Gaming Architectural Visualization
Architectural visualization likely started with a stick dragged across the ground next to a prehistoric campfire. Architects still use that technique today, along with a host of other methods mastered over the millennia. New visualization tools developed for gaming and cinema offer yet another way to visualize architecture before building it.
Visual communication is the keystone of the art of architecture. Sketches, renderings, and models help translate a vision into concrete, or they can stand on their own as works of art. Today, sophisticated software tools offer new levels of immersion and realism, including virtual reality walkthroughs and design within an augmented reality. Many architects have alternative careers in the creation of virtual worlds, cities, and buildings for the exploding video game and digital cinema industries. For architects like me, still firmly engaged in the real world, 3D software models can also be part of the science of architecture, modeling energy performance, lighting, and solar power production early in the design process. New software can also be part of the business of architecture, making it easier to communicate with clients and help them visualize how their project might feel to inhabit.
Many purists would say that these tools detract from the viewer's ability to interpret an abstraction in their own way. Some clients may perceive from the level of realism that the design is already set. These are valid concerns. Architects need to be clear that this is just another tool which should generate more client feedback instead of less. These software tools include filters and effects to edit the renderings to abstract the images in various styles. Images in this blog are raw output without post processing.
My designs typically start as notebook sketches, and I still use physical models sometimes to help convey a design concept. Most of my design process revolves around a virtual 3D model of the project, which provides the basis for the entire process from concept to concrete. I use SketchUP Pro to design in 3D then use that model as the basis for rendering, architectural visualization, energy and daylight modeling, and more conventional 2D construction drawings. Clients enjoy "walking through" their projects in early stages of design and can give more detailed feedback based on the added information that an immersive experience can provide.
Unreal Engine, a gaming platform often used for computer-generated cinema, recently acquired a platform specifically for architectural visualization called Twinmotion. I've been experimenting with it in the conceptual design phase of various projects to help clients visualize the new spaces and materials. Another similar rendering engine is Enscape, which is also very powerful with a smooth learning curve and fast results. Both programs can generate immersive walkthroughs, videos, 360 panoramas, and 2D renderings. Both also offer changes of season, weather effects, vegetation, and terrain generation. Twinmotion has animated figures that follow paths you draw, including people, animals, and vehicles. As you will see here, my first efforts still look pretty gamified, but I am intrigued by the power and simplicity of this rendering engine. More experienced users have created architectural visualizations that serve as examples for neophytes like me to attempt to follow.
Please let me know what you think of these visualizations and stay tuned as I get the hang of these new tools for an ancient profession!