Noting how changing technologies affect the way we imagine design, the bloggers behind RNDRD unearth a trove of retro-yet-futuristic computer renderings.
In the early 1990s, computer-aided design (CAD) was just coming of age. For the first time, designers could construct three-dimensional architectural models outside the physical world’s constraints and beyond the medium of drafting. Virtual environments allowed experimentation with complex forms, impossible materials, and distorted spaces. Though many architects had been using two-dimensional, computer-based drafting programs since the late 1970s to produce construction drawings, three-dimensional modeling software gave designers a powerful new design tool. Cutting-edge ideas could be quickly visualized from otherworldly perspectives. The futuristic look of computer rendering inspired new graphic styles. Shin Takamatsu exploited the ability to visualize perfectly flat translucent surfaces composed against impossibly dramatic gradients of light. Bernard Tschumi used the software to render architectural elements such as stairs, walkways, railings, and trusses as ultrathin planes within glowing wire-frames. He composed these elements with exaggerated sight lines that extend dramatically beyond the frame. Tadao Ando washed his images in blue gradients surrounded by layer after layer of pixelated point clouds and smooth volumes. Most of these drawings are nowhere to be found in the monographs produced by architecture offices. Perhaps the now-obsolete software used to create them gives them too much of an outdated look—a hallmark of retro-futurism—but they are a revealing look at the development of an architect’s aesthetic.