Cinemarchitecture

This year’s edition of Canadian Architect’s Art of CAD competition attracted a total of 52 entries, the third highest number in the competition’s eight-year history. Submissions consisted of 28 in the Applied Renderings category, five in Theoretical Rendering, 14 in Applied Dynamic and five in Theoretical Dynamic. Representing over half of all submissions, Applied Renderings continued to dominate the competition, while theoretical work continues to lag well behind in terms of both renderings and dynamic entries.

Last year’s jury remarked on how most submissions seemed to back away from the more experimental flavour of previous editions of the Art of CAD. This year’s competition suggests a continuation of that trend. While the material submitted reflects ever-increasing technical sophistication, much of it seems put to the service of conventional architectural representations, including painstaking attempts to duplicate some of the qualities of hand-drawn renderings. Only a small number of submissions explored new representational possibilities.

As in previous years, the 2002 competition was sponsored by Autodesk, Business Information Group (formerly Southam), and Edmonton’s Works Festival, where selected entries will be exhibited from June 21 to July 3, 2002. The prizes for the winners in the various categories are: for Applied Rendering, Autodesk Architectural Desktop; for Applied Dynamic, Autodesk VIZ, and for Theoretical Dynamic, a $1,000 cash prize from Business Information Group. The jury did not award a prize in the Theoretical Rendering category, restricting recognition to a Mention.

This year’s jurors were Dalibor Cizek of Toronto and Martin Leblanc of Montreal. Cizek studied architecture at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, before joining the office of A.J. Diamond, Donald Schmitt and Company, where he worked for over 10 years before co-founding Cicada Design with partner Michael Starr in 2000. Cizek has won numerous awards for his CAD renderings, including Canadian Architect Art of CAD Awards for Applied Rendering in 1999 and 2001, and an Ideas and Presentations Award in this year’s OAA Awards. In addition to architectural rendering, Cicada Design also provide 3D design, modeling and animation services for film and television. Martin Leblanc is a graduate of the Universit de Montral Ecole d’architecture and a founding partner of NOMADE architecture, a firm established in 1998 that provides both architectural and CAD rendering services. Leblanc has received three Awards and Mentions in previous Art of CAD competitions, both with NOMADE and as an intern architect with Saucier + Perrotte architectes. MP

Jury Comments

It is obvious from this year’s submissions that CAD modeling is increasingly becoming an integral part of the design process in architectural offices. Many architects produce highly sophisticated renderings in-house, mastering the skills with respect to lighting, materials and modeling itself, while others prefer to use the services of companies specializing in architectural modeling and rendering. Although today’s well-developed software and high capacity computers make it easier to produce interesting sectional and detail drawings, elevations and axonometric views; the traditional perspective view still appears to be the preferred choice for presenting a project.

Is the obsession with photo-realism in rendering (possibly required by the client) limiting artistic expression? It seems to me that the use of basic architectural drawing is lost in a forest of flashy, non-architectural add-ons used to enhance the illusion of reality. The quest for photo-realism is so challenging that many are falling in this trap. Although it was ultimately not selected to win a prize, one entry, a simple analytical axonometric study of a complex roof structure for the Saddle Lake Healing Centre, is a superb example of how a CAD drawing can be used to create an informative dialogue between the architect and the contractor on the site.

In the applied dynamic category, this year’s entries combine creative thinking with advanced software technology and a cinematic approach. It is interesting to see that more and more architects–and especially students–enjoy experimenting with storyboarding, camera movement, music, narration and other components of this versatile medium. Many entries were highly professional with superb modeling, camera movement and voiceovers. A few entries used a more experimental approach to editing and montage, combining 2D and 3D images with animation clips to tell a compelling story about the project. Two entries in this year’s theoretical dynamic category clearly venture into unexplored areas of software and hardware, producing novel, fresh and provocative environments. Could it be that, today, learning from software supersedes learning from Las Vegas, the Bauhaus or Vitruvius? Dalibor Cizek

The Canadian Architect Art of CAD competition is a one-of-a-kind scheme that addresses the use of computers in Canadian architectural practice. Thanks to its various categories, the competition does not only focus on rendering, but on the many possible uses of the computer as a tool for architectural design and presentation. In this context, the word “art” is especially significant.

In recent years, the quality and photo-realism of architectural images have reached unprecedented levels. The number of high quality photo-like entries amazed me. For that reason, perhaps, we tried to pay special attention to what was behind the image rather than the pure aesthetic quality of the results. As such, we were particularly interested in the descriptive texts accompanying each presentation.

Overall, we appreciated presentations that went beyond basic rendering, and combined a mastery of personal expression with a will to enhance or define the presented project. Special mention should be made for those, like the Saddle Lake Healing Centre by Manasc Isaac Architects of Edmonton, which used 3D modeling as a way to get the project to its construction phase and assure its conformity to design.

We were also sensitive to the quality of composition. Since the purpose of all the presentations was to give a good representation of a project, we liked to see the use of inventive communicative strategies to convey what the project or space was about. This was particularly true in the Applied Dynamic category, where the traditional voiceover and fly-through were challenged by mixed media video compositions where the global ambience and style are more important than the quality of, say, glass reflections.

Finally, I would like to say that the Canadian Architect Art of CAD competition is a wonderful tool to give credibility to refreshing and emerging ways of using computers in the architectural design process. Through our selections, we tried to promote this idea rather than confirm the already accepted quality of the fully ray traced presentation. By recognizing artistic views and exploration processes, we hope to encourage people who are defining a practice in both the architectural and media worlds. Martin Leblanc

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