Design Rendering Is as Much Art as Architecture
Art and Architecture
Each building tells a story. Illustrator Guillaume Paturel ensures
it’s effectively conveyed.
Despite what some architects might wish, image is frequently
everything. In a discipline predisposed to the visual and in an age
saturated with design confections, a high-quality rendering can help
a project stand out from a crowded field. Achieving this goal is the
task of Guillaume Paturel, the director of By-Encore, a Brooklyn,
N.Y.–based architectural visualization firm.
For even for the most complex project, renderings can communicate
the essence of the design concisely. In this capacity, they become
powerful—and persuasive—tools. Calling them “absolutely essential,”
Roger Soto, a senior vice president at HOK and the design director
of its Houston office, says, “You must have quality renderings in
order to compete effectively.”
Or, as Paturel simply puts it, “Renderings win competitions.”
Their benefits extend beyond the competitive edge, though. Sudhir
Jambhekar, a senior partner at New York–based FXFowle Architects,
has worked with Paturel on more than 15 projects. “Clients expect
visualization. They want to see what the buildings look like,” he
says. But renderings also offer the designers themselves a chance to
examine a project. “Internally, we study the project, test our own
ideas, see if what we have designed is right,” Jambhekar notes,
adding, “I would recommend highly that visualization is done by
outside consultants. It brings in a different perspective, and it
frees up valuable time for design.”
Yet not all renderings are created equal. The best communicate “more
than just the raw realism of a project,” says Soto. “They have a
story to tell. They should capture the spirit of a site.” This is
where hiring a specialist such as By-Encore is critical. Colin
Montoute, a senior designer at FXFowle, says the firm is
“exceptional at creating context, understanding … the place in which
the architecture sits.” Jambhekar agrees: “The sky is not the same
in New York as it is in Dubai. The blueness is very different.
By-Encore captures that.”
For Paturel, architectural renderings are an art. As such, they
should not just meticulously convey a project’s program and design
elements—they should also convey light and shadow, what he calls the
“heart” of a project. And Paturel aims to convey a single message
with each image. “You have to show just one thing, whether it’s one
building, one aspect of a building, or one effect,” he explains.
“When you look at a rendering and you understand quickly what’s
happening, then you’ve got it.”
Likening renderings to film, Paturel underscores the importance of
frame and shot. “The most important thing is the point of view,” he
says. “I find the place to establish the perspective.” This, he
suggests, is key to a quality rendering. Drawing a distinction from
physical models, which lay projects bare and allow anyone to view
them flexibly, Paturel cites the rendering’s capacity to dictate
perspective. “You have to control what the person sees,” he
explains. “I want you to look in this direction in this particular
As with many fields, architectural visualization has undergone
systemic changes because of technological advances. “When I first
started, for about eight years, I worked with pastels and collage,”
says Paturel, who studied architecture in his hometown of
Marseilles, France. With a passion to create images, the young
artist started a firm in Paris in the mid-1990s, working with a kit
of now-outdated tools. Seven years ago, however, Paturel turned to
digital technologies—primarily Autodesk 3ds Max and Photoshop—and
has used them ever since to execute renderings.
The artistry, however, remains. “The tools today are very powerful,
but you have to know how to use them well,” says Paturel. “If you
buy a great guitar, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to play
beautiful music. Even though I do all my work on computer, that
early experience was very valuable.”
Over 15 years, Paturel has rebranded himself periodically (previous
monikers have included Graphic Work and Louis & Fils), and he has
maintained a presence in France and New York for several years. When
he relocated to New York in 2007—his office currently has fewer than
a dozen employees—he created By-Encore to reflect this new shift.
And his clients couldn’t be happier. “There is a definite artistry
in what By-Encore does,” says HOK’s Soto, “with the way they
manipulate light, express materials, do the entourage,”—the people
that appear in renderings—“and with the views they select. They
don’t just inform,” he concludes. “They seduce.”
But despite the technology available to Paturel and the expertise he
possesses, it still comes down to the product itself. “The best way
to do a nice rendering is to have a nice building,” says Paturel.
“It’s very difficult to make a good rendering with bad
Art, Image and Artists
Sacred art, inspired by faith, both reflects and informs the
by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
With the emergence of Gothic, a change slowly takes place. Much
remains the same, especially the fundamental inner correspondence
between the Old Testament and the New, which for its part always has
a reference to what is still to come.
But the central image becomes different. The depiction is no longer
of the Pantocrator, the Lord of all, leading us into the eighth day.
