The Art of Rendering: 11 Trending Non-Realistic Styles in Architectural Visualization

Eschewing photorealism, these talented rendering artists take a more abstract approach to create surreal, otherworldly environments.

Lidija Grozdanic Lidija Grozdanic

The winners of Architizer’s 3rd Annual One Rendering Challenge have been revealed! Interested in next year's program? Subscribe to our newsletter for updates.

Photo-realistic rendering has become a new standard in presenting architectural projects. Its proliferation has become controversial as its technical capabilities allowed architects to misrepresent their projects, often swaying business decisions based on . Beautiful realistic imagery engages laymen and professionals alike, and its role in real estate marketing, though legitimate, has greatly overshadowed other forms of architectural representation. Many of the traditional techniques like collages and drawings have taken a back seat in the process of selling ideas, though these are still used within studios whose work concerns itself with city development.

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While hyperrealistic representation leaves little to the imagination (best case scenario, what you see is what you get), more abstract techniques have strong expressive capacity and often best communicate designers’ main concepts, visual style and ethos.

Here are some rendering styles that take a more abstract and artistic approach, often using realistic 3D elements to create surreal, otherworldly environments.

1. KooZA/rch Artists

Image by Olga Tarasova for Yury Grigoryan Studio

Image by Ekin Bilal

KooZA/rch is an experimental digital platform founded by architect Federica Sofia Zambeletti as a place where architectural drawing can evolve and stimulate architectural dialogue. The inspiration of the visual style of the content found on the website can be traced back to the 1960s visuals by Superstudio and Archigram.

In an Interview for Metropolis Magazine, Zambeletti explained the role drawing has in communicating architecture:’’… Here, the drawings enter a much larger dialogue, not only about the visual identity of the project but the narrative, context, and identity of both project and architect. The image produced is as much of the finished product as it is of the driving conceptual forces that developed it.”

2. Viar Estudio

Spanish Viar Estudio creates beautiful abstract visuals and use different techniques to create something that’s in between diagram, axonometry and perspectival image.

3. OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen

OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, an architectural practice based in Bruxelles, Belgium, often uses a painterly style to illustrate their more speculative projects. Pastel colors dominate their visual language and their drawings and collages form an independent body of work.


Images by KOSMOS

Moscow-based KOSMOS Architects are a multidisciplinary studio that combines art and technology. Their visuals often take on the aesthetic of naïve art, fauvism, with hints of Mark Chagall. This image of their Hidden Park proposal in Switzerland channels Henri Rousseau’s jungle vibes.

5. Massimo Colonna

When it comes to using 3D software to create surreal and abstract environments, Italian digital artist Massimo Colonna is a great example. He renders minimalist spaces that evoke a sense of melancholia, and is often inspired by film and painting.

6. Visual Citizens

Images by Visual Citizens

Visual Citizens create surreal architectural renderings that allow them to collaborate with designers across different disciplines. “Visualizations are an escape from the reality of practical design constraints, allowing us to render surreal environments and fill them with fantastical objects,” explained studio founders Shali Moodley and Adam Kelly in an interview for gestalten.

7. Michele Durazzi

Images by Michele Durazzi

Italian designer Michele Durazzi creates imaginary cityscapes, focusing on the relationship between architecture and its users. Many of his images play with scale, placing humans at the center of the architectural narrative.

8. Alexis Christodoulou

Digital artist Alexis Christodoulou produces abstract architectural renders that have garnered him a huge social media following. He is one of the most successful artists to sell their work via crypto art marketplaces.

9. Paul Milinski

Image by Paul Milinski

If you have an Instagram account, chances are you’ve come across Paul Milinski’s retro futuristic dreamscapes. These images feature lush landscapes combined with man-made structures in unexpected ways.

10. Peter Tarka

Image by Peter Tarka

Peter Tarka’s abstract 3d compositions have become a staple in the area of digital design. He has collaborated with renowned brands- from car manufacturers to tech giants, using his recognizable artistic approach to 3D to create playful and immersive environments.

The winners of Architizer’s 3rd Annual One Rendering Challenge have been revealed! Interested in next year's program? Subscribe to our newsletter for updates.
© Amir Hossein Afzali Architects

Villa No.1 // Amirhossein Afzali Architects


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