Architectural visualization has soared in popularity over the past few years, riding the wave of technological advancements in 3D modeling and rendering. Used much more widely than its name implies, architectural visualization processes are employed across myriad industries — from building and construction to film and video games to product design and VR.
In this article, you will learn what architectural visualization is, who uses it, what the benefits are, and how you can join this thriving industry by becoming a 3D visualization artist.
What is architectural visualization?
Architectural visualization, also known as archviz, is the art of generating realistic 3D visualizations (renders) of buildings, interiors, landscapes, and other designed environments using specialized software. Its processes are bridging the gap between the world of architecture and design and the world of interactive 3D modeling.
Archviz has become increasingly popular in the architectural and adjacent industries, with many studios and firms using it to visualize all types of projects before construction begins. This type of visual representation can also be used for marketing purposes or to help explain and clearly lay out complicated concepts and systems.
Who uses architectural visualization?
Architectural visualization has quickly become an invaluable tool for the many outfits that make up the architectural and building industry. The unique skillset of a visualization artist is now regularly required by architects, interior designers, engineers, developers, builders, landscape designers, and real estate professionals to help showcase their work to potential clients.
Visualization now also reaches far beyond architecture. CG Spectrum's Visualization Dept. Head, Nicklas Byriel, talks about how seamlessly architectural visualization can translate to many other industries, opening up even more job opportunities for those with the right skills:
3D visualization such as archviz is also a great learning path for becoming a 3D generalist. If students choose a different path later in life, their skills and knowledge will translate easily into other industries like VFX or games, opening up even more career opportunities.
Here are just some of the industries in which a visualization artist could work:
Video games — helping create game levels and 3D landscapes that players can traverse. Think of classic games like Grand Theft Auto, as well as more recent games like Dying Light 2: Stay Human.
Automotive industry — building digital prototypes.
Film and television (post-production) — creating interior and exterior 3D sets in shots. Some productions that used archviz techniques include Bladerunner 2049, The Batman, and The Last of Us.
Virtual reality — building virtual worlds people can walk through.
Product designers — building digital prototypes, and for marketing purposes. Over half of the furniture conglomerate Ikea's product images are now 3D renders!
3D render from Ikea's catalog.
What are the benefits of architectural visualization?
Architectural visualization offers unique advantages over traditional methods of design due to its ability to produce precise visuals. It captures the form and essence of a project from different angles and perspectives, helping clients and investors better understand plans and proposals.
Not only does architectural visualization help reduce costs associated with project management due to more efficient communication between stakeholders, but it also provides tangible advantages such as improved accuracy regarding measurements and choice of materials earlier in a project's lifecycle, thus saving time and money. It also allows architects and designers to pick up on any design issues or structural flaws, mitigating a level of risk.
Archviz also offers flexible solutions for clients who require changes (e.g., moved walls, added features or fixtures, different materials, etc.), which can be reviewed during the digital design process rather than during construction. Architects can make any required adjustments quickly and efficiently with the help of a visualization artist, wasting fewer resources and saving time.
3D visualization by Nicklas using 3ds Max and V-Ray.
Become a 3D visualization artist – start your architectural visualization career
As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, so does the demand for qualified professionals specializing in architectural visualization.
Those interested in pursuing a career in architectural visualization should ensure they have a solid foundation in the fundamentals of art (perspective, form and structure, lighting and shadow, etc.) along with digital tools such as 3ds Max, AutoCAD, SketchUp Pro and rendering software like V-Ray and Arnold.
A good knowledge of lighting techniques coupled with texture mapping skills will help make your visuals even more realistic since being able to replicate life-like textures is essential when creating convincing imagery. It’s also important to keep abreast of emerging technologies related to interactive media, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and real-time 3D.
Using industry software like 3ds Max and V-Ray, CG Spectrum’s architectural visualization course (coming soon!) teaches you essential 3D modeling, texturing, lighting, and rendering techniques. You’ll learn how to build a 3D house from a blueprint and finish the course with your very own 3D-rendered scene that you modeled, textured, and lit!
Now you know what archviz is, take the next steps toward becoming a visualization artist!
With its ever-growing list of capabilities, archviz promises to unlock new opportunities for creative expression within the built environment (and beyond!) for 3D artists.
Shoshanah has almost a decade of visual effects production experience, coordinating VFX teams in Australia and London. Her credits include Mad Max: Fury Road, Ant-Man, John Wick: Parabellum, Game of Thrones, and Christopher Robin. She now enjoys getting to write about the film and games industry.