Virtual reality in architectural visualization

18 Nov 2019

Architectural visualization includes computerized architectural rendering typically using digital 3D models and scenes to create a 2D image that looks like it is three-dimensional. This imagery is used to accurately represent the design that will be built.

Believe it or not, this type of architectural art has been present for a very, very long time, and the first ever architectural renderings date as far as the 1400 period, when a painter decided to re-create a much more realistic painting of a building.

Of course, this type of visualization has come a very long way since back in the old days, and architectural visualization isn’t just about regular paintings or illustrations anymore… Actually, they aren’t even paintings, bur incredible computer made images. The digital 3D models and scenes used for these still images can be used to create animations and virtual reality tours.

Let’s talk about architectural visualization

Like we just said, the art of architectural rendering isn’t new to the architectural field, and it actually begun centuries back and has evolved through time to become what it is today. However, to understand what is the place of virtual reality in architectural visualization, we have to briefly talk about its general history first.

You see, the history of architectural rendering begun back in 1400, when a painter decided to recreate a famous painting using perspective, making it much more realistic and centered around the building itself more than anything else.

Since then, painters, artists and of course, architects have depended on realistic drawings to accurately express their visions to the general public. From pencil drawings to vibrant color images, architects have used these images as a real visual of what their next work is going to look like.

The thing is, when the innovation era arrived, these paintings started being replaced by computer generated renderings, meaning architects were no longer relying on traditional art forms, but focusing on working with computer programs and complex software that would allow them to better represent their ideas to the public.

This started in the 80’s and 90’s, and ever since computer hardware and software have evolved at a rampant pace. What was top tier technology back in 1995, now seems as old, unrealistic images, since the software we have today and we use on our daily lives has advanced so much, the previous ones simply don’t meet the expectations anymore… And that’s when virtual reality comes into the picture.

Today, architects, developers and the general public want a fully immersive experience, they have sophisticated expectations. They not only want to see the project they’re going to invest in accurately represented visually but experienced as well.

It’s not only about perfect, realistic images anymore, is about making the whole architectural visualization experience as immersive as possible so the public can experience what the project will be like, even if it hasn’t been built yet.

What is virtual reality and what does it represent for architecture

So, if the future of architectural visualization points towards virtual reality, we need to talk about what virtual reality is in the first place, and how it can help, what are the benefits of this method of architectural visualization. Let’s begin.

When we talk about virtual reality, we are specifically referring to an artificial, computer made environment that is created to make the user believe he is actually in the place he is seeing, as if he was directly submerged in that reality.

Now, you might be wondering what’s so different about virtual reality and regular rendering since they both focus on creating something that isn’t really there? Well, virtual reality is a multi-sense experience, meaning you’re not only seeing the image of the building, you’re “moving” through it, and if done right you’re hearing the different sounds surrounding you, you actually feel as if you’re inside that place.

It is important to understand that virtual reality has been used in many other places before, especially in video games, in which VR horror games are extremely common and popular amongst the gamer community. But now, architects can use this technology as well, and it makes perfect sense.

Virtual reality gives the user the opportunity to experience what it would be like in a certain place and environment without actually having to leave their house, all thanks to advance software, and of course, the right equipment.

Unlike regular architectural visualization, in which architects just have to show an image to the public or produce a video animation, virtual reality requires the use of specific equipment that will allow the experience to happen.

This equipment we’re talking about can involve special three-dimensional glasses, a set of headphones, and of course, some type of remote control that allows the user to move around the simulation and get to explore all the different rooms in the building or space the architect is showing them.

So, when you have this huge technology right in front of you, it makes sense to use not only in video games, but in the architectural field as well. That way, you’re not only showing the client how the building is going to look like; you’re giving them the option to experience what it would be like to inhabit it.

How can architects use virtual reality in architectural visualizations

Believe it or not, virtual reality in architectural visualization isn’t just helpful for the future clients looking to live in that space, but for the architect themselves to properly see how their work is going to turn out once it is done.

This type of immersive experience allows architects to change things before they are even built, while also allowing the public to get a better feeling of how it would be like to live/work or simply be in the space they are interested in.

The good news is, architects, illustrators and rendering experts are already aware of how important virtual reality in architectural visualization is, and they are ready to help you turn your ideas into a realistic, incredible experience you and the public can both enjoy. That’s the real magic of virtual reality.


Russell Thomas is the Founder and Creative Director at 3DAllusions Studio a subsidiary of 3DAllusions LLC which includes sites such as 3DAllusions and MrMaterials which are resources for the CG artist, helping them hone their craft.

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