June 12, 2013

Renderings Part II: In the real world.

So, I might be biased by being primarily taught by the old "modernist" studio professors during my architectural education. My career in school with these professors made me feel  that renderings are not the deterministic factor to making it to the field. I was more interested in design process than seeing what I can do with photoshop – and yes there are consequences that I had to deal with swinging to the extreme for one approach in studio over the other. Eventually I had to realize that yes, renderings are crucial as a student, but if you want to be those architects that actually want to make money and make ideas become reality...spending hours on photoshopping and renderings does not an architect make...if anything, it is just one aspect of the many things we do.

There was a pedagogical shift in my school use of computer generated imagery. Before my school became accredited, I was in the former curriculum where my old-school studio instructors were concerned with the proper floor plans, sections, elevations, and physical models. They were focused on technical conventions and scale. Consider yourself lucky if you had time to render your drawings or crank out a perspective. Even professors would not bark at you if you did not have a perspective drawing (they were rarely the assignment requirements in my first and second year and we had the option to just render the elevations as an alternative). There was little done to focus on renderings...yet magically they were supposed to come out by the end of your third and fourth year. There were neither tutorials offered nor workshops on software. It was up to the student to pick it up on your own.  A few years later, I was placed in a new curriculum where renderings were crucial. You had to captivate your audience in a review with seductive imagery. Somehow, I was always concerned with many of the “old school” architects who taught me – your design process, spatial planning, knowledge of construction, and ability to design are much more valuable.

In my last entry on renderings, I made known how important it is to get some proficiency level of creating 3d images as an architecture student. In practice it gets a bit different. You need to be quick and proficient in all your capabilities as a designer. However, it depends on the firm, it depends on the work you have to do and what is more pressing. If your firm is getting rich clients, and is getting published – renderings are going to be of utmost importance. I had a real-world reality check a few weeks ago at work:

Just before the weekend, we began talking about a great design we saw online. I told my colleagues that I was always enthralled by the renderings by many NYC architects for their ability to hybridize hand drawing and digital renderings. If I wanted to be good at rendering I wanted to master that style. My  boss replied that low paid students working ridiculous hours would be doing that type of work. An architecture firm that actually builds would find post-production of base renderings much more expensive to charge out and would put the least amount of time possible to make a rendering of "starchitect" quality. At the end of the day, it is all about getting a strong building design realized and habitable.

They were right. My first few jobs so far in this industry are for small design firms and my current observations is that being an amazing renderer and Photoshop artist will take you only so far in this field. I am not disregarding this skill - you need to win your clients and get them to want to get that design built and go beyond conceptual design to working drawings - renderings play a role. Rendering capabilities will greatly help in your portfolio to get your foot in the door - but there are more skills you need to sell yourself as a student and remain in this demanding field for a long time. I’m not diminishing the importance of those skills as I feel you need to be a "Jack-of-all-Trades" in this industry. Probably small firms would even outsource their renderings to a special architectural illustration firm.

Probably if you work in a theoretical and/or starchitect's office you may be focused on the glitz and glam of rendering. But for all the small firms that work towards getting work built for regular clients, your bosses would rather see you spend your time on the construction drawings and getting the quickest image output of a 3d model to present the design idea for a client meeting. In a residential firm that I work for, clients are not always expecting seductive renderings to merely envision during the conceptual design of a project, but they are trusting that you as the designer can ensure that they get that home built and will make the right decisions during the challenges arise during construction. In the scheme of all things, what matters is bringing that vision into reality and that means transforming those renders to something  tangible for the client to happily live in.

Not every firm is a starchitect or corporate office and I feel like the challenges to small firms will be based on resources and how much time do they actually want to dedicate on a rendering versus construction drawings, or sketches. There is also the issue of cost of renderings – not all clients are filthy rich developers – there will be individuals that want to have a place for the business, or a home to dwell in and sometimes their budget will not require renderings during the design process

Not every architecture student will make it into the few famous offices out there and if you are wanting to be a worthy asset to an architecture firm – you will have to do more than just being a render-holic. If you want to be making money out of your design practice you have to be building than just creating pretty pictures to drool over. So for those architecture students that might not be the best illustrator– at least bring your skills up to a good baseline. Just realize it’s not the end of your career if you cannot do those sexy hazy-day renderings we see in them hip magazines. (but if you want hazy days - play with layers and layer filters on Photoshop)

1 comment:

  1. When I was in middle school my parents hired an architect to design their dream house, and on paper it looked awesome, but it fell way short in reality. While working for builders I started sketching the architects intent to help the owner see what they were agreeing to, and now, it's how I make a living.