RealSpace Company & Technology Blog

Technological Evolution of Architectural Rendering

March 9, 2018

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Architecture has been around, in one form or another, for as long as civilization has been. We go through the ages from ancient Egyptions through to moden-day, examining how architecture has changed over the years as well as the ways in which we plan, view and record architectural designs.

Technological Evolution of Architectural Rendering

For as long as civilizations have formed, architecture has been present in one way or another. Like a footprint or signature, architecture allows modern day archeologists to identify certain civilizations.

The earliest human-made structure dates to the Neolithic period. The Cairn of Barnenez existed circa 4800 BC and shows that pre-historic civilizations used monuments as a form of expression and cultural identity. Majority of the early man-made structures were used as graves for their dearly departed, with some structures serving as temples for their respective religions.

Although different pre-historic civilizations had their methods in recording information, they were often limited to recording political history and events. The Incas recorded information with a knot system, known as quipu, and it had to be accompanied with their corresponding experts. The Mesopotamians ‘wrote’ down their information in tablets, yet there is no detail regarding the technical details regarding their buildings. Although architecture was a technical skill, recording that kind of information was difficult to do in the time.

The ancient Egyptians were different. They not only created a systematic method of writing, they also had an effective way to preserve their data.

Ancient Egyptians wrote on pottery and carved data on walls. However, they innovated with the papyrus plant to form durable sheets. These papyrus sheets were the oldest form of paper. In addition, the Egyptians invented ink and used it to do numerous things. Record keeping was done, but also other innovations in mathematics. These said innovations with writing helped in the construction of the pyramids.

As mentioned earlier, the ancient Egyptians were particular in recording data. With their advancement in geometry with the papyrus came the recording for the various floor plans of Egyptian architecture.

This would make ancient Egyptians one of the first few civilizations to employ architectural modeling. Architectural modeling is a physical representation of a structure. This is used to study the aspect of the design or to visualize and present a project before it goes under construction.

                Other ancient civilizations also developed the technicalities in their architecture. The ancient Greeks would trade with the ancient Egyptians for papyrus. This exchange of innovations allowed the Greeks to flourish in philosophy, mathematics, and architecture.

                Ancient Greek architecture has been considered influential and iconic. The ancient Greeks used optical illusions in their designs, and used the Golden Ratio. The ancient Greeks would have made blue prints like the Egyptians on paper and ink as well, but even as late as 334 BC, they would carve their plans on columns, like a signature.

                Although ancient civilizations began using pen and paper, architectural modeling still had a long way to go. Most of their drawings were drawn at full-scale, and at a certain point, a 3D model of the building would be made to help communicate ideas between an architect and his client.

                In addition, the ancient civilizations also had their form of measurement. These units of measurement were often based from body parts, which would then be standardized by different methods. For example, the Egyptians used ropes while the Greeks used weights as a form of standard measurement.

                The ancients also had their own tools for architecture modeling. Physical models were often made from clay. The ancient Egyptians used wooden corner rulers for their technical drawings, while the Greeks used chisels, scale rulers and triangle rulers. The Romans also used similar gear; however, excavations in Pompeii also reveal that they used compasses as well.

                The fall of the Roman Empire was the beginning of the transition to the medieval ages. Although the latter period is often known as the Dark Ages, there were a number of advancements in this period. These weren’t solely political and religious advancements, but cultural as well. In turn, architecture developed during this period as well.

                There was a slight improvement to architectural modeling in the medieval ages. Manuals regarding were produced to aid builders in their design and construction of certain architectural styles. In addition, ropes or strings were used as drawing aids to help plan these said structures.

                The later part of the Middle Ages brought on the Renaissance. This period brimmed with talented men and women. In the Renaissance, artists didn’t only draw for art—they conceptualized as well. This period was where the technical drawings we know today first came to shape.

                Filippo Brunelleschi was one of the pioneers of this form of architectural modeling. Although he still used a physical model made from wood to express his ideas, Brunelleschi often employed 2D work to aid his designs. The rationale was that creating these physical models took time and resources; drawing was often quicker to create and implement. In addition,Brunelleschi discovered perspective and successfully demonstrated it. His discovery became widespread and has become one of the foundations of modern-day architecture.

                Other notable additions to architectural modeling was the introduction of cutaway and exploded views; this was introduced by Mariano di Iacopo. Di Iacopo’s contribution has allowed both architects and engineers to create more accurate and detailed technical designs.

                The years after this period involved the improvement of technical drawing schools. This aided in the standardizing of architectural modeling. Up until the 18th century, quills were used to draw designs, with ivory or ebony pencils being variations at times. Protractors were developed to draw and measure accurate arcs, and an adjustable corner ruler was developed in the 17th century.

This was in part of the Industrial Revolution, which occurred in the mid-18th to early 19th century. In this period, draftsmanship became a specialized trade. Eventually, more tools and techniques were being taught to interested architects, technical artists, and engineers to further advance their trade.

The drawing board was one of the notable tools of this period. Previously a staple in a gentleman’s office or library, the drawing board was often made from fine wood or metal. Due to the demand for more draftsmen, the staple was redone to be more practical. These were now made of steel or plastic.

Drawing boards have aided architects and engineers alike in their craft. The drawing board, with the aid of a T-square, helped create more accurate parallel lines. In addition, it gave technical artists a way to draw certain perspectives and angles better, making the resulting drawings more accurate and detailed.

Aside from drawing boards, the 19th century also brought in another innovation: blueprints. Blueprints were used to help reproduce technical drawings in both architecture and engineering. They were made by using a contact print on paper sheets.

The introduction of blueprints lead to more accurate reproduction of technical drawings. This process replaced the process of hand-tracing original drawings for reproduction processes.

Because of the vast reproduction of blueprints in 1840, many various disciplines would be working with the same prints. This brought about the need for standards regarding technical drawings.

The idea of technical drawing standards first began in the UK. In 1901, a committee composed of civil engineers, mechanical engineers, naval architects, and fellows from the Iron and Steel Institute was formed to standardize iron and steel sections for construction purposes. This committee eventually became the British Engineering Standards Association seventeen years later. After eventually obtaining a Royal Charter in 1929, the group took on the name British Standards Institution in 1932.

The group published their first standard in 1927, BS 308. Over the years, BS 308 has been revised and expanded to keep up with different technological and workplace developments. By 1972, BS 308 had three parts. These three parts were based after ISO standards that were developed by BSI since 1947.

Computer-aided architectural design (CAAD) was introduced a few years earlier. The first CAAD program was installed in the 1960s. Although blueprints were still used in this period, they were still considered time consuming. CAAD allowed its users to create 3D objects using 2D objects. This system gave architects overall visual control for the design process.

Aside from technological advancements, the standards published by BSI also took on updates. The BS 308 was eventually updated to BS 8888 in 2000. The latter standard took on two significant changes. In 2013, the standard stated that specification is no longer to be stated if they have been tolerance in accordance with the Principle of Independency or the Principle of Dependency. The 2017 changes focused on the updated changes regarding technical drawings using CAD and 3D geometry.

The future of architectural modeling is vast and exciting. As the price to hire 3D rendering professionals continues to become more viable for residential home builders and other smaller scale developers it’s prevalence continues to increase along with the quality. New technology, such as virtual reality and architectural visualization, is being considered for improved designs. Whether a firm prefers using traditional tools or computer-aided design, there’s no denying that the vast option of technology for architectural modeling allows architects to continue push their limits and expand their horizons.


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