But they’ve recently risen again. Not in drawings or photographs, but a series of hyperrealistic renderings painstakingly crafted by Spanish architect David Romero. “3D tools serve for precisely this reason—to be able to see that which does not exist,” he says
Romero used a powerful combination of Autocad, 3dsMax, Vray, PhotoShop and a long list of plug-ins to create the images. His models nail the lighting, exude just enough depth, and display the perfect amount of rawness and texture—a welcome departure from the customary sheen in marketing visualizations. For research he combed Wright books and web sites, and collected valuable feedback from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and its online forums.
The results look exquisite. Romero’s version of Larkin’s 5-story, red-brick and pink-mortar facade jumps out at you in three dimensions, its strong lines, layered masses, and intricate friezes standing in modern contrast to the old-fashioned automobile and cobblestone streets below it. Inside, natural light floods through its blond, glass-topped atrium. It’s impossible not to marvel at Wright’s geometric furniture, light fixtures, and detailing.
Pauson, in contrast, is the ultimate embodiment of its desert surroundings. Its low-lying field stone and plank wood walls seem to grow from the desert itself; its large vertical windows frame views of the rock-littered mountains all around. The same materials exist inside, where the space feels light, airy, and modern, yet also vaguely cave-like and prehistoric.
Romero also produced a rendering of Wright’s unbuilt, spaceship-esque Trinity Chapel in Norman, Oklahoma, and he’s working on designs of Wright’s abandoned Ocotillo Desert Camp in Scottsdale, Arizona. If he can find enough time away from work as a renderer for a Spanish engineering company, he’d like to recreate the lost work of other Modern architects, like Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe, along with ancient monuments like the temples of Mesopotamia.
Romero says his main goals are to draw attention to the thousands of exceptional buildings—new and old—under threat today, and to inspire others to reconstruct the past with modern tools. “I find it curious that, even with the number of people who today work professionally in the world of architectural visualization, there are very few initiatives like mine,” Romero says. What’s missing, he says, is funding.
One such effort, a competition last year called Project Soane, encouraged designers to digitally recreate Sir John Soane’s Bank of England, a 19th Century Neoclassical wonder demolished in the 1920s. (Historians have called its destruction the greatest architectural crime of the 20th Century.) The contest, conceived by Graham Wyatt, a partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects, attracted more than 80 submissions, many creating stunningly realistic depictions of the building, with its temple-like detailing and soaring glass rotunda. Tech giants like HP and Nvidia sponsored. Perhaps there is enough interest—from designers and financial backers, alike—to revive buildings from all over the world.