Arkitekten magazine articles - Sweden's arch-viz debate
A pre-note, this debate pales in comparison to the seriousness of the ongoing Corona pandemic. My thoughts go out to those affected and my admiration to all health workers and front-line services. Please follow your government's recommendations and look after yourselves.
This blog post discusses the following articles, and why I felt it was important to respond, and stand-up for our visualisation profession.
"Increased demand for simpler renderings displaces visualizers." - 3 March 2020
"Visualizers warn: Competence disappears from companies and from Sweden." - 20 March 2020
Now this is complicated but here is a little back-story...
The architectural visualisation industry in Sweden has come under pressure over the last 5 or so years. Redundancies, digitalisation, a building industry on a slide from peak years and visualisation competition from abroad.
Late 2018 I fell victim to a "lack" of visualisation projects within my company. I was made redundant. I got over that and realised that Swedish offices were not advertising for more visualisers. I decided to setup my own studio. I still thought there was a demand for expert visualisation and saw an enormous value to clients in it. I was always busy with projects in my previous companies.
The redundancies have since continued. Architectural offices removing their in-house visualisers, specialist studios firing and then recruiting new artists for offices abroad.
I realise this is a very sensitive subject and these discussions go on and on... In no way is anything black and white. Change is inevitable. Adapt or die right?
Arkitekten magazine article - 3rd March 2020
I was contacted by journalists from Arkitekten in Dec 2019 and then Feb 2020. They asked about the redundancies and my thoughts on the trend. I tried to give a complete and unbiased opinion. My intentions were not to attack any companies, but to stick up and defend our industry.
The article was published 3 March and included opinions from a selection of architect offices and a global visualisation studio.
There were no opinions, quotes or any defence from the Swedish visualisation industry. In short, the article said "visualisers fired because architects say clients want simple renderings".
My reaction to this was divided. The content was one thing. Those quoted (mainly bosses) of course have their own agendas. They want to digitalise their companies and put more work on their architects, especially since project numbers have fallen. I felt that our profession was being discussed by those that are "hijacking" our profession, and dumping it onto another.
Mainly though, I was un-happy because we had no way to defend this article.
I contacted the magazine to complain about the lack of balanced content, and the inability to comment or debate it. Their response was apologetic, and they passed on their Facebook page where it is possible to debate.
Follow-up article - 20th March 2020
I received an email mid-March asking me to check through my quotes as the magazine were going to run a follow-up article.
This was a complete surprise. That they took the time to rectify and be balanced with this topic. They could just as easily have let it slip away. Thank you Arkitekten!
Quotes were included from another industry colleague and me. I'll run through them quickly:
- "if you think that screenshots from a working model in Enscape are brand-enhancing then you probably need to think again"  - Joakim Grönlund
- "can also be, for example, a photo montage that requires a proper camera match and is often used in investigations or as legal documents" - JG
- "Customers do not ask for simpler renderings, why whould they?" - Chris Webb
- "that the architect offices hired so many architects during the boom and now want to find other work for them" - CW
- "in the end it is about how companies want to work with visualization, how they value it and how they sell it" - CW
The important point to take from this is that we don't just make "pretty" pictures. We have a different expertise to architects. We are technical and creative. We can relate, sometimes better, to architect's clients when it comes to producing visual content. And we are undervalued by those that only look at numbers in their spreadsheets.
To conclude
As the last "cog" in the building design process, it's so vital to justify your importance. Not only do you have to "sell-in" yourself to the architecture firms, you also need their clients to see what you do. It's too easy to be cut-out.
I firmly believe that clients want good visualisation, not simpler. If money is the problem, it's about showing the value in visualisation. The cost of an image is so little in relation to how much a project costs, and how much money it makes. But it's vital to sell. It helps you explain. It gets people on board and gets them emotional about your project.
I advise you to watch the Nobelhus SVT documentary by Windårdhs. Visualisation and their visualisers played a massive part in their proposals. Utopia Architects lean heavily on visualisation studios for their marketing materials. Semrén+Månsson have their own dedicated visualisation studio called Zynka. These companies leverage visualisation to be better at communicating.
"Sell-in" visualisation, value it, and benefit from it. Or just send your client 50+ screengrabs from Revit...
I'm ready to be judged on these opinions. Some will disagree with me. I'm just happy a follow-up article was written and I've had my say! /Chris

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