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Can Your 3D Model Capture Poetics in Your Design?


Maria Lorena Lehman


Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy

Image Credit: © Seier+Seier | Flickr

When one thinks of architectural poetics, often the notion of “sense of place” comes to mind. That is, when an architecture exudes a memory, both collective and individual — it captures a design that becomes more than the sum of its parts. At times, designs incorporate metaphor where the architectural meaning transcends its geometric forms. And at its essence, a poetic architecture can be beautiful, made of a beauty that feeds the senses.

So the question becomes: How do you as an architect capture the poetics of your project in 3D model rendering form? After all, having a rendering that exudes poetics can tap into the observer’s emotion. Just imagine a client looking at your 3D model rendering where architectural qualities about the space are conveyed (even though they can’t be directly pointed to).

Thus, can a 3D model rendering convey poetics?

I think that there is an art to creating 3D model renderings, and a few of the methods which are important in terms of capturing poetics are listed below:

  • Composition: This taps into the notion of “sense of place” where an architecture’s composition is conveyed to the observer. Architectural language can be developed and captured in renderings, and can be conveyed as an important piece of the formula that yields poetics.
  • Viewpoint: The vantage point of a 3D model rendering is of prime importance, as this will become the mental image of your building. In other words, this is the view that observers will remember most. It’s the “face” that you choose to express through your rendering.
  • Materiality: This captures sensorial aspects of your architecture in terms of qualities like texture, color, and geometric form. Materiality accentuates the architectural language your building expresses, and poetics continues to take shape here.
  • Lighting: This enhances all of the above, giving depth to the rendered viewpoint. Lighting presents hierarchy and order and can even convey ethereal qualities within a work. Use lighting carefully, because it can make or break the poetic feel to your rendering.
  • Nature: The incorporation of natural elements shows how architecture can harmonize with other forms of beauty. The relationship between your architecture and nature will express much in terms of its poetic feel.

Thus, to gain the best chance of capturing and expressing poetics through a virtual 3D modelrendering, it is best to think in terms of feeding the senses through your work. As the observer “feels” your rendering, they will visualize being there — and that mental image will exude poetics or it won’t. To increase your chances of capturing the poetics within your work; yes, you should pay particular attention to the methods I listed above, but also remember to capture a “feeling” with your rendering. Set the stage for metaphor, collective memory, individual memory, and sense of place.

This may make it that much easier to “sell” your vision to clients, reviewers, and design team members, as well as to present the deeper meaning behind what you create, back to yourself.


what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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