The Art of Rendering: When Architectural Visualization Gets It Right

Enrich creates alternate, often surreal realities by manipulating architecture to his digital will.

Lidija Grozdanic Lidija Grozdanic

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The role of representation in architecture has never been as contentious as it is today. Embellished, faux-realistic depictions of unbuilt structures are saturating architectural publishing, online media in particular, accompanying everything from press releases to critical texts. The same process of commodification that impacted architectural photography has given 3D rendering a singular purpose: to beautify and attract. Architectural visualization has grown to function exclusively as a service industry for architects and real estate firms and as such has difficulties affirming itself as a relevant factor in space building. Attempts at creativity among 3D artists are usually micromanaged by clients, condemned by the architectural community as deceitful and at no point considered an act of architecture.

Yet, the Archviz community is brimming with talented professionals who possess remarkable visual literacy and a deep understanding of architecture. In fact, many among them are trained architects whose interests and expertise extend to include photography, film, gaming and technology. The reasons why they stop pursuing architectural design and decide to instead make “pretty pictures” — as they are often disparagingly called — are diverse, but most share a common thread of frustration with how conventional architectural practices operate as well as the notoriously slow turnover rate that still plagues the industry.

Sirens by Victor Enrich, Tel Aviv, Israel

Rendering allows one to move relatively quickly from one project to another and have a tangible result of their work in a matter of weeks or months. People working in 3D often experiment with other mediums as well — from VFX, advertising, graphic design to art and film — which only reaffirms the assumption that the migration from architectural design to Archviz shows a thirst for multidisciplinarity and a greater agility of the architectural profession.

To photographer and media artist Víctor Enrich, 3D rendering is the perfect tool for self-expression and engaging with architecture. On first look, one can easily fall into the trap of labeling him as a 3D artist showing off his technical skills. Enrich’s images are photorealistic, playful and memorable — all trademarks of the controversial lure of 3D rendering.

Enrich takes photos of places he encounters on his travels and later manipulates them in 3D software to create alternate, often surreal realities that highlight different social, political and architectural issues. The resulting images straddle the line between personal expression and intellectual engagement with the built environment. He stresses his interest in simple, human things when choosing his subjects, reminding us that “there’s plenty of life beyond architecture.”

Orchid by Victor Enrich, Tel Aviv, Israel

Enrich received a degree in architecture at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Spain and soon went on to work in Archviz. After running his own company, working for a variety of architects and real estate firms, he decided to close shop and dedicate his 3D skills to creating personal work that would allow him to stretch his creative muscles and work without the restrictions of commercial demand.

“I decided to quit because my definition of ‘artistic’ transcended that of the Archviz industry,” explains Enrich. “For those working in architectural visualization, creativity is restricted by client requirements and boils down to trying to implement skills in order to create something visually appealing or commercially viable. If architectural visualizers want to overcome this limitation and implement solutions not requested by the client, they encounter serious problems, which can result in loss of future engagements. So here we’re facing a scenario where freedom has been reduced to a minimum.”

Defense by Victor Enrich, Tel Aviv, Israel

In his project “Deportation,” Enrich transformed the Azrieli towers in Tel Aviv into three huge sirens, referencing the distinctive sound of sirens that are sounded on special days such as the Holocaust day and the Memorial day. Medusa Tel Aviv 2011 shows the city’s Orchid Hotel as a living organism extending its balconies like tentacles as if trying to compensate for its own design shortcomings and provide each room with the coveted view of the sea.

In another photo of the hotel, Enrich directs the emergency staircase upward and away from the building, humorously exaggerating the absurdity of its placement as it descends to hit the entrance podium. His favorite café in Tel Aviv, which kept its original form since the 1950s, is presented in a cartoonish manner as an isolated island that contrasts its surroundings. In Helsinki, he merged the Cathedral and the adjacent Panoramic Tower, showing the connection between the two structures through their monumentality and whiteness.

Guggenheim Rafael Uribe Existe by Víctor Enrich, Bogotá, Colombia

His most recent project — perhaps his most ambitious — transports Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum to a suburb in Bogotá. Seamlessly integrated into the surroundings, the building appears alien in order to highlight social contradictions Enrich encountered on arriving in the Colombian capital. By inserting an important North American landmark into the reality of Bogota’s slums, Enrich examines contrasting aspects of two distinct cultural narratives.

Commenting on his choice of subjects, Enrich stresses the importance of the mundane and the ugly:Why I pick up one certain building and not another one is something strictly emotional, and in “City Portraits” and “NHDK,” it had a lot to do with the fairy tale of the Ugly Duckling. Most of the buildings I choose are considered ugly in the mainstream mindset.”

Mersand by Víctor Enrich, Tel Aviv, Israel

The simulation of reality in Enrich’s images transcends the desire to harmonize and unify. Instead, photorealism is meant to augment the paradoxes and imperceivable connections between buildings, neighborhoods, cultures and users and provide a personal reading of architecture.

Enrich spoke at the d2 Conferences in Vienna alongside a number of Archviz professionals including the acclaimed industry giant DBOX, architect-visualizer Alex Hogrefe, Johannes Lindqvist and Serbian creative studio Case 3D. The diversity of approaches among the speakers provided a great cross-section of architectural visualization and a fantastic learning opportunity for those interested in different strains within the field of 3D rendering.

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