It has been superseded by the image of the crucified Lord in the
agony of His passion and death. The story is told of the historical
events of the Passion, but the Resurrection is not made visible. The
historical and narrative aspect of art comes to the fore.
It has been said that the mystical image has been replaced by the
devotional image. Many factors may have been involved in this change
of perspective. Evdokimov, in The Art of the Icon: A Theology of
Beauty, thinks that the turn from Platonism to Aristotelianism
during the thirteenth century played a part.
Platonism sees sensible things as shadows of the eternal archetypes.
In the sensible we can and should know the archetypes and rise up
through the former to the latter.
Aristotelianism rejects the doctrine of Ideas. The thing, composed
of matter and form, exists in its own right. Through abstraction I
discern the species to which it belongs. In place of seeing, by
which the super-sensible becomes visible in the sensible, comes
abstraction. The relationship of the spiritual and the material has
changed and with it man's attitude to reality as it appears to him.
For Plato, the category of the beautiful had been definitive. The
beautiful and the good, ultimately the beautiful and God, coincide.
Through the appearance of the beautiful we are wounded in our
innermost being, and that wound grips us and takes us beyond
ourselves; it stirs longing into flight and moves us toward the
truly Beautiful, to the Good in itself.
Something of this Platonic foundation lives on in the theology of
icons, even though the Platonic ideas of the beautiful and of vision
have been transformed by the light of Tabor. Moreover, Plato's
conception has been profoundly reshaped by the interconnection of
creation, Christology, and eschatology, and the material order as
such has been given a new dignity and a new value. This kind of
Platonism, transformed as it is by the Incarnation, largely
disappears from the West after the thirteenth century, so that now
the art of painting strives first and foremost to depict events that
have taken place.
Salvation history is seen less as a sacrament than as a narrative
unfolded in time. Thus the relationship to the liturgy also changes.
It is seen as a kind of symbolic reproduction of the event of the
Piety responds by turning chiefly to meditation on the mysteries of
the life of Jesus. Art finds its inspiration less in the liturgy
than in popular piety, and popular piety is in turn nourished by the
historical images in which it can contemplate the way to Christ, the
way of Jesus himself and its continuation in the saints. The
separation in iconography between East and West, which took place at
the latest by the thirteenth century, doubtless goes very deep: very
different themes, different spiritual paths, open up. A devotion to
the Cross of a more historicizing kind replaces orientation to the
Oriens, to the risen Lord who has gone ahead of us.
Nevertheless, we should not exaggerate the differences that
developed. True, the depiction of Christ dying in pain on the Cross
is something new, but it still depicts him who bore our pains, by
whose stripes we are healed. In the extremes of pain it represents
the redemptive love of God.
Though [Matthias] Grünewald's altarpiece [at Isenheim] takes the
realism of the Passion to a radical extreme, the fact remains that
it was an image of consolation. It enabled the plague victims cared
for by the Antonians to recognize that God identified with them in
their fate, to see that He had descended into their suffering and
that their suffering lay hidden in His. There is a decisive turn to
what is human, historical, in Christ, but it is animated by a sense
that these human afflictions of His belong to the mystery.
The images are consoling, because they make visible the overcoming
of our anguish in the incarnate God's sharing of our suffering, and
so they bear within them the messages of the Resurrection. These
images, too, come from prayer, from the interior meditation on the
way of Christ. They are identifications with Christ, which are based
in turn on God's identification with us in Christ. They open up the
realism of the mystery without diverging from it. As for the Mass,
as the making present of the Cross, do these images not enable us to
understand that mystery with a new vividness?
The mystery is unfolded in an extremity of concreteness, and popular
piety is enabled thereby to reach the heart of the liturgy in a new
way. These images, too, do not show just the "surface of the skin",
the external sensible world; they, too, are intended to lead us
through mere outward appearance and open our eyes to the heart of
What we are suggesting here about the images of the Cross applies
also to all the rest of the "narrative" art of the Gothic style.
What power of inward devotion lies in the images of the Mother of
God! They manifest the new humanity of the faith. Such images are an
invitation to prayer, because they are permeated with prayer from
within. They show us the true image of man as planned by the Creator
and renewed by Christ. They guide us into man's authentic being.
And finally, let us not forget the glorious art of Gothic stained
glass! The windows of the Gothic cathedrals keep out the garishness
of the light outside, while concentrating that light and using it so
that the whole history of God in relation to man, from creation to
the Second Coming, shines through. The walls of the church, in
interplay with the sun, become an image in their own right, the
iconostasis of the West, lending the place a sense of the sacred
that can touch the hearts even of agnostics.
