June 1, 2001
by Canadian Architect
Now in its seventh year, the Canadian Architect Art of CAD competition attracted a total of 45 entries for 2001. This is off last year’s record showing of 63, but is consistent with previous years’ numbers. Applied Renderings continued to dominate submissions with 26. While this is down from last year’s 37, as a proportion of the total this category remained virtually identical to previous years. Entries to the Theoretical Rendering category bounced back from last year’s low of three to six, and submissions to the Applied Dynamic category shrank from 2000’s high of 18 back to 1999’s previous record of eight. Theoretical Dynamic entries remained consistent with last year at five.
Generally speaking, submissions to this year’s competition backed away from the more experimental flavour of previous editions of the Art of CAD. Whereas last year’s competition attracted a number of dynamic entries that embraced provocative graphics, sophisticated soundtracks and underlying narratives from popular culture, this year the jury was presented with a selection of more conventionally architectural presentations. This may be a measure of how mainstream, even workaday, CAD rendering has become within architectural practice, as compared to the more cutting-edge status it enjoyed just a few years ago.
The competition was once again sponsored by Autodesk, Southam, and Edmonton’s Works Festival, where selected entries will be exhibited from June 22 to July 4, 2001. Prizes for the winners in the various categories are: for Applied Rendering, Autodesk Architectural Desktop R3; for Theoretical Rendering, AutoCad LT 2000i; for Applied Dynamic, 3D Studio VIZ R3i; and for Theoretical Dynamic, a $1,000 cash prize from Southam.
This year’s jurors were Douglas MacLeod of Canmore, Alberta and Magnus Clarke of Toronto. MacLeod is a contributing editor to Canadian Architect and a specialist in computer aided design. He is director of projects for NetEra Alliance for advanced computing and networking in Alberta. Clarke is a graduate of the Carleton University School of Architecture and Vice President of Design and Simulation at Design Vision Inc., a Toronto-based consulting firm offering a wide variety of branding, media and identity design services. Clarke is in charge of environmental design and simulation, with a focus on retail design. Recent clients include Eatons, Nike, The Hudson’s Bay Company, Shoppers Drug Mart and Rogers. Design Vision’s entry Save the Seventh Floor (College Park Restoration) was selected as the winner of the 1999 Art of CAD Applied Dynamic category. MP
This year’s submissions show that CAD and 3D modeling have become everyday tools of the industry. In some parts of the country, such as Montreal, there is a strong regional style developing in the work that we saw, and many conventions are beginning to evolve across the board. The downside to this increasing familiarity with the tools–which is perhaps encouraged by inexpensive machine power and software–is less innovation in how these tools are used.
Previously, the investment of time and resources required to produce three-dimensional work was so great that there was perhaps more thought as to how it should or could be used. When a single frame took many hours to render there was a fair amount of time left to contemplate the composition of each and every camera move. Today, with a fraction of yesterday’s investment one can render minutes of footage overnight.
I wonder whether we have begun to trade off qualitative aspects of the work for quantitative ones. I know from my own experience that some of my favourite rendering software has been “optimized” to offer faster performance, but with an obvious trade-off in the quality of the finished product. It is possible, however, to imagine that the same forces of competition that compel designers to optimize the quantitative aspects of their process will encourage the development of the qualitative aspects of 3D through innovation and exploration.
The strongest work this year showed a level of maturity in lighting, composition, and camera work. This year’s musical artist of choice as heard on a number of soundtracks was Moby, a milder choice than last year’s Nine Inch Nails, which indicates a possible aversion to offending one’s audience. It was noteworthy that many dynamic entries had little to offer in the way of audio at all! There was none of the music video approach that was seen previously, which is surprising, as it seems that this is a visual language that resonates with today’s media-savvy public. Perhaps there is a schism between conventional architectural representation and the frenetic media that we experience daily that could be explored further through these tools. Hopefully in the future we’ll see work that continues to build on the exploration of the Art of CAD seen in this year’s entries. Magnus Clarke
Here is the secret to winning a prize in the Art of CAD competition: submit something–anything–in the theoretical rendering category. In the past, theoretical projects dominated the competition but in recent years this category has been consistently under-represented. As judges we would be delighted to see more renderings like the one by Schawn Jasmann that won the competition in 1997. This category cries out for more abstract, edgy, off-the-wall work. I know it’s being produced in droves in our schools of architecture, so what’s stopping students from submitting it?
Overall, this year’s entries were more prosaic than last year. Gone were the sex clubs and the soundtracks by Nine Inch Nails, replaced with a multitude of practical projects that are actually under construction. No CDs or Web-based materials were submitted but there were plenty of videos. In other words, architects have lots of real work this year and this was reflected in the submissions.
The work also demonstrated how CAD has become a commodity. It is so fully integrated into office practice that it seems to be taken for granted. While as recently as last year a number of the submissions were created on powerful Hewlett-Packard or Silicon Graphics workstations, this year all the winners and honourable mentions were created on Apple or Intel machines. This gave many of the entries a more home-made feel than before, but it emphasizes that you no longer have to be a programming genius with access to supercomputers to produce credible renderings.
