How to improve architectural visualisations

How to Improve Architectural Visualisations / Between Collages and Renders : Images

Few months ago we started long discussion with Paolo Cantrambone from ORTO-Studio on Architecture Vizualizations. It was right after he has sent us package with his perspectives. We feel that it might be benefitial for you guys to share his thoughts on the topic and understand his approach to renderings. Below there is an article that he agreed to write exclusively for Competitions Archi.

Our approach to images in Architecture first started from a lack we had on 3D and Rendering Technologies.

From this point we began a process that brought us to a specific and personal language in representing Architecture. During the following years we obviously improved our digital skills but we like to remember that our workflow started from a lack of knowledge.

Castle resort renovation . Roccamandolfi, Italy . 2017 . Paolo Catrambone + Maria Ave Romani

We titled this text Images because we consider this word a specific definition in between the world of collages/drawings and the one of iper-realistic renders.

One of our personal cultural main references is the Italian writer Italo Calvino who often wrote about images.

In his lesson about the topic of Visibility he described every creative process as a continuos approximation to the first image we have in mind since the beginning. We like this definition and we want to use the word images as the description of an approximation to a specific atmosphere we want to get in our projects.

These views are not just a visualization of a project but they are a way of reaching the perfect balance for the perception we want to provoque into people. There’s a very used word in Swiss German which is “Stimmung” and it describes the process of getting the perfect tone to make a space or an image, perfectly balanced.

This is the way we like to think about our views and the fil rouge connecting all of them.

We’re offcourse aware of the big amount of beautiful renders that we can see every day through websites and social medias but we keep trying to make something very specific and very personal which come from the references and experiences we collected in our young career.

Landscape fortress . Sagres, Portugal . 2016 . Paolo Catrambone + Maria Ave Romani

Talking more about the working process we can say that we always start by modeling a basic white 3D of the project which is gonna be the base for the composition.

Back in the days, we were used to approach the image making directly on photoshop, composing a collage that we always tried to keep as realistic as possible. When we complete the basic white 3D with good lights and shadows we start the major part of the process which we like to do through photoshop.

We can divide our personal way of producing images by three topics.

Atmoshpere, Materials and References.

Water courtyard roof . Asti, Italy . 2017 . First Prize . Paolo Catrambone + Maria Ave Romani

Atmosphere is the first and main topic of our process.

We don’t consider this word just as a theorical overused definition, but we relate it to the theme of perception which is peculiar and specific in our way of thinking Architecture.

We want to compose an image communicating the feeling of a space as much as possible.

Doing so means testing in the first steps a lot of different lights conditions. We do it by testing skies, shadows, sun positions etc.. The way the light touches a building is one of the key-points of a nice image.

Atmosphere refers a lot to the theme of colors and tones.

A big part of our research in Architecture is about this topic and about the different perception that a specific color, texture or material could provoke to our bodies.

By using photoshop, or basic material rendering techniques we first test this world with a lot of options, to understand the right way to get what we want.

For orto, an image is a design tool and not only a final presentation product.

The topic of materials is probably the one we’re more jealous of and the one we studied the most since we started. Looking at so many images about Architecture we neither like the glossy perfect finishing of renderized materials nor the out of scale condition of many collages we’re used to see.

These images are all very beautiful and interesting but we just didn’t feel it the right way to show our personal way of doing architecture. We decided to start testing used materials trying to imagine how that material will react to light, rains and sun during the passing of time.

No one of our images has a perfect new material on it because we have always been more interested in testing how time will get an impact on our buildings. Materials are the physical expression of a space and we want to research the most precise and unperfect texture to get our communication goal.

We apply these textures using very simple psd techniques as masks overlay or simple cut out.

The part of research and testing is always the most important one.


A Winery in Sulcis . Sardinia, Italy . 2018 . Paolo Catrambone

References is a last personal topic a bit out of the technical process and more related to the meaning of images in architecture.

We like to collect images we like from very different fields trying to build a personal background in order to keep being specific.

Copying is a big topic in the instagram era and something that everybody assumes when decide to put his personal images online. The only way we found interesting to keep a sort of specificity is trying collect this background of references absolutely related to our path.,

The amazing photos by Luigi Ghirri, the work of Thomas Ruff, the “Vedutisti” paintings of Venice and realism of American painters such as Edward Hopper are the cultural base and the constant reference of our images production.

We never refer to these masters litteraly, but we like studying their attitude about representation.

These names are related to the places where we come from, where we studied and worked and to all those steps we defined our personal career.

I personally think that in a world where we are everyday bombed by images, having a personal and specific background could be a way to keep being specific without just copying something we like on instagram.

We like to think that images are a way of telling the story of an office and this is the aim we like to keep all along the process.

Luigi Ghirri  .  Edward Hopper  .  Thomas Ruff  .  Francesco Guardi

Paolo Catrambone

Founder of   o r t o


This article was originally published on Architecture Competitions Yearbook No1.

If you are interested in the book please check link below to find out whats inside.