The Renaissance did something quite new. It "emancipated" man. Now
we see the development of the "aesthetic" in the modern sense, the
vision of a beauty that no longer points beyond itself but is
content in the end with itself, the beauty of the appearing thing.
Man experiences himself in his autonomy, in all his grandeur. Art
speaks of this grandeur of man almost as if it were surprised by it;
it needs no other beauty to seek. There is often scarcely a
difference between the depictions of pagan myths and those of
Christian history. The tragic burden of antiquity has been
forgotten; only its divine beauty is seen. A nostalgia for the gods
emerges, for myth, for a world without fear of sin and without the
pain of the Cross, which had perhaps been too overpowering in the
images of the late Middle Ages.
True, Christian subjects are still being depicted, but such
"religious art" is no longer sacred art in the proper sense. It does
not enter into the humility of the sacraments and their
time-transcending dynamism. It wants to enjoy today and to bring
redemption through beauty itself.
Perhaps the iconoclasm of the Reformation should be understood
against this background, though doubtless its roots were extensive.
Baroque art, which follows the Renaissance, has many different
aspects and modes of expression. In its best form it is based on the
reform of the Church set in motion by the Council of Trent.
In line with the tradition of the West, the Council again emphasized
the didactic and pedagogical character of art, but, as a fresh start
toward interior renewal, it led once more to a new kind of seeing
that comes from and returns within.
The altarpiece is like a window through which the world of God comes
out to us. The curtain of temporality is raised, and we are allowed
a glimpse into the inner life of the world of God. This art is
intended to insert us into the liturgy of heaven.
Again and again, we experience a Baroque church as a unique kind of
fortissimo of joy, an Alleluia in visual form. "The joy of the Lord
is your strength" (Nehemiah 10). These words from the Old Testament
express the basic emotion that animates this iconography.
The Enlightenment pushed faith into a kind of intellectual and even
A New Iconoclasm
Contemporary culture turned away from the faith and trod another
path, so that faith took flight in historicism, the copying of the
past, or else attempted compromise or lost itself in resignation and
The last of these led to a new iconoclasm, which has frequently been
regarded as virtually mandated by the Second Vatican Council. The
destruction of images, the first signs of which reach back to the
1920s, eliminated a lot of kitsch and unworthy art, but ultimately
it left behind a void, the wretchedness of which we are now
experiencing in a truly acute way.
Where do we go from here? Today we are experiencing not just a
crisis of sacred art, but a crisis of art in general of
The crisis of art for its part is a symptom of the crisis of man's
very existence. The immense growth in man's mastery of the material
world has left him blind to the questions of life's meaning that
transcend the material world. We might almost call it a blindness of
the spirit. The questions of how we ought to live, how we can
overcome death, whether existence has a purpose and what it is -- to
all these questions there is no longer a common answer.
Positivism, formulated in the name of scientific seriousness,
narrows the horizon to what is verifiable, to what can be proved by
experiment; it renders the world opaque.
True, it still contains mathematics, but the logos that is the
presupposition of the mathematics and its applicability is no longer
evident. Thus our world of images no longer surpasses the bounds of
sense and appearance, and the flood of images that surrounds us
really means the end of the image.
If something cannot be photographed, it cannot be seen. In this
situation, the art of the icon, sacred art, depending as it does on
a wider kind of seeing, becomes impossible.
What is more, art itself, which in impressionism and expressionism
explored the extreme possibilities of the sense of sight, becomes
literally object-less. Art turns into experimenting with
self-created worlds, empty "creativity", which no longer perceives
the Creator Spiritus, the Creator Spirit. It attempts to take his
place, and yet, in so doing, it manages to produce only what is
arbitrary and vacuous, bringing home to man the absurdity of his
role as creator.
Again we must ask: Where do we go from here? Let us try to sum up
what we have said so far and to identify the fundamental principles
of an art ordered to divine worship.
1. The complete absence of images is incompatible with faith in the
Incarnation of God. God has acted in history and entered into our
sensible world, so that it may become transparent to Him. Images of
beauty, in which the mystery of the invisible God becomes visible,
are an essential part of Christian worship. There will always be ups
and downs in the history of iconography, upsurge and decline, and
therefore periods when images are somewhat sparse. But they can
never be totally lacking. Iconoclasm is not a Christian option.
2. Sacred art finds its subjects in the images of salvation history,
beginning with creation and continuing all the way from the first
day to the eighth day, the day of the resurrection and Second
Coming, in which the line of human history will come full circle.
