The Art of Rendering: A Day in the Light of Unbuilt Architecture

Time travel through an entire day through the lens of these imaginative renderings.

Jennifer Geleff Jennifer Geleff

The hugely popular Unbuilt categories return for the 6th Annual A+Awards! Get your models and visualizations recognized on a global stage — submit your project here, and act fast: the final entry deadline is May 25th, 2018.

Architectural renderings are tools for evocative storytelling, and their capacity to do so can mark the difference between remaining an intangible idea and becoming a central part of our built architectural landscape. Through a set of images, designers must strive evoke not only a still structure, but a holistic setting in which a building will eventually exist.

For decades, architects have used various tools to evoke such visceral settings, one of the most important being natural light and time of day. The most astute designers confidently display how a single design may interact with its surroundings, not only throughout the course of its lifetime, but also throughout the changing hours of a single day. As the sunlight (or moonlight) hits the brilliant surface of each stunning façade at hundreds of different angles, how will its personality change?

Through the lens of these imaginative renderings — each of which was a worthy finalist in the unbuilt categories for the 2017 A+Awards — we invite you to time travel through the full course of a day. In doing so, explore just a few ways architects harness time and light to situate their architectural renderings in the real world.


2017 A+Awards Popular Vote Winner in the Institutional – Unbuilt Institutional Category


Experience dawn at the Ian Potter National Conservatory by CHROFI, which was designed to provide ample light to tropical plant species, while limiting the building’s reliance on glazing and shrinking its overall footprint. The conservatory incorporates a series of immersive spatial experiences that play upon the complexities of compression and release, light and dark, natural and man-made. The dynamic outermost layer changes from transparent to translucent depending on its orientation, creating a unique visual expression that is both ephemeral and exciting.


2017 A+Awards Jury Winner in the Landscape & Planning – Unbuilt Masterplan Category


For the Fostering Resilient Ecological Development, Ennead Architects was tasked with the challenge of envisioning a resilient, sustainable, mixed-income neighborhood on an eighty-acre beachfront site in New York’s Rockaways. Ennead Architects approached this by creating a flexible design that would remain resilient over many generations and accommodate uncertain economic environmental change. The resulting design points to a new way of “living at the beach,” and defining the relationship between buildings, the landscape, urbanity and ecology.


2017 A+Awards Shortlisted Project in the Hospitality – Unbuilt Hospitality Category


In a stunning village in the region of the Baix Empordà, Architecture Studio MESURA is completely transforming the Peratallada Hotel, which is nestled within one of the most impressive medieval settlements in Spain. The remarkable castle is composed of several buildings arranged around a common courtyard. With their work on the hotel’s restaurant, bar and terrace, MESURA has imagined an idyllic setting to wind down for the evening.


2017 A+Awards Popular Vote Winner in the Cultural – Unbuilt Cultural Category


The Zhangjiagang Church by RSAA / Büro Ziyu Zhuang was designed to reflect both the past and future, and echo the challenges that Christianity deals with today. The rounded interior, harmonious curves and overall shape of the grand structure follow traditional basilica concepts of design, while doing so with a striking modern interpretation. The architects chose to represent the building against brilliant blues skies in the setting sun, with lights that illuminate the landscape of the church and reflect onto the perimeter of the nearby water.


2017 A+Awards Jury Winner in the Cultural – Unbuilt Cultural Category


Lit below a glistening full moon is DL Atelier’s Moon Stage — a peaceful setting for music performance in Malan Village, China. Due to the remote location of the village, music teacher Xiaolan Deng and her 80 students lacked a formal stage to express their love of music. The half-moon design that DL Atelier imagined serves as a place for children to play and fish in the daytime; as night falls, however, it transforms into a gleaming stage for artistry and expression.

Now, it’s your moment to shine: Click here to submit your project — built or unbuilt — for the 2018 A+Awards. If you have any questions about the submission process, you can send an email to