Look Again – These Incredible Designs Don’t Exist

The Chesterfield Project

It may not be immediately apparent, but all of the rooms pictured in this article have a major similarity. Can’t find it? Look again. . . Still can’t find it?

I’ll let you in on a secret – none of them are real.

Chesterfield Project Detail
Certain programs simulate the affects of light reflecting on glass

Designers, architects, artists are all familiar with the practice of creating imaginary projections of what a building or room could look like, before the effort and money is invested in building it. Now, with better computer technology, what used to be sketches can now be photorealistic images that to the common person, may pass as fully real. These images are used for advertising, project proposals, anything where it would be more efficient to have a fully realized image of a place without it being a real place.

The technology used is similar to what graphics animators use for CG movies and video games. The level of photo-realism attained in these images, however, takes such a long time to process perfectly through the rendering programs, that to have it process as your character is running along encountering new environments in a video game would just not work.

The process for creating these images is not for the faint of heart, and even my basic explanation may leave something to be desired. Rendering actually refers to the process of creating an image from a computer simulation. Objects are mapped out, the geometry of the points is assigned, as is the texture of the surfaces, the bumpiness of the surfaces, the relationship of light to different objects and surfaces in the scene, and several other factors. This is then run through a computer program such as SketchUp, 3Ds Max, Maxwell Render, Blender, or K-3D (There are a plethora of graphic programming applications out there), churning out the finished image. There is then post-production work in Photoshop, to hammer out the tiny details. Artists can add in imperfections as well to make their images seem more realistic.


Chesterfield detail 2
Each different “camera angle” is an entirely new project.


Creating such images for architectural purposes has plenty of potential, but also criticism. Students in particular are often criticized for focusing on the fantasy aspect  of it- why create realistic structures if the tools at your disposal take away the limits of strict realism?


Sleep Finished Product


By working within the parameters of the programs, they can make unrealistic scenes look realistic. Conversely, presenting clients with so many realistic options can limit the actual potential of what they strive for. Why allow your imagination to thrive and stretch when there is already a picture of one possible, aesthetically beautiful scene before your eyes?


Sleep framework
Mapping out the Shapes – grid framework map for 3D rendering project titled “Sleep”.


The images are easily accessible, and allow clients to settle on a specific look too soon instead of letting the project develop organically. On the other hand, as the technology progresses, these computer graphics are becoming more customizable. One could test the overall effects of lighting placement, and change it several times in the planning stage to suit their needs. Different environmental scenarios could be tested as well. This takes some of the risk of building a project away, which could make the process more efficient and less wasteful.


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  1. What’s interesting about CG renderings is that the designers/artists will, many times, ADD flaws! They’ll add lens distortions that don’t (really: can’t) exist. They’ll add discolorations, a little smudge here, a nick to a table leg there. They’ll add the flaws to help convince us (the viewers) that the image is REAL!

    But, if handled correctly, the benefits of modeling something in advance are immense. You can solve manufacturing and fabrication problems–siting problems, wire and plumbing routing, the effects of shadows, glare, trees, etc. On a high-end home, you can save tens of thousands of dollars, or more. On a skyscraper or a commercial or industrial building, you can save MILLIONS!

    But you just have to be honest with the physics of it all–you can all-too-easily design something on a computer that could never work in the real world!

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