Modern Representation, Digital Deception
Author: Gabriela O’Connor
“Architecture is the reaching out for the truth”
(Louis Kahn, architect) . Thanks to modern technologies and the generation of realistic computer rendered images, the architect and the general public can understand how a design will occupy and exist in a three-dimensional environment. Also, architects, engineers and building contractors now have the ability to work together using BIM programming. Though architecture has greatly benefited from building and representative technological advancements, the realities and idealities of a design have become obscured into a perfected, idealistic realm.
Drafting, or drawing, is the most traditional design practice (which can include diagrams, plans, sections, elevations and perspectives), that has existed in the field for centuries. In actively drawing and creating documentation of a project, the architect remains conscious of their design rationalization and can communicate them to collaborators and clients. These are purposeful expressions of “the interaction of [an architect’s] mind, eyes, and hands” proving to be an integral to the “process of architectural design” . The success of an architect has always been derived in the ability to visually communicate ideas. With the development of computer software, the means to explore design ideas and create proper documents have allowed architects to expand their creative potential and distinctly market their designs.
BIM, or Building Information Modeling, allows for the design and construction processes to share a common system to more easily coordinate or move forward from the schematic to building process. “BIM…change[s] the information delivery and processing” method and gives architects a better grasp of the practicality of their design . In having more coordination between design and construction, there is less confusion and more collaboration potential. Architect Frank Gehry created his own programming, Gehry Technologies, to allow the intricacies of his project designs to be realized. He states that “the relevance of construction automation” has greatly enhanced “an architect’s ability to design and build unique buildings” . BIM and other similar programs create more efficient and productive environments for all building fields.
Rendering and Adobe Suite programs (such as V-Ray, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc) allow architects to create a system of graphics to better and more realistically present their ideas. These “representational methods and tools… assist architects in… communicating the acts required in designing” to others . A new language and artistic presence is created through these digital documentations. Similar to an artist, line weights, colors, and composition become easily customizable for the architect. Projects can be rendered, depicting qualities such as shadows, light, and materials, resulting in an image of an overall environment that the viewer can relate to . However, there is a point in which generated imagery can begin to overpower and miscommunicate the designer’s intention and the design. Architects must remain conscious that the computer is a tool to assist with design, not the designer.
An architect develops a style and aesthetic over time with their design projects that is appealing and representative of their ideas. It is the architect’s responsibility to remember that the “eyes are trained to believe that a photograph is a true representation of an existing condition” . Similar to the fashion world creating deceiving ads of models, a design proposal is getting a makeover of it’s own before being presented to the consumer . Moreover, it is also the responsibility of the audience to recognize graphics and design depictions as abstract, and not literal translations into reality. Documentation and imagery is meant to be informative, appealing, and stimulate interest.
The architect, in trying to create an atmosphere that the client and audience can connect with, has to be persuasive with his/her work. Technology allows for the ability to isolate and focus on what he/she chooses to, rather than the logic of the entire project. A lack of connection and intimacy between the architect and the project is hindered by the creation of captivating work. In playing with the audience’s perception, “a designer [can] pass off unresolved design proposals as real” . Photoshop and other image alterations are used to create a perfected isolated aspect of the project. These programs are “performance enhancers” and “deceiving the consumer” because there is a “lack of connections…with actual, built, [and] imperfect” reality . Perfecting the visual appearance of the image and documentation becomes more important than resolving the design, for the architect can choose to exclude what he/she chooses. For example, an architect will omit to show air conditioning vents or emergency exit signs in a rendered image of a project because although realistic and required, they are not the visually appealing aspects of architecture. The power of the computer in its aid of the design and representation process draws the architect away from their obligations as designers.
Architecture is a constantly evolving field in which technology is at the forefront. The ability to collaborate in the building process and be more conscious of real world environments are just some advantages of such technology. It is important to remember as architects and viewers that computer generated documents are graphic representations that should not be taken literally. They are meant to evoke emotion and create interest and stimulation in a design proposal. Architects must be able to distinguish when it is appropriate to use these technologies to benefit their design process but also take advantage in their ability to increase productivity.
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