this is a photo of the recently completed Arugula Restaurant design in Boulder, Colorado
this is an image from a SketchUp model of the project that we were using as one of the basic design tools of the process.
Obviously there is a richness of light and shadow and materials in the photograph that does not exist in the model without a lot of work. However, the ability to 'test-drive' the design by things other than 2-dimensional drawings have given us as architects and designers an unprecedented level of control of the design process. While the ability to create sketches and hand-drawn perspectives was always with us, their use was so time-consuming that we certainly did not visualize the project in that way from as many vantage points as we can with the computer model. As an architect who still relies significantly on sketching and having been educated in a pre-computer visualization era, the views from the computer model usually just confirm what I envisage for the project in my head and record in 2-dimensional drawings. However, the ability to show the computer the model to clients, to more fully involve them in my process, has lead to a much more collaborative design practice. No longer are projects when constructed a sudden realization of an imagined reality, spawned from the head and hand of the architect, but rather the computer model mimics the final construction so well, the outcome is more eagerly anticipated by clients. They have 'seen' it already and must simply wait for the contractor to complete it. This is much more like the process of the architect than clients have ever really had in the past.