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MARK: Images are visual translation. In your case, the source is the model and the goal is effective visual presentation. 


What’s absolutely essential is a clear explanation of the architectural project. OK, we have a certain style. We use light that’s a special colour. We have our own way of working. We were the first rendering office to present houses in the snow and buildings in the rain. 

Our skies are more often black than blue. But we never lose sight of the visual impact of a project. That’s our focal point. And we’re not denying the ‘teasing’ aspect of such images. Architecture is the only field I know of where an amazing amount of money depends on the mere stroke of a pencil. Ours is a job with a certain responsibility. And to us that responsibility means: simplify a project to show its strongest aspects. 


MARK: You are architects. Isn’t it frustrating to render projects designed by others?


Our work is part of ‘real’ architecture, because during the course of a competition, a lot of things are not drawn. We have to invent the blurred parts: facades, materials, and so forth. When the model is set up, we express the feeling of it. That’s the tough part, because rendering a building means revealing its darker sides as well. The thrill comes from being on the edge of the beautiful - let’s face it: there’s always something weird about an image. We’re constantly confronted with the demand for more and more beautiful images, but great architects don’t need beautiful images. Their projects speak for themselves. And you can’t save a poor project with a beautiful rendering, so the lesser projects are definitely the hardest to work on. 






June 15th, 2012.


Dear CLOG,

Thanks for opening this dialogue... we think it’s important.


We here at Labtop are all trained architects, so we see our rendering production simply as keeping architects off the street, so to say. We personally like to enter architectural competitions, not rendering competitions. We are not largely concerned with the aesthetic quality of a final image, but mostly the portrayed information and suggested potential within it. Rendering provides the support necessary to focus on more personal, architectural work. Maybe staying on both sides of the fence has kept us more aware of the risks dramatic effects might cause... we don’t mind throwing in a blue sky for the win.


Now, rendering appears to have become to architecture what pornography is to every teenage boy. Just like a centerfold model, this architectural pornography is shopped and enhanced to cater to the fantasies of the reader. And like pornography, it’s not to be put into every hand without a clear and careful explanation of what’s good, what’s bad, and what it means. Nobody would want to be held responsible for putting pornography into the hands of a child, the same goes for rendering and architecture students. Odile Decq, head of the ESA in Paris, invited us to play the “good parents” to teach students what an image is, how to use it, and when. The opportunity to equip students with a stronger sensibility to “suggest possibilities, open minds, find references and connections” should happen more often.

Working on our personal projects we often highlight the most critical features of a project while dressing up, or even omitting, its faults. With the power we have over the “reality” of our images also comes a level of danger. While the ability to communicate both the tectonic and ephemeral qualities of a building is crucial, as architects we must be careful not to be fooled by the quality of our own finished images. A famous quote from Scarface is popular in our office: “don’t get high on your own supply.” In our experience, rendering becomes more meaningful as a research tool. We avoid creating commercials for buildings, not being consumed by style in the search for substance.


How can you be that bad and look that good? The details don’t need to be resolved just yet, what’s the point of looking realistic when you are far from being done? Rendering can be a very simple thing. Three-dimensionality isn’t the only answer, collage can be just as effective. Our workflow allows us to produce iteratively, so that physical conditions can be portrayed rapidly in order to leave time to perfect the metaphysical qualities. Renderings that leave little up to the imagination are in fact working against themselves, stifling their own potential. The product takes precedence over the process, and a focus on the final result that counters the in-progress nature of design. While a good rendering may be able to create the illusion of good architecture, a good renderer does in no way equal a good architect.

...just saying,




We appreciate your business, we know you have other options.






Saturday, June 15, 2013–Sunday, January 5, 2014  |  Gallery 286


New Views: The Rendered Image in Architecture


The Art Institute’s collection of architecture, spanning works from 1850 to the present, includes a range of two-dimensional modes of representation illustrating various stages of the design process. And yet, as images made by hand, such as sketches or collages, have given way to those produced on computers, there has been a shift in the way architectural projects are visualized. This exhibition focuses on the digitally rendered images that have recently become ubiquitous in the world of architecture and design. 


As part of a series in which the Art Institute invites outside architects and designers to organize installations that investigate new thinking and practices within and beyond their professional disciplines, the editors of the New York–based journal CLOG have built upon their recent issue, CLOG: Rendering, for a new exhibition. New Views: The Rendered Image in Architecture explores the diversity of rendering types being produced today through a presentation of 60 images from an international group of architects and design studios. 


Because they were created using the most sophisticated technological tools, these images often defy the eye. The projects depicted can look so real that it is almost impossible to tell if they have been built or not, obviating the need to question whether a building can be successfully executed for a given site. Renderings are often generated to emphasize how a project might fit within a specific landscape; a new building is made to blend in to create the illusion of continuation and permanence within an existing skyline. At other times, architects are empowered to create images that signal a break with tradition, scenarios that visualize future potential and at their best open the discipline up to new thinking and discovery. As the editors of CLOG assert: “Our visual memory of architectural history is not only shaped by the physical structures we find throughout our city, but also through the images that are published and the famous representational works held in museum collections.” As this exhibition attests, digital renderings play an increasingly essential role in our understanding of the built world and necessitate further exploration.


This exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the Architecture & Design Society.

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