Architectural visualization (ArchViz) has been around for centuries as a mainstay in the business of designing, communicating, and constructing buildings. However, only recently has it grown into an industry of its own, with dedicated artists and engineers spending years learning the disciplines, programs, and technical ability necessary to produce mind-bending, photorealistic representations of un-built work that has helped lay the groundwork for architecture and design firms across the globe.
Previously, this type of work was mostly regarded as ‘promotional’ and ‘marketing material’ and produced by whichever intern happen to be carving out a few hours of work each summer. It was meant to communicate the design to the outside world, but not necessarily in any profound or groundbreaking way. ArchViz was little more than a pretty picture for the layman.
But as building design has gotten more complex and the digital tools used to explain them have gotten more sophisticated, an underground movement of freelancers and digital nomads has grown into a well-established industry of firms, offices, and businesses who do nothing but work with architecture firms in creating images, animations, and virtual reality experiences that give a window into the design process previously represented by a brick wall.
ArchViz is taking over the design world, and here’s why every architecture firm should be paying attention.
Designing a building is like throwing seven flaming chainsaws into the air at the same time and scrambling around making sure they don’t cut someone’s arm off. There are an infinite number of moving parts and managing such an operation requires acute attention and steadfast work ethic. Creating pretty pictures should be the last thing on a project architect’s mind.
Hiring a team of focused freelancers or even a larger ArchViz firm takes some of the stresses of design communication away from the core architecture team. This might seem like a risk - to pull the responsibility of painting the design in the best possible light away from the people that are actually designing it - but collaborating with people who specialize in painting that picture is your best chance of showing off the best aspects of the architecture.
Additionally, the bulk of the design fee can be funneled into the actual design, and the ArchViz can be broken out into a separate scope that isn’t touched by what is being spent on making the design better. Architects should do what they do best: coordinate the circus so that no one gets hurt by a falling chainsaw.
Virtual reality is the new frontier of the 3D rendering and ArchViz world. Imagine the ability to insert clients, builders, or the general public into a canned digital experience that feels like it’s real. There is no guess work or suspension of disbelief necessary when they can take a walk around that beautiful courtyard you’ve designed before a single permit has been pulled or a single shovelful of dirt has been pulled from the ground.
Virtual reality gives the architect the ability to explain the design without uttering a word. It is a new tool - one that must be learned how to be used - but when implemented correctly gives a whole new level of control for designers. Additionally, down the road there is potential for virtual reality to aid in the construction administration of a design by giving builders the ability to understand the three dimensionality of a detail or interior with more than a 2D line drawing. VR could represent the next wave of communication tools that might help close the gap between architect and builder and architect and client.
Architects are notorious for trying to do everything themselves. However, when relinquishing a bit of that control and putting the specialty activities in the hands of the specialist, those collaborations can go a long way to making the design better and getting things done quicker. By hiring or bringing on a dedicated ArchViz wizard, a relationship is created with the sole purpose of not only making the project better, but joining together in showcasing the best aspects of the design to the viewing public. As much as it might pain the designer to admit, a collaboration always results in a more refined, critically considered end product.
So, to all you architects out there, swallow that pride, pick up the phone, and enlist a team of talented 3D rendering and ArchViz artists to help show the world why your design matters. It is a vital tool to not only make the designs better, but to help build your portfolio and get bigger, better, more substantial work in the future. There’s no more getting around it: ArchViz is here to stay and something all design firms should start investing in because it represents an investment in the on-going health of the firm itself.