The images of biblical history have pride of place in sacred art,
but the latter also includes the history of the saints, which is an
unfolding of the history of Jesus Christ, the fruit borne throughout
history by the dead grain wheat. "You are not struggling against
icons", said Saint John Damascene to the iconoclastic emperor Leo
III, "but against the saints". In the same period, and with the same
view in mind, Pope Saint Gregory III instituted in Rome the feast of
All Saints (cf. Evdokimov, p. 164).
3. The images of the history of God in relation to man do not merely
illustrate the succession of past events but display the inner unity
of God's action. In this way they have a reference to the
sacraments, above all, to Baptism and the Eucharist, and, in
pointing to the sacraments, they are contained within them.
Images thus point to a presence; they are essentially connected with
what happens in the Liturgy. Now history becomes sacrament in
Christ, who is the source of the Sacraments. Therefore, the icon of
Christ is the center of sacred iconography. The center of the icon
of Christ is the Paschal Mystery: Christ is presented as the
Crucified, the risen Lord, the One who will come again and who here
and now, though hidden, reigns over all.
Every image of Christ must contain these three essential aspects of
the mystery of Christ and, in this sense, must be an image of
Easter. At the same time, it goes without saying that different
emphases are possible. The image may give more prominence to the
Cross, the Passion, and in the Passion to the anguish of our own
life today, or again it may bring the Resurrection or the Second
Coming to the fore. But whatever happens, one aspect can never be
completely isolated from another, and in the different emphases the
Paschal Mystery as a whole must be plainly evident. An image of the
Crucifixion no longer transparent to Easter would be just as
deficient as an Easter image forgetful of the wounds and the
suffering of the present moment. And, centered as it is on the
Paschal Mystery, the image of Christ is always an icon of the
Eucharist, that is it points to the sacramental presence of the
4. The image of Christ and the images of the saints are not
photographs. Their whole point is to lead us beyond what can be
apprehended at the merely material level, to awaken new senses in
us, and to teach us a new kind of seeing, which perceives the
Invisible in the visible.
The sacredness of the image consists precisely in the fact that it
comes from an interior vision and thus leads us to such an interior
vision. It must be a fruit of contemplation, of an encounter in
faith with the new reality of the risen Christ, and so it leads us
in turn into an interior gazing, an encounter in prayer with the
Lord. The image is at the service of the Liturgy. The prayer and
contemplation in which the images are formed must, therefore, be a
praying and seeing undertaken in communion with the seeing faith of
the Church. The ecclesial dimension is essential to sacred art and
thus has an essential connection with the history of the faith, with
Scripture and Tradition.
5. The Church in the West does not need to disown the specific path
she has followed since about the thirteenth century. But she must
achieve a real reception of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Nicaea
II, which affirmed the fundamental importance and theological status
of the image in the Church. The Western Church does not need to
subject herself to all the individual norms concerning images that
were developed at the councils and synods of the East, coming to
some kind of conclusion in 1551 at the Council of Moscow, the
Council of the Hundred Canons. Nevertheless, she should regard the
fundamental lines of this theology of the image in the Church as
normative for her. There must, of course, be no rigid norms. Freshly
received intuitions and the ever-new experiences of piety must find
a place in the Church. But still there is a difference between
sacred art (which is related to the liturgy and belongs to the
ecclesial sphere) and religious art in general. There cannot be
completely free expression in sacred art. Forms of art that deny the
logos of things and imprison man within what appears to the senses
are incompatible with the Church's understanding of the image. No
sacred art can come from an isolated subjectivity. No, it
presupposes that there is a subject who has been inwardly formed by
the Church and opened up to the "we". Only thus does art make the
Church's common faith visible and speak again to the believing
heart. The freedom of art, which is also necessary in the more
narrowly circumscribed realm of sacred art, is not a matter of
do-as-you-please. It unfolds according to the measure indicated by
the first four points in these concluding reflections, which are an
attempt to sum up what is constant in the iconographic tradition of
faith. Without faith there is no art commensurate with the liturgy.
Sacred art stands beneath the imperative stated in the second
epistle to the Corinthians. Gazing at the Lord, we are "changed into
His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes
from the Lord who is the Spirit" (3:18).
But what does all this mean practically? Art cannot be "produced",
as one contracts out and produces technical equipment. It is always
a gift. Inspiration is not something one can choose for oneself. It
has to be received, otherwise it is not there. One cannot bring
about a renewal of art in faith by money or through commissions.
Before all things it requires the gift of a new kind of seeing. And
so it would be worth our while to regain a faith that sees. Wherever
that exists, art finds its proper expressions.