The Art of Rendering: 21 Beautiful Visualizations of Iconic Modern Architecture

These outstanding visuals showcase the keen eye for detail and technical prowess of architectural rendering artists.

Lidija Grozdanic Lidija Grozdanic

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With architectural visualization often accused of cheating, it’s useful to see some examples of CGI that recreate famous, built examples of modern architecture. The following images and films, made as personal projects, prove that producing flattering visuals doesn’t require gimmicks or cheats, but instead relies on the quality of architecture, a keen eye for detail, technical prowess and good taste.

Maison de Verre, images by Bertrand Benoit (3ds Max, Vray, Photoshop)

Maison de Verre embodies the most experimental aspects of early modernist architecture. Its industrial “ocean-liner” aesthetic and exquisite detailing, results of collaboration between architects Pierre Chareau and Bernard Bijvoet, and French metal craftsman Louis Dalbet, make this “machine for living” a true gem hidden in the middle of the 7th arrondissement in Paris. Here Bertrand Benoit revisits the house in 3D, capturing fine details and light filtering through glass blocks that dominate both the exterior and interior of the building.

Exeter Library animation by Alex Roman (3ds Max, Vray, After Effects, Premiere)

Here is a beautiful excerpt from the CG short titled “The Third and the Seventh” by Alex Roman, a rather mythical figure in the archviz community due to his deservedly revered cinematic style. The film infuses Louis Kahn’s Exeter Library with emotion and drama, features beautiful DOF, subtle camera shakes and panning shots. You should definitely watch the entire film, if you haven’t already.

Church of Light, images by Elvin Aliyev (3ds Max, Vray, After Effects, Photoshop)

has had its share of 3d recreations (change). Elvin Aliyev’s recreation of Tadao Ando’s Church of Light captures the tactile qualities of the materials much better compared to the widely publicized photos of the project. The 3d images don’t beautify the space, they simply use what is there and make it look better. Ronen Beckerman showcases Aliyev’s set of images and the link to the original, leaving it to the audience to judge for themselves.

Barcelona Pavilion and Farnsworth House, images by Alessandro Prodan (Maya, Mental Ray, After Effects)

Like the previous example, Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and the Barcelona Pavilion have been recreated in 3d many times. Alessandro Prodan’s images of both projects are singularly atmospheric, with composition that shows the interplay of reflections bouncing off the glass and marble surfaces in the Barcelona Pavilion, and the incredible photorealism of the vegetation in the Farnsworth House. This project is also particularly interesting since it’s the only example rendered with Mental Ray.

Guggenheim Bilbao animation by XOIO

XOIO made this one-minute-long animation of Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao as a side project inspired by the work of Alex Roman. The short tour around the iconic building showcases the surrounding artworks byJeff Koons and Louise Bourgeois and ends up looking like a piece that the museum management should use as part of its marketing.

Nakagin Capsule Tower, images by Bertrand Benoit (3ds Max, Vray, Photoshop)

Bertrand Benoit often recreates iconic buildings, which makes it difficult not to include them all in this list. His rendition of the 1972 Nakagin Capsule Tower by Kisho Kurokawa nicely captures the rusty patina of the exterior and the claustrophobic existenzminimum attitude of the Metabolist movement.

Sendai Mediatheque, images by Imagine Studio (3ds Max, Vray, Photoshop)

Imagine Studio visualized the exterior of Toyo Ito’s Sendai Mediatheque in several lighting conditions, capturing the building amidst it busy urban context. One of the most accomplished images in the series includes more of the surroundings in an autumn cloudy day setting.

Rietveld Pavilion, images by Tamas Medve (3ds Max, Vray, Photoshop)

Tamas Medve created these images of the Rietveld Pavilion in the Netherlands as an exercise in creating vegetation. The current pavilion replaces the original structure for the display of small sculptures at the Third International Sculpture Exhibition in Arnhem’s Sonsbeek Park. The original building was dismantled after the exhibition was over, rebuilt ten years later, this was also dismantled and finally rebuilt as a permanent pavilion in Museum Arnhem’s sculpture garden.

Azuma House, images by Viktor Fretyán (3ds Max, Vray, Photoshop)

Tadao Ando’s use of exposed concrete and austere aesthetic are like catnip to visualization artists. The architect’s articulation of natural light and weathered materials dominate his projects. Fretyán’s images of Azuma House–Ando’s first residential commission– are moody, feature heavy vignetting, high contrasts and rich textures.

Maison Bordeaux, images by Dimitar Rashkov (3ds Max, Vray, Photoshop)

The style of Rashkov’s rendering of Rem Kolhaas’ Bordeaux house owes a lot to Alex Roman’s Forest Refuge and sets the building in a densely forested surrounding. The artist tackles only the exterior of the building and uses shallow DOF which, though it probably wouldn’t go well with clients, creates an interesting effect.

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