Architects are dreamers. From the inception of architectural education and various levels of practice, architects are always challenged to push boundaries and outperform themselves of their creative ability. The architect from time immemorial has imparted prowess in conceiving utopias, foretelling the future of cities, buildings and lifestyle and in the process have become enablers of technological diversity and innovation. It is no doubt that among some of the greatest future thinkers of today, architects constitute a good many of them.
Vision and Visual
When it comes to the task of engaging public, clients or governments towards conceiving hyper-real possibilities, the greatest task becomes that of communicating the idea itself. I could interpret this process using several metaphors. I want to call this a transformation of the architect’s ‘Eureka’ moment to the client’s ‘Wow’. In the many ways that this is interpreted the underlying truth to an idea’s success story is its lucidity. Here is when an architect role playing a visualizer becomes pivotal.
The visualizer needs two important agents to communicate his ideas – a vision and a visual. While the vision is the idea itself, the visual is an effective interpretation of the vision. What connects these two, I like to call the ‘storyboard’. The storyboard here is the catalyst to the vision. Latent, but an essential element in the equation. The architect’s storyboard may comprise all or some of facts, figures, infographs, photographs, anecdotes, quotes, questions, dialogues, drawings and visual stimuli stitching the vision and visual. I will illustrate an example whose storyboard stands out while also delivering outstanding visuals.
The Seattle Public Library. At first glance, this glass volume of mammoth proportions offers an avant-garde exploration in architecture, but how this came to exist has an interesting narration from the architects themselves, OMA. A detailed read may be found here
While a proposal was underway in 1999, OMA made an effort to break the traditional library intrinsically off its image of fortification of books with book guards better known as librarians. With the pace that technology and media was taking sway in penetrating global population, libraries were becoming redundant and suffered the peril of going into oblivion.
OMA reconstructed the idea that technology was not a threat but an “enabler of ancient ambitions – totality, completeness, dissemination, accessibility…The virtual can become the distributed presence of the new Seattle Public Library that users find confirmed in its actual site in the city.” While OMA’s vision of the “genetically modified skyscraper” unravels mystery combined with stark realization of facts to reinforce their vision, it is astounding how the story itself is rather simple and solution just as justifiable. I am going to insert a few excerpts from the storyboard, only to give you a perspective of this transformation.
In OMA’s documentation and presentation what makes for an interesting storyboard is the clarity that comes out of its graphic content making the understanding of design process and transferring ideas a very effective process. OMA engaged its graphic designer friend BMD led by Bruce Mau in authoring the storyboard and later integrated them in execution panel too.
On one hand, while we now understand the importance of graphic expertise required by the architect to floor his ideas to a client, OMA takes this to a higher plane by weaving graphic design into the interior architecture of the building. In my opinion, this is the design strategy that has made Seattle public library a grand hit with the public. The interior is an organized tour guide for the ‘book traveler’. Take a look at these.
Architects have harped on the importance of knowledge of graphic design and representation. An understanding of color, proportion, typeface style and other elements in graphic design have come a long way with architects. Le Corbusier, while constructing the Unite D’ Habitation centre collaborated with painter-architect Nadir Alphonso which reflects in the colorful coffers in a Brutalist’s elevation. Corbusier did not stop there, and exploited concrete as his canvas.
Graphics in Architectural Visualisation
When all was available back then much depended on hand skills such as drawing and physical models, architects largely leaned onto them in order to enable clients visualize their dream.
So that was then, but in the age of Mac and Adobe, 3D printing and 4D technology architects today have been greatly enabled with many virtual tools that help in promoting their imagined architecture to real architecture. The increasing demand of realistic visions has also pushed architects and therefore technology to perpetually explore newer shores.Firms like BIG have engaged some of those methods to envision concepts for tomorrow.
It is no question that the letters of both architectural and graphic language spell similar at various levels, because both buildings and brands are icons of time and expressions of societies as a whole. The marriage of the two goes a long way in speaking the language of the visionary.