Following up our introduction to virtual representation in the field of landscape architecture, today we move on to focus upon the various recognized 3D-rendering visualization types of our practice, each serving different purposes utilizing a variety of different styles: plan views, elevations, perspectives, and even sections. The following list compiles various types of illustrations and their applications used today.

Visualization Modes (listed by function):

All images by Cristhian Barajas unless otherwise attributed.

Sketch: Done either by hand or using digital tools, the messy line work of a sketch is its primary component. A sketch can be black and white, grayscale, or even rendered in color as shown above.

Image by WangWang using Piranesi;

Painting: A representation in the style of a watercolor, realistic, or an impressionistic painting. The main characteristic is a hand-drawn effect that characterizes the composition. Piranesi is an example software used to digitally achieve this effect.

Technical Drawing: Characterized by straight lines and clear edges, a technical drawing lands somewhere between the sketch and the wireframe modes. When combined with other visualization techniques like clay (below), a technical drawing can reflect great character, and can be used as a study model. [Example]

Wireframe: A wireframe offers many advantages by only displaying the model’s edges and profiles. It not only permits faster rendering display (requiring less memory, sans surface textures or color), it also facilitates the study of elevations and the alignment of elements, representing the skeleton of the design.

Clay: A step further from wireframe is the monochromatic visualization mode known as clay. Limited to grayscale gradients, clay is a great tool for studying the design and indirect lighting. When using V-Ray or other rendering engines, sometimes an independent clay model is rendered apart from the colored image to achieve the ambient occlusion effect, enhancing highlights and shadows to add realism to the image. No linework is shown in this mode, but it can be combined with a wireframe or technical drawing to achieve an even greater level of model accuracy.

Architectural Photomontage: Composed using photographs or a 3D model as its base (or created from scratch), this composited visualization is a workflow-oriented solution relying heavily upon photo manipulation techniques rather than 3D modeling to achieve its intended effect. [Example 1, Example 2].

Conceptual: A 3D model does not always need to be textured. A conceptual model uses transparencies, emphasizing only certain materials like solid surfaces, glass, lights, and vegetation – an effective tool for presenting ideas early in a project. It often portrays the existing context in its surroundings, with a primary object as its main focal point, resembling a physical model of the site. [Example 1, Example 2, Example 3]

Realistic/Shaded: A 3D rendered image – generally unprocessed – showing textures representing intended materials in context of the project. The level of detail in these textures do not always need to be configured to the highest output, foregoing effects like reflection, refractions, etc. This mode is applicable for studying textured materials, lighting, UV mapping, and combination of colors. It does not require high quality vegetation or shadows. [Example 1, Example 2]

Fantasy: A fantasy rendering involves any type of representation in which the ambience, rather than the object itself, is the main focal point. It is often accompanied by color filters to enhance the environment. [Example 1, Example 2]

Image by werner22brigitte; CC0 Public Domain

Digital Art: The emphasis of digital art is placed equally onto the object and also its surrounding environment. However, the main attribute is the composition of abstract/surrealist elements. Digital art relies heavily upon photo manipulation and artistry, often incorporating signature touches of an artist. With digital art, it is often unclear where the objects end and where the context begins, and is most often used for gaming development, storyboards, concept art, and portfolio purposes. Utopian, dystopian, or the ‘cyberpunk’ aesthetic is represented prominently in this genre.

Photorealistic: Perhaps the most common commercial rendition, photorealistic modeling presents a higher level of detail than those listed above, incorporating reflections, refractions, bump mapping, normals, displacement, HDRI lighting, etc. This rendering technique is often utilized for marketing and advertisement, and relies heavily upon 3D-rendered raw images, followed by post-production detailing. [Example 1, Example 2]

Hyperrealistic: Representing the highest degree of visual detail in relation to context and object, hyperrealistic renders eliminate fuzziness or visible brush effects from view. Most of the elements are modeled, with post-production playing only a minor role (depending upon the artist’s workflow). Unlike photorealism, UV mapping is carefully planned and output at very high resolutions. Its main applications are for cinema and for portfolio purposes. [Example 1, Example 2, Example 3]



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  1. The Field of Virtual Representation: Mainstream Rendering Styles – Part 3 | AHBE LAB

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