What is an Architectural Rendering?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

An architectural rendering is a two-dimensional document used by architects to present a proposed design by illustrating the way that a structure will look after it has been completed and while it is in use. In many cases an architectural rendering will include elements of landscape, regional weather, and population. A proposed university building, for example, may be illustrated in an architectural rendering in a manner that situates the building in relationship to existing structures. It may also include superimposed images of people walking near the building or standing in the building. The images of these people would be borrowed from other sources and would be sized to match the scale of the rendering.

An architectural rendering is a document used to present design ideas to clients.
An architectural rendering is a document used to present design ideas to clients.

Such renderings are meant to be photorealistic, but it is usually clear to the naked eye that the renderings are not, in fact, photos of real places. An architectural rendering of very high quality may look, at first glance, as though it is a real photograph. The larger and more realistic the rendering, the more expensive it is to create. Depending on the size and scope of an architecture firms, renderings may be created by in-house staff members. It is also common for firms to contract this work out to companies that specialize in architectural models and renderings.

An architectural rendering shows what a proposed building will look like after it is completed and in use.
An architectural rendering shows what a proposed building will look like after it is completed and in use.

There are various uses for an architectural rendering. In addition to using a rendering to present a design concept to a client, a rendering might also be used in the company's marketing materials. This is especially true if a client decides to go with the design presented in the rendering, or a design that is a slightly altered version of what is presented in the rendering. As it can take make years for a structure to go from design to completion, an architectural firm may use an architectural rendering to display a structure that has not yet been finished. Renderings may be used in marketing materials, on the company's website, and may also be displayed in the office lobby.

In addition to still architectural renderings such as the ones described above, there are also computer-animated renderings. These sorts of renderings allow users to take a virtual tour of a proposed structure. It is most common for this kind of architectural rendering to be created for a large or highly specialized structure. Such virtual tours of proposed structures may include tours of interior and exterior spaces related to the structure.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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