I worked for a couple of days a week ago with a digital architectural illustration team. Before you jump in and experience life at ground zero, you don't have a clue. I noticed that architectural illustration must obey its own rules and boundaries, many of which I had not observed when looking from the outside in.
I get along best with people who are their own designer and visualist. I guess, when one person does both things - you inherently have the communication and feedback between disiplines. I like working in project management myself, where contractors on site, technical experts and designers freely inter-miggle with each other. My tools are simple 2D drawings done using AutoCAD, but at least I avoid the 'loneliness of the lone distance architectural visualist'.
I have noticed the meme of 'sketchup' program spread all around the design community here in the city I live/work in - Dublin, Ireland. This happens every couple of years, when for a brief period, the architects discover software. They are thrilled to find this whole new space they can explore. Of course, what happens is they get busy and grow up. So all the modelling is out-sourced to the pros. A couple of years later, the fresh younger generation of 'upstarts' re-discover software again briefly, only to abandon it as before.
A lot of softwares claim to enable the designer to visualise their ideas - or create new ones. I have mixed feelings about software really, and what it can or cannot do. But one program always stood out for me. A program that embodied all that I wanted from a tool - it is Lightwave. Maybe it is just the fact, I have always like Star Wars etc. And Lightwave is that kind of tool which is used alot by people in movie industry. I don't know.
The Spin Quad forum for Lightwave users, especially their WIP forum, seems to me, what a modelling/rendering/animation online forum should be like. A real marketplace of ideas and techniques.
With a great tool like LW at their disposal, they really seem to be allowing their imaginations to roam free, and really getting the hang of what it should mean to model in the first place.
While I understand the different kinds of constraints placed upon architectural modellers, in terms of time limitations and necessity to take the views, etc the clients ask you for. It is a pity more of that investigative spirit in terms of modelling of space, building materials and structures doesn't go on here.
What I really love about the LW bunch, is their freedom to play with magic marker sketches, photos of real objects like old toys, old posters from old movies, and then model off that base. Sometimes, the modeller might use photoshop to perfectly air brush together something like a flat 2D vision of what he/she wants, before bringing that Photoshoped digital air brush rendering in, as something to work off of in a LW 3D environment.
It seems to me personally, this is the process and way in which modelling software should have developed. With this intimate connection between a designer using their hand to draw things, and a modeller on another. I feel this link was effectively broken in the game of 3D architectural modelling. Certainly, very few of the architectural visualists I know ever sit down with magic markers and layout paper and other designers.
Which is a real shame. Because neither understands the others thought process or tools. Mostly, it is a sad and miserable practice of emailing back and forth. That goes on for the brief duration, when the architectural illustrator is employed for the architect. Often the architectural visualist doesn't even get to meet the architect at all. He/she only gets a phonecall and a bunch of drawings of some intermediary person and gets on with it.
Brian O' Hanlon.