Zombies vs. Cartoons

Short version: watch these two short animations and ponder their comparative implications.

Long version: As you may have guessed, one of the things I’m obsessed with is how we represent architecture and, in particular, how we use animation to do so. The inflection point after which architectural animation really came into its own seems to me located at the production of this animation by Brooklyn Digital Foundry for the now defunct Museum Plaza Louisville tower by OMA Rex. Here we see camera tracking, compositing, and a mixture of photo-real and stylized content being combined into one animation that tells a story about both the building and the spirit it hopes to create in Louisville. These fundamental techniques had finally become available in off-the-shelf software architect-animators could easily get their hands on.

Fast forward two years to 2008: London seems to be the current hotbed of experimentation in architectural representation. Squint/Opera and Uniform are both producing loads of interesting work (and sharing it, which is not to be underestimated. How many offices produce awesome work but fail to share it?).

Happening upon this promotion for Renzo Piano’s Shard tower I was filled with horror and curiosity: what London is this animation showing? Devoid of people and seen mostly from the sky, it’s almost as if the Shard were situated in a city of zombies, built by robots that had no idea their human masters had already vanished. The soft music doesn’t help either.

The Shard, London from Uniform on Vimeo.

But the same office also made this antithetical animation, an architecture that is its inhabitants. Nothing more than matter wrapped around their lives. Unfortunately the interest here is purely representational (the architecture is not exactly, you know, great.) Nevertheless, the mix of 2D comic and 3D photo realistic rendering styles allows the video to seamlessly intermingle narrative and spatial explanations. I’d like to see more of this sort of story-telling-through-architecture without letting the design of the spaces suffer as much as they are here.

Nido Barcelona from Uniform on Vimeo.

In other words, somewhere between zombies and cartoons there’s a sweet spot of architectural representation. I’ll be watching.

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