“Visualization is art – sort of. It lies at the intersection of art and technology.”

Jeff Olgin, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, and Enrique Ramirez, architectural intern, shared their presentation “Architectural Visualization: Post-Production Tips & Tricks” at PSCU 2018. They began by describing how visualizations bring ideas to life by letting people experience the architecture. They also help clients market their project and generate buy-in from stakeholders and the community. PSC uses them internally to review designs with team members and during charrettes to identify ways designs can improve throughout their development.

The most important thing to know about visualizations is that they tell a story.

“The art of visualization lies in the ability to personalize imagery in a style and tone that tells a story or evokes an emotion, but still meets the needs and requirements of those requesting our services,” they said.

One of the key objectives of the Eddie and Carol Lee Student Life Center at Midland Christian School project was to create a stone walkway outside the building in which people could pay to have their name immortalized on a stone paver. The team took that idea and told a story through this visualization.

The young boy pictured pauses to read the inscription of possibly his family member and remembers what they mean to him, but imagine the image without the boy. Would you care as much just about a stone path? Of course not. That is why visualization designers tell a story through vital structural features. It develops buy-in.

Part of telling the story is manipulating the visual elements. Things like lighting, angles, people, and even the lines on every parking space engross the viewer in the moment. “Lighting is the most important factor in presenting an overall idea,” they said. By setting this visualization of Abilene Christian University’s new stadium at night, the lighting constructs a game day experience, which contributed to the visualization’s success.

Visualizations also exist on a spectrum from abstract to photoreal. “Abstract visualization can avoid the pitfalls of a realistic setting and can create an emotion or mood solely based on artistic representation.” There is an argument among designers for creating as photorealistic a representation as possible. Why not present a perfect image to create the ultimate immersion?

“Absolute photorealism tends to limit the visualization team in terms of the final product. Taking a couple of steps back and adding some artistic effects allows the design to be flexible enough to support meaningful design discussions.”

This final visualization of the Midland Chamber of Commerce is realistic enough to engage viewers, but it and each draft before demonstrated with enough of artistic flair to keep the product from seeming too permanent. This method also allowed reviewers to imagine how the concept could be further expanded instead of stunting their creativity with a seemingly finalized projection.