Defining what makes a good architect is an elusive target. Objectively, one could argue a good architect gets projects built to a standard of timeliness and cost-effectiveness that also adheres to the social responsibility of contributing positively to the community as a whole. Then, subjectivity rears its ugly head.
Sometimes good architecture moves us in ways that can’t be expressed by words. Sometimes we might have negative reservations about an architect who is, by every other tangible metric, at the top of their game. These ephemeral qualities define architecture in a much more puzzling and interesting way as we try to pin down exactly what good architecture is.
So, when it comes to 3D rendering and visualization, is there any correlation between what makes a good architect and they type of images, animations, and explanatory diagrams they use to explain and communicate their work? That’s what we’re here to explore. Should a good architect know how to 3D render, and how do those skills translate to better design and a more complete finished product?
Let’s dig in.
When moving through the ranks of design school, often the only leg you have to stand on when facing a panel of experienced, oft-egotistical architects is your ability to explain your work. For the most part, no one expects you to be a good designer because that kind of talent doesn’t grow on trees, and for most of us they only way to get good is to do a lot of work.
However, if you are able to tell your story in a convincing way and thoroughly show your thought process through images, diagrams, and physical models, suddenly it doesn’t matter that the concert hall you designed doesn’t have any bathrooms.
In school you are taught how to tell a convincing story, and are given the technical skills to be able to do that. If you can’t put pen to paper and draw something up that not only looks nice, but can be understood by your grandmother, than you aren’t doing your job. This particular skill and process is often lost on architects as they move out of school and have to worry about real word problems like payroll taxes, critical path schedules, and interior lighting fixture take-offs.
Universities focus on these skills because they are vital to your success as a designer. 3D rendering and visualization are a big component of this education, and something good architects are always continuing to get better at.
Most architects that reach a certain higher echelon of reputation and recognition in their career never forget to keep drawing. It is the thing that continues to connect them to their work even as their projects grow bigger and their firms sprout taller. There is an intimacy and romance to the ability to draw something in a way that lets everyone else into the brain behind the building.
The very best 3D renderings in the world have this quality, and are often done by the people closest to the design. There is certainly nothing wrong with outsourcing the final images that hit the boards, but if the visualization work is coming from the architects themselves, the communication of the idea will be that much stronger.
That’s why it is important for architects to be good at 3D rendering even as they become successful. They might not always be able to have a firm hand on the production of every drawing for every project, but their knowledge of that process is just as important as their knowledge of how a building comes together.
In this writer’s opinion, all architect should know how to properly communicate their ideas through drawing. It’s the very first skill a designer learns how to apply, and should never be cast away no matter how far their career might take them. In today’s world of design, 3D rendering and visualization is the most effective way to let people into the design, and should be considered an essential tool in any design firm’s back pocket.
However, I also think it is completely possible for a good architect to know nothing about 3D rendering and still be able to communicate their designs through thoughtful sketching, diagramming, and management of their project teams. It helps to know the ins and outs of 3D rendering, but maybe it isn’t so essential - especially for those who have been around since the days of T squares, protractors, and rolls of waxy vellum.
In the end, it all comes down to where you came from. The notion of a ‘good architect’ almost always veers into the subjective, so to state with any level of authority or certainty that all good architects must be able to 3D render is an exercise in futility. A good architect gets buildings built. Plain and simple. Being able to 3D render can certainly help them get there, but is most definitely not a prerequisite.
So, chin up you drawing board purists. There’s hope for you yet.