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Impressions of Renders

July 23, 2013

LCD recently commissioned the talented Ed Wright to undertake a couple of renders for us of our house extensions in Strathaven and Stonehaven (confusion reigns in the similarity of names despite the geographical separation between these two locations)!



Architectural renders come in such a vast range of quality and resolution, it made me start to wonder: what makes a good render?


Before that, perhaps another question needs to be answered: why are renders carried out? Is it for architects as a design tool, for clients so they can see what they are getting, for planners for a similar reason, or for press?


When this is dovetailed into the huge range renders can be undertaken to between grainy ‘white card’ renders and the photo-real work of Peter Guthrie, it is incredibly hard to say.


When renders are undertaken during a project, and the type of project being undertaken will probably tell you most of the answers above – for shopping centres, big civic buildings and the like, these will demand a public consultation and review, so having some sexy images to put on 5 metre high boards while their experience of the site is temporarily inconvenienced is obviously important. This can be seen around civic buildings like Queens Street Station in Glasgow, or Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.


It is a far more interesting question why renders are done when it comes to smaller scale work such as our extensions. Why did we commission these? Well, part of it was as a young practice to have something other than my wobbly sketches of how something will look (you’ll have seen them arrive on facebook if you follow LCD), and partly to demonstrate to our clients that we are designing a 3 dimensional object – something which is easy to forget when looking at conventional 2d ortho information.


A real bugbear of mine is the misnomer by which these images are known - renders are not artist’s impressions – they are more often than not an accurate reflection of what you’ll get. Testament to that is that, when we gave Ed our CAD information to model, he asked for information on window profiles, cladding profiles, depths of window reveals and existing paint colours so that it all finds its way into the final image. So, they aren’t artist’s impressions – they are what the building will look like - there is no impression! My sketches are impressions (although I would hardly describe myself as an artist)!


Unless of course the render is deliberately left vague. That’s a pretty good idea if you’re showing them to planning and haven’t developed the detail of what materials are or how elements of the building come together. My experience tells me that planners have the capacity to seize on a 3d render and pass judgment on it far more readily than a set of conventional plans, sections and elevations, which raises the level of risk associated with submitting them unless they are either well considered (i.e. the design is advanced) or that the information is presented in a sketchy format.

The proliferation of renders over recent years evidences their popularity and usefulness. I remember touring Reiach and Hall’s office a couple of years ago and seeing a team of model makers and renderers which, one of the directors assured me, was an integral part of their design process. So while they are useful to talk through design process with stakeholders, clients, users and the like, they also provide a wonderful mechanism for improving details of the design, even if they don’t end up in the public domain.


A good render is much like a good drawing – I’d worry about an ugly looking render because it indicates the probability of an ugly outcome. They require care, thought and ultimately design development. A good render, like a good drawing, however, is a real thing of beauty, and can capture the essence of an idea far more eloquently than a verbal or written description ever will. With that in mind, I leave you with one of my favourite renders by NORD of the Shingle House down in Dungeness.



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Loader & Monteith Architects Ltd

36 Battlefield Road


G42 9QH

44 (0)141 370 0887