Hyperreal archviz strives to recreate the real-life experience of architecture, but it should also emphasize the distinction between the image and the physical space. The colors, mood, and atmosphere should be lifelike and artificial at the same time. This way the viewer does not get fooled into thinking that the building in real life will look and feel exactly the same as the rendering. Hyperreality does not replace reality, and the visualization avoids becoming a simulacrum.
The image vs. reality principle of hyperreal visualization parallels the approach toward architectural monuments restoration from the “International Charter For The Conservation And Restoration Of Monuments And Sites” (“The Venice Charter”). The 1964 Charter has been the UNESCO-approved set of monument conservation and restoration guidelines until its upgrade in the 2010s.
Article 9 of the Charter demands contemporary additions to the architectural monuments to be easily distinguishable from the authentic parts. The restoration “must stop at the point where conjecture begins, and in this case, moreover, any extra work which is indispensable must be distinct from the architectural composition and must bear a contemporary stamp”.
Article 12 clarifies that this distinction between the old and the contemporary is necessary so as not to mislead people into thinking the whole monument is original: “Replacements of missing parts… must be distinguishable from the original so that restoration does not falsify the artistic or historic evidence”.
Illustration: The Saint Francis Convent Church by David Closes in Santpedor, Spain, 2012. Recent additions are easy to distinguish from the authentic parts. Photo by Jordi Surroca.
The Charter speaks about the falsification of the artistic and historic evidence because we only have an approximate idea of what the lost elements looked like in the past, and cannot replicate the original material and technology to their fullest. The same principle may be applied to archviz: a visualization is an approximation of what the building will look like in the future, so it must clearly state that it is a hypothesis rather than ‘false evidence’. This way visualization neither misguides the client nor devalues the future building.
In architectural heritage preservation, the new elements may easily be made visually distinguishable from the authentic. Hyperreal visualization requires a more complex and synthetic approach. To break away from pseudo reality, some hyperreal renders combine abstract and stylized elements, but more often the ‘unrealistic’ filters are applied to the whole picture. The atmosphere of such filters may recreate the feeling of noir film sets, Hugh Ferriss renderings, 1960s postcards, 17th-century Dutch landscape painting, the background of Wes Anderson movies – or any other artistic or cinematic reference that creates a slightly staged, artificial composition. Fragments of realistic renderings with different vanishing points may be seamlessly combined into one collage to create a surreal feel. Buildings and objects may look like maquettes or even toys. Tiny details like grass or tree leaves often seem impossibly precise.
Illustration: details of Amandsplein 8 visualization by Iddqd Studio. Faded color palette and frontal multilayered projection make the visualization reminiscent of the toylike 1940s - 1950s studio movie sets.
These methods create an invisible picture frame or a screen – the fourth wall that reminds us that what we observe is indeed an image separate from our reality. We experience the so-called ‘estrangement’, ‘distancing’ or ‘alienation’ effect (‘Verfremdungseffekt’ in German).
The estrangement phenomenon was described by the famous German playwright Bertolt Brecht in his essay "On Chinese Acting" (1936). Brecht stated that the play must be performed "in such a way that the audience was hindered from simply identifying itself with the characters”. Estrangement made the audience experience the play “on a conscious plane, instead of, as hitherto, in the audience's subconscious".
Hyperreal visualization works the same: paradoxically, we maintain our distance from the image even if we are fully absorbed into it. Thus, we are not enchanted by the visualization. We can concentrate on the design and detect the project flaws. We have previously argued that hyperrealism is about the hyperaware perception of space in the visualization. And yet, hyperreal archviz can induce not only hyperawareness of the depicted space but also hyperawareness of the fact that this space is not real.
Header illustration: "Gemini" by Iddqd Studio.