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When it comes to styles, Lidija Grozdanic from Architizer, recently published a post identifying seven mainstream rendering styles used in the architectural visualization market. We conclude our three part series (part one and part two) about the field of virtual representation looking at these styles, alongside four additional styles I’ve noted common in the professional vernacular.

Image: Samaranch Memorial Museum by HAO Holm Architecture Office.

Rendering Styles (by fashion):

  • The Mad Max: A fantasy-oriented style of rendering in which context and lighting plays a major role to furnish the architectural object. Often used for aerial shots, this style works best when applied to large-scale project interventions to communicate an idea of innovation and state-of-the-art technology: skyscrapers, stadiums, arenas, large shopping centers, theatres, opera houses, etc.
  • The Whodunit: A cold-toned, conceptual-like render ideal for showcasing parametric design, materials, and shapes. Mostly used for medium to large scale interventions, like multiple-story buildings. Better suitable for projects which incorporate a lot of white-colored surfaces.
  • The David: This photorealistic style is very intimate for showcasing a project’s angles and composition, since it focuses primarily upon details and the quality of execution. Photographic techniques like depth of field and a combination of exposures supplement the effect. The architecture and the landscape play an equal secondary role, best suited to showcase details, furniture, and individual features.
  • Paranormal Activity: The use of transparencies and the emphasis in vegetated areas make this style a good candidate for projects requiring a ‘green’ factor in their imagery. This conceptual style is fuzzy and it is great for those projects which incorporate a lot of vegetation.
  • The Gondry: Named after the filmmaker, The Gondry is a challenging approach to traditional architectural compositions. Artistic, geometric, and intentioned, this technique uses mixed elements using photographs, cutouts, and/or 3D models. It is a great asset for representing art-oriented projects, and by its nature, it offers an extra ability that the other styles lack: the clear communication of private goals into the project, whether it be political, social, or philosophical.
  • The Theodore: A glamourous photorealistic project style often rendered in warm tones where natural light and diffuse materials play a major role in the composition. Works better in interiors, being proficient at promoting comfort and inhabitability of the space; i.e. healthcare, workplace, and institutional projects.
  • The Katherine Heigl: A style named after the actress that focuses upon two things primarily: to show how the design solution adapts to its context, and to highlight the given ‘social acceptance’ of design. The landscape plays a major role as well, serving as a judge for the architectural elements. The composition, as Grozdanic mentioned, seems to play upon nostalgic memories and emotions of the audience.

I would also add the following four additional styles I’ve identified as common within the architecture and landscape architecture industry:

  • Real-estate: Perhaps the most traditional of all, it relies on saturated colors, communicating clear ideas of vegetation areas, materials, and shapes. The simplistic 2-point perspective shots have been the favorite of real-estate companies in the past decades, showing ‘enough’ to sell the product and to communicate the design intent and program. Usually these are exterior façade shots of residential, commercial, and institutional projects. [Example 1, Example 2]
  • Layered: A poetic style chosen to portray specific features and programs in the composition. It plays in such a way that some elements receive a special focus of attention by incorporating more level of detail  (i.e. photorealistic textures, while some other remains more conceptual). It has clear edges that define where one space ends and where the next one begins. It is basically a render-diagram that highlights the functionality of the space. Works better when using one-point perspective or bird’s eye views. [Example 1, Example 2, Example 3]
  • Fragmented: White space, desaturation, photomontages, and diffuse edges define this style. It incorporates a great balance of minimalism, communication, and graphic skill set, and is best applicable for adapting other elements like text, key maps, and signage into the composition, all arbitrarily sectioned by geometric shapes. It usually uses one-point perspective compositions. [Example 1, Example 2, Example 3]
  • Nature Walk: Perhaps the style best suited for landscape architects, the Nature Walk incorporates a great level of detail in plant species and trees, using cutout elements to populate the scenery. A template generated by a 3D model often serves as a guide for mapping textures with Photoshop or other editing software. Most of the heavy production tasks are done here through photomontages, producing a characteristic look recognized by diffuse soft edges and brushes. Somewhat like the Katherine Heigl technique, it is oriented towards the landscape. [Example 1, Example 2]
  • Crowd-oriented: If the program allows it, this style places a strong focus upon 2D people cutouts to give life to a place. This style makes the place play a secondary role to its imagined inhabitants. [Examples, Example 2]

There are many other authors out there that have compiled similar visualization techniques lists to offer professionals a wide variety of options to add to their repertoire. Be sure to take a look at the following works:


These floating Jellyfish Lodges purify polluted water and air while growing food: “Could a fleet of floating jellyfish purify our polluted rivers and streams? That’s the idea behind Janine Hung’s Jellyfish Lodge, which protects the land, air, and water while growing healthy food. A combination of trash-collecting tentacles, aquaponic gardens, and water filtration systems give back to the environment in an impressive feat of biodesign.”

Hyperloop One raises $50 million from one of the world’s largest ports operators: One of the world’s largest maritime ports operators led a $50-million financing of Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles company aiming to transport cargo and people faster and cheaper than existing options.

Landscape architects see Los Angeles as living lab in combatting climate change: “In present-day L.A., miles of traffic-clogged asphalt and concrete riverbeds have become nearly as iconic as the city’s palm trees and beaches. But urban advocates are tackling the challenges of the city, trying to reimagine its infrastructure in new ways that “benefit more than just the automobile.”

Clean Streets Index: “As part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Clean Streets initiative, the City’s Bureau of Sanitation drove all of LA’s public streets and alleys (traveling over 22,000 miles!) and gave each block a cleanliness score from 1-3. 1 = Clean, 2 = Somewhat Clean, 3 = Not Clean.”

This Massive Lego Version of Los Angeles Is Insanity: “This is Jorge Parra Jr. He’s 23. He works nights. In his free time, he builds a Lego city inspired by L.A., where he lives. He’s been slowly constructing it and uploading videos of his progress to Youtube for the past eight years.”