Over the past few years it has also become evident that there is a distinctive Montreal approach to rendering. From videos by Saucier + Perrotte in 1997 to those of N.o.m.a.d.e. this year, there seems to be a shared and consistent sense of light and shadow, Modernist styling, night scenes and sophistication (Martin Leblanc, who worked on both these submissions, is the common denominator in this equation). As CAD becomes capable of richer forms of expression, we may see the development of additional regional and personal styles. Douglas MacLeod
Applied Rendering: Winner
Dalibor Cizek, Michael Starr (Cicada Design)
David Dow, Michael Leckman, Thom Pratt, Donald Schmitt (A.J. Diamond, Donald Schmitt and Company), Toronto
Bahen Centre for Information Technology, University of Toronto
A.J. Diamond, Donald Schmitt and Company
Project Development Drawing
PC with Dual Pentium 450 using 3DStudio MAX, Lightscape and PhotoShop
Clarke This is a good example of a classic section rendering that describes the relationship between different spaces quite well. There is clearly a good understanding of how to use light to create some drama in the space and give it a sense of depth. There is an element of restraint here combined with an abstract view that is really quite eloquent. This was a difficult category in which to pick a winner, as many of the works appear to be converging on a certain style and approach over the last few years. This entry percolated to the top through its superior sense of balance.
MacLeod The office of A.J. Diamond, Donald Schmitt and Company displays a formidable depth in its use of CAD, and its renderings have a distinctive look and feel. As this section shows, they are seasoned practitioners in the use of Lightscape to achieve realistic lighting effects. While it is not difficult to put lights in a CAD model, to do it well is a real challenge. The expert lighting, the presentation and the delicate modeling of the space combine to make this submission a winner.
Theoretical Rendering: Winner
Richard Witt, London, UK
Pentium III 450 using AutoCAD, Robot, 3DStudio MAX and PhotoShop
Clarke It seems that not many people are exploring the medium of CAD and related tools in and of themselves. The winning entry has explored some of what the tools offer as a medium of representation touching on structure, form, materiality and composition. It also stands out as having a distinctly different style from all the other entries. Bringing a distinctive mood to the work helped evoke a sense of purpose that seems to evade much of the work we see today in the world of CAD, defying many conventions that have evolved over the last decade.
MacLeod Richard Witt’s investigation of a conceptual bridge was the most interesting formal submission to the competition. It is important because it shows how CAD can be a vehicle to explore (and explain) new geometries and concepts. The real potential of digital technologies is not in rendering but in trying out new ideas that would be impossible with traditional approaches to drafting.
Theoretical Rendering: Mention
Chris Bullen, Calgary
The Cohos Evamy Partners
Pentium III 450 using AutoCAD, 3DStudio VIZ and PhotoShop
Clarke Like other entries in this category, this should perhaps be in the applied realm of the competition, but according to its creators this piece was developed to allow further exploration of the design ideas involved. This was well supported by the ephemeral sense of light and space that the rendering conveys. By stripping away many of the material elements of a building, more abstract concepts can be explored through work like this. Using these tools to make complex spatial concepts accessible to clients and end users adds a great deal to the value of the design process.
MacLeod Chris Bullen’s rendering of a college library courtyard deserved a Mention in this category because of its stark, almost monochromatic approach and its overlay of wire frame and shaded surfaces. Combined with the solitary pedestrian crossing the space, it gives an almost overwhelming sense of loneliness. I’m sure this isn’t the intention of the design but it does illustrate how CAD itself can create evocative spaces.
Applied Rendering: Mention
Scott Edwards, Vancouver
Brentwood Skytrain Station, Burnaby, B.C.
Busby + Associates Architects
Pentium II using MicroStation/Triforma and PhotoShop
Clarke This entry was prepared for public presentation to illustrate one of a number of new Skytrain stations being built in Vancouver. It illustrates very well what could otherwise be a confusing space. Balanced with a sense of inhabitation, a crisp lighting approach, and a well laid out composition, it’s an informative eye-catcher.
MacLeod This is a handsome little drawing that combines an aerial perspective with a sectional one overlaid on a line drawing. Far from being confusing, the three pieces make a compelling composition. The renderings and colour palettes are subtle but distinct, allowing the designers to convey a great deal of information about the project in a small amount of space.
Applied Dynamic: Mention
Richard M. Levy, Calgary
Temple Site at Phimai
University of Calgary, Faculty of Environmental Design
Pentium PIII733 and Miro DC30 using 3DStudio VIZ
Clarke Similar to last year’s Sketch of a Fortified City, this is another very good entry that could be described as archaeological. Three-dimensional models can be difficult to build at the best of times, but when stitching together missing parts of a puzzle from limited documentation it can be particularly challenging. It is encouraging to see 3D used to document historic sites such as the temple at Phimai. The video was a brief overview describing some of the broad aspects of this site and what is being done to preserve it.
