Forget stills! Animation takes over the reins of architectural representation.

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In recent years photo-realistic architectural visualization has become the golden standard for the industry and projects which are represented without proper renderings are less likely to reach their audience. As with photography, there is and always will be myriad ways in which practitioners engage with the medium, but the amount of creativity flourishing within the archiviz community seems all too disproportionate to the dismissive treatment of their work by the architectural community. Whether architects like it or not, 3d artists are becoming major influencers on the projects themselves. Without a great-looking presentation based on images, architects are stuck explaining the often illegible drawings and schematics to laypeople, but the importance of 3d renderings goes even deeper than representation. Architectural visualization has reached a point in its history in which mere reproduction of reality isn’t enough. Companies are now looking for work which conveys moods, atmosphere and, most importantly, stories. In this regard, static images can do only so much. Another medium has been developing parallel to visualization and is slowly becoming an important part of not only architectural representation, but also the design process itself. Animations seem to communicate ideas in a much faster and efficient way than 2D images and a few minutes of film can replace dozens of simple renderings. Over time, this marketing tool has evolved and flourished, creating an ever stronger connection between filmmaking and architecture. We are not talking about simple fly-through animations, but videos which show spaces as they’re experienced by users and provide a deeper reading of architecture. Through these developments, the industry has reached a point where 3d content, animations included, are becoming an integral part of the design process, instead of a service industry. Companies are more frequently introducing rendering and animations into the early stages of the design process and using them not only to showcase their work, but as a medium through which the designers can get a better understanding of the spaces they’re creating. Fly-through an 360-degree rotations around a model may look cool, but their major flaw is that that they present spaces from a birds-eye perspective, or at least higher than the sightline of an average user, an angle which is almost never experienced. On the other hand, new types of architectural films focusing on conveying the atmosphere and tactile qualities of spaces to which users can relate are becoming increasingly popular.

In an article for Architectural Record, writer Nate Berg addresses the issue of animation and stresses the interdisciplinary nature of architecture in order to draw attention to the similarity between architects and filmmakers. “Architects have embraced the art of filmmaking — not only to create more interactive presentations for clients, but also to leverage as a tool in the design process.”

Hyper-realism is becoming old news and business are turning to a more creative approach through gorgeous cinematography and storytelling. Architectural animations are no longer used to show volumes, materials and the amount of natural light, but to provide an immersive experience before the structure is built and anticipate how people are going to interact with the environment. Some have a more conceptual approach and function as experimental films while others allow clients to understand their future houses and the relations between the various spaces in great detail – the circulation among them. There are also interesting examples of combining live action with animation, which adds to the attractiveness of the project and is extremely convenient for developers. In any case, these small examples of images in motion expand upon conventional presentations and tell something different about each respective environment. Some of the largest and best known architectural firms, including Zaha Hadid Architects, OMA and Herzog & de Meuron have hired animation studios to make films for their projects. Here are a few great examples of animation working in the service of architecture.

Tronic Studio for 56 Leonard Street, Herzog & de Meuron

The animation shows Herzog & de Meuron’s 57-story hi-rise residential tower in Tribeca, New York, as a series of Tetris-like volumes descending from the Manhattan sky and falling into place on top of the Anish Kapoor sculpture. The animation engages the existing sculpture, which has become a new cultural landmark of the area, and enters into a dialogue with its surroundings. Tronic directed and animated the video, managing to showcase the future spaces as well as to explain the concept behind the project.

Viktor Fretyán (MIR) for The Sleuk Rith Institute, Zaha Hadid Architects

Viktor Fretyán of Bergen-based creative studio MIR single-handedly created this gorgeous promo animation for Zaha Hadid-designed Sleuk Rith Institute in Cambodia. According to Fretyán, the entire video showing the exterior, classrooms, exhibition spaces, library and an archive, was made over the course of four weeks. Great sound design, editing and concept aided the animation in showing the best aspects of this amazing project.

Piranha for The New World Trade Center by Silverstein Properties

Piranha was commissioned by Silverstein Properties to create a short film depicting the completion of The New World Trade Center site. Piranha was in charge of writing, directing and filming this piece meant to mark the 10th year anniversary of 9/11. Even though the public has been aware of the project for some time, this promo video sparked a new interest in it by merging live action with animation. “Our goal was to capture the emotion and significance of this development and showcase its incredible scale.”