Towards a Digital Architecture

After many hours of drawing, followed by construction, the end result of architecture is a beautifully built space. Yet, how do you test and ensure the successful outcome of a space without spending endless hours and resources?

The first image that comes to mind is a photo of a traditional architect carefully inspecting a model. A model that shows volumes, relationships of spaces next to each other, and openings and their alignments. This is clear proof of the architectural vision.

Louis Kahn and Jonas Salk with model of the City Tower at at Cornell University, date: February 1958.

Now that the modern design process and production has shifted toward computer drawings, the task of many drafts-men and women can be done by just a few people. The architectural model became digital. Building information modeling (BIM) allows architects and designers to tie together models and drawings. As we build the model, we generate drawings which further helps us to coordinate the location of windows, doors, outlets, and other equipment in plans and elevations.

Price Company Tower

Frank Lloyd Wright. H. C. Price Company Tower, Bartlesville, OK. 1952–56. Apprentices working on the model in the Taliesin drafting room, Spring Green, Winsconsin, c. 1952. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York).


“Axon Framework” Revit generated exploded axon drawing.

Our offices today

Vintage photos before autocad

In particular, Revit (a BIM software) allows us to apply materials and finishes onto architectural surfaces, as well as furniture. Revit has the capability to simulate light on surfaces and finishes, based on manufacturer specifications and, as a result, produces accurately rendered images.

Architecture now has an entire industry dedicated to specialized renderings.

MarketAxess, Hudson Yards / Architectural Rendering

The ability to modify finishes and renderings helps architects compare different design options. Quick 3D line drawings help clients better understand projects in the early stages of design.

To continue design development, more expressive drawings can be produced that have characteristics of both hand and computer generated images. This is my personal favorite, as it provides enough information about space, finishes and overall atmosphere, but leaves room for your mind to wonder. Often, when the computer generated image is not completely photorealistic, your eye is drawn to flaws and imperfections. This can distract the viewer, and make it difficult to focus on the overall image.

My attempt with this image was to fade the rendering to a line drawing to create a “fisheye” view. As the viewer’s eye moves from left to right, the viewer moves from one space into another, emphasizing the idea of two spaces being connected with a view.

The final and photorealistic images get created towards the later stages of design. Major design decisions have been made and these images are very close to what gets built.

As technology advances, 360 degree panoramas and videos enter the world of architecture. Revit can render 360 degree stereoscopic views, helping you experience the space with your smartphone and Google cardboard or Samsung Gear.

Progress in virtual reality (VR) opens the door for game developer artists to enter the architecture visualization field. Now photorealistic videos and walkthroughs are becoming a part of architectural presentations.

Using Unreal Engine or Unity, artists are able to produce interactive VR experiences, where clients can walk around the space, interact with lighting and other major architectural features. This technology will be more and more available to architects, especially in the form of plugins for software, and will be utilized on a daily basis.

From my point of view, this will benefit architects and designers as it will allow them to test and experience the space, make changes and test again, rather than speculate about the best possible solution.

Max Belyaev, Designer

Max Belyaev, Designer