs at VR, almost ensuring its success in the mainstream. And, even if it doesn’t eventually find it’s way into every home in the first world, there will be enough of a swell to plant VR as a mainstay in commonplace and frequently used technology.
An architect might tell you he/she is an artist, an urbanist, an ecologist, or any other touchy-feely kind of moniker that makes them appear to be something different that what they actually are - a salesperson. A design firm is only as good as they are at showing people why their work matters - a challenge that has sunk even the most promising careers. The unfortunate thing is, while architects are taught how to best represent their designs via models, images, and videos, they often lack the business savvy required to speak to the lowest common denominator while simultaneously impressing their peers.
There is a massive opportunity in VR to help bridge that gap and give architects a digital tool that allows them to speak to the broad audience their designs must wholistically appeal to. The architect can build their work in three dimensions, and through the use of static and real-time rendering take anyone who puts on a VR headset the one to one representation of what will someday be a realized building. Using the capabilities of VR, clients or consultants or contractors can take a guided tour through every door.
The term ‘walk away impressed’ takes on a whole new meaning.
The opportunities for VR to be used as strictly a visualization tool or drool-fodder for clients and other suit-wearing onlookers are obvious. However, underneath that surface-level application lurks a powerful beast that could end up realizing the pie-in-the-sky aspirations Building Information Modeling sought about a decade ago.
Imagine a job trailer. Next to the table strewn with half-ripped permit drawings, coffee stained memos and stacks of discarded donut boxes sits a powerful computer and a matt black Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. This is where the construction manager steps out of his overalls and into the mind of the architect. With a virtual button presses he removes siding, drywall, and insulation from the 3D model to expose framing members, electrical fixtures, plumbing runs, and mechanical ducts. Before a single stud is pounded into it’s concrete stem wall he can pan around the building and truly understand how its components will come together. He quickly identifies inconsistencies and conflicts weeks before they will happen in the field. He then writes up a request for information (RFI), sends it to the architect, and gives them plenty of time to coordinate a solution and get it back to the builder without a single hiccup in schedule or budget.
That’s the dream. And while, of course, there would be problems that could arise from this model, it’s easy to see the potential of adding this type of visual and informational toolset to the architect-builder relationship. I’m sure VR will never replace a trusty set of printed-out construction drawings, but it could act as a valuable supplement to understanding the design intent and building it accordingly. And ultimately, that’s exactly what the architect is hoping to preserve.
This is going to be the most important component moving towards a future as explained above. Companies like Autodesk must get on-board with this type of interactive digital experience. The software for creating and experiencing VR already exists, but a comprehensive program in the vein of AutoDesk Revit where models can be constructed with actual building information in a easy to access interface will be the next step to making job site virtual reality an actual reality.
I’m sure somewhere a team of people way smarter than me are crafting that exact thing, and when it hits the market I’ll be first in line to figure out how it works. I think there is a demand among young designers and architects to venture into the unknown when it comes to visualization and building information. I’m hoping this old guys doesn’t get left behind when the future architects of the world are wielding the power of virtual reality like it is a finely sharpened HB pencil.
Only time will tell if VR will take-off in the mainstream. However, I’m almost certain it will contiue to be developed and used by progressive design firms who are always looking for the best ways to show off their work. Even if that surface level of immersion is as deep as the industry gets, it still has potential to shake up the industry in interesting and unimaginable ways. Grab some popcorn and slip on your VR goggles, because it’s going to be quite a ride.
There are many ways to skin a cat and that notion doesn’t get any truer than in 3D visualization. You see, ever since 3D visualization has become a valuable asset and I can even go so far as saying that it is the driving force for architectural design and marketing, many architects have come up with creative ways to get ahead of the competition. To say that the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry is a cutthroat business is the understatement of the century. It is an ultra-competitive market and one needs to adapt to the changes or even device new ways to be able to thrive in building design, construction and marketing.
3D visualization and rendering is now a must in any building project. Whether it be commercial, domestic or a multi-million building project, architectural 3D visualization has become a staple of conceptualization and presentation. The goal has always been to communicate the project in the most effective and innovative way to the client so that he/she would be sold to the idea from the get go and enable the project to get off the ground in no time—saving time, money and unnecessary delays in the process. It is the be all and end all of all construction projects and choosing the right method/type of 3D visualization can mean the difference between success and failure.
