Don’t Shoot the Visualizer

The amount of detail that can be put into computer-generated images (CGI) is unlimited. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish ideas from reality, which from time to time cause disappointment when the final results deviate from the architectural visualization.

Zu Schön, um wahr zu sein?” (“Too good to be true?“) is the title of an article brought in the Zurich newspaper Tages-Anzeiger Saturday the 11.01.2020. In the article, we give a response to the critique that architectural visualizations, from time to time, are disappointingly far from the realization.

However, it is not the first time that there have been aimed sharp attention on this topic. In May 2018 Es Devlin was in a Dezeen article quoted for saying that “Architectural renderings are >troublesome and problematic<“. And, one year earlier Dezeen Editor-in-Chief, Marcus Fairs, on his Instagram, brought attention to the 56 Leonard Skyscraper in New York, which he frustrated pointed out deviated from its architectural visualizations.

The short and boring answer to this is that building projects are intellective processes that last years and includes decisions that have to be taken appropriate to one another. And that building projects including tons of decisions regarding design, needs, function, materials, sustainability, budget, technology, legal permits, location, stakeholder expectations, execution and more. Therefore, many things can change over the years of planning and latter building and since changes affect one another it is plain logic that an architectural visualization of a given design most likely will vary from the finished result.

Additionally, the intention of architectural visualizations is not to make a one-to-one replication of a future building project, it is to prove a design and portray the atmosphere the the buildign will add to its surroundings. Even though visualisation is a marketing tool it also is an artistic discipline and a paid service.

In conclusion, there is no clear place to put ‘the blame’ for a building design’s deviations and development when it is taken from idea to realization. Disappointment may occur from time to time when the ‘promised’ design is not delivered. However, it is important to remember that the information that is transferred within an architectural visualization is much more than just the visual appearance of the design.

Words are great, but when it comes to architecture, nothing speaks like giving a true impression of your design through visualization.”
Brewer Smith Brewer Group, 2017

2 thoughts on “Don’t Shoot the Visualizer”

  1. Lucas Martins says:

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    Resultados de tradução
    Information is often overlooked by the architect or simply thrown to the artists.

    When it comes to small architectural offices, this information is decided much later, almost at the last minute, important aspects such as coating, materials, colors, finishes in general, it is often up to the artist to predict all these details for the viewer.

    Without a shadow of a doubt, all decisions will be observed by the contracting architect, which may result in excessive changes or a breach of expectations with the artist. Sometimes due to lack of communication or insufficient information or even absurd short deadlines.

    It already happens a little differently in large construction projects, where all decisions are already taken based on the construction budget. The image comes first as a priority after the project, as the result of the images will be the result of sales. Even so, the lack of communication and understanding of the process can often cause frustration with direct and indirect causes, such as materials, climates, concepts to be shown, etc.

    I see this reality a lot here in Brazil, where the market is well separated and the lack of communication and understanding of the process leads us to deviate from the viewer.

    1. Hello Lucas,

      Thank you for your comment and contribution. We can only agree with what you are saying. Especially, regarding the lack of communication and understanding of the process. Moreover, it is interesting to hear that the struggle is the same in Brazil.


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