MacLeod This reconstruction of a Buddhist temple in Thailand represents a colossal amount of work of a kind that would have been unthinkable on an Intel box even a few years ago. Extensive modeling and texture mapping are used to develop an excellent educational resource, and it demonstrates the value of CAD as a tool for the management of heritage sites.
Applied Rendering: Mention
Jonathan Smith, Montreal
Urban Design and House
McGill University studio project
PC type computer using ArchiCAD
Clarke There was a strong sense here that the simulation tools were being used to explore design ideas and concepts quite successfully. Teasing us with small images that made us look hard at what was going on, and balancing a good sense of composition, it made for a strong submission. Again, restraint brought a sense of maturity to this work.
MacLeod This student project packs together a number of small images to convey a sense of both the interior and exterior of this house and studio. The overall effect is like looking at a film strip, but piece by piece it helps to explain the design. It is all the more remarkable for the fact that it was done by a student with no prior exposure to computer visualization.
Theoretical Dynamic: Winner
Rui Nunes, Vancouver
Henriquez Partners Architects
Concept Analysis and Presentation
Apple Macintosh G4 533 DP using Strata 3D Pro
Clarke Using a narrative to drive a design program can be very difficult to explain to a client, yet this is exactly what this video manages to do. Without overextending on detail this animation explains what would otherwise likely be an inaccessible concept. The use of simple audio cues helps to bring life to the video and makes it more memorable. Seeing the medium of CAD and rendering used in this way is quite encouraging. Going beyond the final product and informing the viewer about how one arrives at the design is a task well suited to these tools yet seldom seen, and should be commended.
MacLeod This is the first entry that made me laugh. Buildings shake, rattle and roll and trees drop from the sky in one of the most entertaining renovations I have ever seen. Like Black Ice this video has a strong narrative thread and it shows how even CAD can be imbued with emotional content. We need to remember that telling a compelling story is what design is all about.
Applied Dynamic: Winner
Jean Beaudoin, Martin Leblanc, Jean Pellan, Michel Lauzon, Benoit Decarie (N.o.m.a.d.e.)
Jean-Paul Riopel Artwork at Place du Palais
Art Director: Martin Leblanc, N.o.m.a.d.e.
Collaborative Architects: Le consortium Gauthier, Daoust Lestage Inc.
Modeling of the planned relocation of a public art piece by Jean-Paul Riopel in Montreal’s Place du Palais
IBM Intellistation M Pro using formZ, Lightscape, Premiere, and PhotoShop
Clarke The best of a number of entries from Montreal, this piece exemplified a strong style that is developing in that city. The camera work effectively spanned a number of different scales from urban to pedestrian, which was enhanced by a good use of detail and texture maps only where required. The video encapsulates a number of different design concepts into a tight package marked by nice editing and a good use of a musical soundtrack to establish a mood.
MacLeod As I mentioned in my opening comments, N.o.m.a.d.e. produces compelling, sophisticated work with a high degree of professionalism. This urban design video is no exception. It conveys a sense of the place complete with lighting and materials. While it may be understated, it does communicate in a clear and straightforward manner.
Applied Dynamic: Mention
Vivek Manon, Winnipeg
University of Manitoba studio project
Apple iBook, Blueberry 300 MHz and Sony Digital Video Camera using Premiere, PhotoShop, VectorWorks and iMovie
Clarke While this entry was pretty shaky on execution there was definitely a sense of fun here that all too often eludes architectural representation. The best part about this submission was the exploration of the inhabitation and use of an environment. Working with limited tools, this video speaks to the issues of the project at hand, right down to the bumpy ride endured by the virtual passengers.
MacLeod Black Ice is a video that explains the design of an eight-car “ice train” for use on Manitoba’s winter roads. While the video itself is neither slick nor smooth, it does tell a story about the design and how it is used. Too often architectural animations are little more than walkthroughs that show only the static characteristics of a space. This one took some chances to show more.
Theoretical Dynamic: Mention
Jos Uribe-Pabon, Toronto
University of Toronto Studio Project
PC Pentium III using 3DStudio MAX 3.0 and AutoCAD 2000
Clarke This was one of the few submissions that tried to push what the medium could do for the exploration of spatial perception. How else can one explore some of the more linear aspects of the experience of space other than through a tool like video? While the pace is a little too fast, the dynamic use of zoom angles and camera motion begins to challenge what has become a convention in walkthroughs that we see so much of today. There are many lessons to be learned from Hollywood on the effective movement of the camera to convey particular moods and ideas, and some of those begin to surface in this work.
MacLeod Oscillating Space is effective as an animation because it attempts to define a space through camera motion. Not a mere walkthrough, it creates its own sense of rhythm as the camera bobs and weaves up ramps and around corners. Too few architects exploit these temporal qualities of space. ca