As far as 3D visualization goes, though there have been a lot of innovative 3D rendering methods/genres that have come out of the woodwork over the years (thanks to the digital revolution), it’s important to remember that in a building project, you only need to take note of the two types: the ‘Realistic’ and ‘Artistic’ approaches in 3D visualization. Technically, they are known in the industry as ‘Photorealistic’ and ‘Non-photorealistic’ 3D rendering techniques.
So which is better? How will you know whether it’s more practical to choose the one from the other? And which approach industry insiders and clients really prefer? These are valid but pretty loaded questions. They look deceptively simple but they’re quite difficult to answer as both terms can be subjective. When discussing about these two techniques, there are certain ‘grey areas’ and technical nuances that we need to navigate in order to come up with informed and satisfying answers. In order for us to be guided accordingly, we must first know the basic facts.
Photorealistic rendering or realistic 3D visualization in layman’s terms is a computer generated rendering/image made to look as real as possible from the lighting, textures, shading etc. There is not much artistic freedom or modification needed to it. Its main focus is photorealism wherein an artist/designer studies an image and then tries to reproduce it as realistically as possible using another medium. In other words, the building has to appear exactly how it should appear in the real world along with other supplemental elements like trees, people, cars etc. If you make some stylized alteration to it then it’s no longer a realistic 3D visualization—no ifs no buts—ideally of course.
On the other hand, a non-photorealistic rendering or artistic 3D visualization is a type of visualization wherein artists/designers are given creative freedom as to how a certain visualization should look. It involves a lot of creative styles made to look like a drawing or painting for digital art. Its main goal is to impress and at the same time create a stylized environment wherein collaboration and appreciation can occur. Popular examples of this approach are cel-shaded animation and exploded view drawing.
One advantage of realistic 3D visualization is that it gives clients realistic expectations of a project at hand and leaves very little room for misunderstanding. The main thrust is to express and communicate how the building should look like as realistic as possible—the ‘impress’ aspect of it comes later when all the facts are laid out. It’s not to say that this style is boring. It can really be very impressive especially if the basic disciplines of photography and computer- generated imagery (CGI) are seamlessly blended together.
Having said that, there are certain things that realistic 3D visualization can’t effectively communicate—like the inner components of an object or building. This is where non-photorealistic or artistic 3D visualization comes in. I’ve mentioned the exploded view drawing earlier because it’s one aspect of this approach that glaringly differentiates itself from its realistic counterpart. It’s especially advantageous in the technical or schematic presentation of an object. Take for example the inner components of a complex building system along with its electrical and plumbing diagrams. You can’t really effectively illustrate that using the photorealistic approach alone. It’s just not possible. Through the exploded view drawing, the complex system in a building can be separated at a uniform distance allowing clients to view and understand the order of assembly and relationships between various parts and components. Also, non-photorealistic 3D rendering have proven to be more useful in remodeling projects as it anticipates and not copies what the final look of the project should be.
There are more advantages and disadvantages that I can enumerate when choosing the other 3D visualization approach from the other but I don’t or we don’t have all day. I’ve narrowed them to the more important and glaring ones so as to save time and unnecessary information as at the end of the day, the subject matter is still very subjective. It is by any means, a ‘case-by-case basis. So the questions posted earlier just boil down really to preference and necessity. Between realistic and artistic 3D visualization, who are we to really say which one is better? Both have different advantages and disadvantages depending on the circumstance. They are, for a lack of a better term ‘apples and oranges’. In the case of realistic vs. artistic 3D visualization, the jury is still out there.
The best way to deal with such perplexing choice though is to communicate with your clients. Get to know them better; their tendencies, preferences and expectations. After all, what good is a method if it undermines, instead of bolsters, the collaboration aspect between designers and clients in a building project? It is them that you are trying to win over and not the technical pundits of the industry. At the end of the day, the clients always have the final say as they will be the ones who will fund the project and no one else.
My suggestion is to combine both realistic and artistic 3D visualization technique should the need arises. My belief has always been that if there’s a great idea out there, it should be acknowledged and utilized regardless of where it came from. That mantra was applicable then and it is even more applicable now. In the fast-paced, almost relentless world of the AEC industry, you can’t be a purist. You have to have an open mind and adapt to the changes along the way because if you don’t, you will surely be left behind.