Originally published in CLOG: Rendering.
Today’s architect complains endlessly about the demand for renderings. With hyper-real three-dimensional renderings executed from the very beginning of the design process, how can reality possibly compete? Who wants to make decisions about materials and finishes before deciding what the building should be? The time and effort spent on photorealistic renderings takes away from the true space-making essence of architecture. How to interrogate Louis Kahn’s brick while we’re busy turning it into a texture?
But chin up, architect! We stand at the dawn of a new era, when architecture shall be unconstrained by the tyranny of visual reality. Instead of arresting architects at the beginning of the design process, rendering will give them unlimited freedom–forever. We can leave the brick, uninterviewed!
For soon technology will insert itself between the eye and the built environment, creating a window through which all architectural space is viewed. Whether Google’s glasses or a hi-tech contact lens–iEye?–soon consumers will cease to have–or desire!–unmediated visual experiences.
The architect simply specifies a green matte finish on the walls, the facade, the floors–everything! Then, location-aware lenses, hooked into a worldwide database of visual information, will replace them with the digital image, delivered ‘ directly to the user’s eyeballs. Rendering proper moves to a post design–even post-construction–phase. Architects, or whomever the client chooses–a precocious nephew, perhaps?–can change the look of the building until the very end of construction, and beyond. Refreshing a facade is as simple as changing the rendering. Old buildings can be retrofitted with a can of paint, and of course they will only need to stock one color at the hardware store.
True, those Luddites who resist the technology will wander a bright-green, featureless hell-scape. But meanwhile, we moderns will stroll a visual fantasia.
For a time, hobbyist-architects will continue to use actual materials on their buildings. We will find them charming, and we will find them in Brooklyn, but as film camera enthusiasts can attest, the entire manufacturing ecosphere around building finishes will quickly collapse.
There will be issues to resolve. Someone must maintain the database and ensure it is ubiquitous. How awkward if the building facade were only compatible with Apple products, while the interior designer used Google. Quite likely, building owners will pay a little extra to have a facade free of advertising. And graffiti becomes a sophisticated affair, with hackers selling the sides of famous buildings to the highest bidder .
But the upside: nothing less than the complete demanifestation of reality! Endlessly rendered and re-rendered, any space can take on infinite appearances. And why limit ourselves to architecture? The same technology can–and should–turn objects, clothing, and even our bodies into continuously malleable canvases. When the renderings become reality, reality no longer has to compete. It’s already been defeated.