Where next for architectural visualisation?

Gardens by the bay, Singapore: visualisation Vs reality.

In the business of creating architectural films and stills when does photorealism .. and hyper realism... fall short? 

The quest for photoreality is never quite enough until visualisations also convey a sense of experience. It’s about making that link between the architect’s vision and the people who might be using the building or the place.

For Squint/Opera director Nick Taylor and chief technology officer Ryan Lintott the aim is to make the viewer want to explore and to be there.

Since the dawn of architecture there have always been architectural visions.. lovingly crafted images of sublime streetscapes and great urban vistas of an idealised world where buildings are exquisite and impressive and the sun never sets. However, there’s one key element that’s often missing … the people.

Our approach is to start with the people, the users and the viewers, to see how we can best explain the architect’s or developer’s vision. The process begins by meeting with the project team, talking through their ideas and concepts, getting to the essence of what the project is about, understanding the design and how it has evolved, and even, occasionally, collaborating to help realise the scheme.

After the initial design stages, architects and developers can become so immersed with the business and detail of how to build, they can forget why they are building. So this is where we come in.

By distilling the many stories behind a complex scheme we can help align the team’s vision and to find its heart. The simpler the story the more powerful it will be.

It’s also sometimes the case that this process, provides an opportunity for architects to think afresh about their designs, see them from a new perspective.. and perhaps introduce changes; making a film is almost like test driving the building or the scheme.

By the very nature of this work, projects are rarely complete when we are brought on board, so we often help fill in the gaps. Because most of our artists, producers and directors have an architectural background this is something we are very comfortable with.

Gardens by the Bay: supertrees

Gardens by the Bay Supertrees: visualisation Vs reality.

Collaboration, for example, was key to the production of the competition entry for the Gardens by the Bay project in Singapore where we worked with landscape architect Grant Associates. Of course the landscape architects led the way, but we helped to really flesh out and develop ideas like the huge artificial trees which have now become a signature part of the project. In this case, along with many others too, this animation demonstrated that a filmed competition entry is very powerful in helping to tell the story so that the judges, many of whom may not be architects, can understand and appreciate the ideas.

By the very nature of this work, projects are rarely complete when we are brought on board, so we often help fill in the gaps. 

In other examples, we have been commissioned to make a film featuring one building, and to help tell the story, we need to create the full cityscape as a backdrop. Years later it’s possible to find that some aspects of our fictitious designs have been incorporated into the completed development. And when working on the architecture, there’s even been the opportunity to affect the broader scheme.. for example with some product design. In one of our films for Stonehenge and English Heritage, we needed to move tourists from the visitor centre to their destination and for the purposes of the animation, we designed a series of carriages pulled by a Land Rover. The client liked the idea so much, the carriages were subsequently built almost identically to our designs and are now in use.

stone henge image

Stonehenge Visitor Centre: visualisation Vs reality.

We love it when this sort of thing happens. For us, it’s the sign of a successful collaboration with the architect and developer because it means we have captured the essence of the place and its story. And this is more than just the look of the place, it’s how it feels. We can add another dimension, so the best films need to address all the senses. Architectural visualisation can be a positive contributor to the process, and we know we have succeeded when we reach that point of crossover when the vision is transformed into reality. 

stone henge image 1 02

Stonehenge Visitor Centre: visualisation Vs reality


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