Architectural visualization involves the creation of animations and three-dimensional images to exhibit proposed architectural design features. Architectural visualization was first utilized in Ancient Egypt, with the pyramids as proof of architectural plan. Imhotep, the first architect in the world, designed the Djoser’s step pyramid over four thousand years ago. There was considerable improvement in the design of buildings in the gothic period, with the use of two-dimensional sketches and blueprints. Notre-Dame de Paris is one of the buildings built during this period. Perspectives which gave a more realistic view of a building were adopted during the Renaissance period. Da Vinci’s architectural visualization was illustrated in amazing detail with better graphical concepts. The first computer-aided design software was developed by IBM in the 1960s, revolutionizing the architectural industry and enjoying a rapid adaptation to the industry. Since then, different computer-aided design software has been created, with some focusing on three-dimensional rendering. A computer graphics student in the year 1968 created a colour image of a cube using computer-generated imagery. This was the first rendered complex image with CGI technology, and this was followed by reflective textures and stimulated shadows of a three-dimensional teapot form. The technology was then adopted in the film industry with the creation of the Toy Story films by Pixar Animation Studios in the 1990s. The 1990s also witnessed the architectural visualization pioneer, Alan Davidson, a British architect, using the 

‘Schema’ beta software is owned by Harvard University to create realistic digital images of buildings. Alan Davidson believed that 3D modelling was essential and inevitable to recreate the world around us with stimulation. Hayes Davidson was the first CGI-based architectural visualization practice based in London and founded by Alan Davidson. The firm was created in 1996, and it is credited with the creation of rendering the elliptical tower called 39 St Mary Axe and the glass-clad pyramidal tower known as The Shard.

Architecture imagination is created in films, images, and renders with the aid of visualization, which produces, displays and reflects the imagination of architects, thereby conveying their intentions and imaginations. Societal problems such as migration and urbanization create the need to adopt new patterns of imaginative reasoning to create buildings which meet the current conditions. Architect’s design is centred on creative imagination; this imagination creates new spatial conditions and solutions adapted to the project. The audience can see, express opinions and criticize future designs through visualization and rendering, bringing an increased level of responsibility to what is presented. Computer-generated imagery is used to visualize the geometrical relations and complexities that the human mind will struggle to create, allowing architects to raise the thresholds of design. Tower C and Bilbao Guggenheim are imagined buildings which were made possible by unrealistic visualizations. 

Shenzhen Tower C

Architecture imagination vs Unrealistic visualization : A dilemma? - Sheet1
Tower C_©Brick Visual

Tower C is a skyscraper designed By Zaha Hadid Architects and visualized by Brick Visual in the competition of the Shenzhen Tower C. The tower is meant to provide services such as culture, hospitality, office, entertainment, and shopping. It is made up of two towers at almost a height of four hundred metres, with the skyscraper proposed to be a multidimensional vertical city. The building possesses curtain walls which are double insulated and spaces which are naturally lighted and column-free. Hybrid and natural ventilation were incorporated on every floor in the vertical channels and the skyscraper design together with environmental control. The facade-to-floor ratios, orientations, and efficiency in architectural massing were optimized by the use of innovative 3D modelling tools.

Architecture imagination vs Unrealistic visualization : A dilemma? - Sheet2
Tower C_©Brick Visual

The skyscraper design used computer-generated imagery technology to illustrate the proposed skyscrapers and their environment. This technology enables the effective communication of complex architectural concepts rather than the traditional method that involves using pictures or linear drawings. The illustrations help to relate the essence of design to the audiences through the production of persuading visual stories.

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

Architecture imagination vs Unrealistic visualization : A dilemma? - Sheet3
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao_©PA

The Guggenheim Museum is located at Nervion River bank in Bilbao, Spain. The Museum was designed by Frank Gehry, a Canadian-American architect known for his courageous freedom in the use of space and structure. Frank Gehry was tasked with designing an innovative and daring Museum by Thomas Krens, the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The architect, in response to this challenge, designed a museum made of interconnected shapes of glass, titanium, and stone with random curves. The building is created through the fusion of swirling and complex forms with the use of the CATIA software of the Dassault Systemes to create the three-dimensional model due to its complexity. The CATIA software is an excellent 3-D design software that was originally designed to serve the aerospace industry. The software was used to model the exterior of the project, with the software calculating the stresses materials are subjected to point by point. Frank Gehry’s hand-built models were used to construct the computer-based models that we’re moulded to show various tensions and calculate structural elements such as foundations, steel structure and titanium cladding.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao_©PA

Virtual Build and Master modelling processes the architect learnt from Rick Smith were applied in the development of the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Guggenheim Museum’s uniqueness gave it popularity and success, which popularized virtual buildings, serving as an impetus to become the creation of Building Information Modelling. The museum would not have been constructed without the three-dimensional design software, CATIA, with the software playing a part in most aspects of the design and construction process.


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Chukwuebuka is an architecture student and an amateur writer using his skills to express his ideas to the world. He has written a few articles for DAPC Uniben and he is adventuring to become a popular writer.