“Visualizations Always Start with the Story”: An Interview with Visual Artist Ceren Arslan
Beyond hyper-realistic renders and accurate depictions of what projects look like once completed, visualizations have become tools to communicate atmospheres and emotions portrayed by architects. The use of mixed media, combined with architectural compositions, art, lighting, and oftentimes music, have generated a new genre of architectural storytelling, one that combines reality with imagination. And as the world immerses in NFT’s and experimenting with cutting-edge technologies to create digital environments, visualizations might soon become “the new reality”.
ArchDaily had the opportunity to talk to Visual Artist Ceren Arslan about branching out from the architecture practice, how she describes her creative process, her latest project EXIT, and what the future holds for architectural visualizations.
ArchDaily (Dima Stouhi): Tell us a little about yourself, what did you study and how did you end up where you are now?
Ceren Arslan: I am an architectural designer and a digital artist currently based in Los Angeles. I work with buildings, interiors and in digital space. I have 4 years of professional experience working on commercial and hospitality projects, also luxury residentials as of recently. Along with the professional practice, I am working on my art project, EXIT. This is where I am at currently, but if we are to revert back slightly I am a proud Pratt graduate. I studied architecture at Pratt Institute. I worked at SHoP Architects briefly and at KPF until my recent move to Los Angeles to work with Kelly Wearstler. Currently I am practicing both digital architecture and interior design at her studio.
AD: What is the process of creating a visualization?
CA: From my experience, it always starts with the story. It is almost like taking a picture from your screen. What am I trying to capture? What am I trying to communicate with this visual? These questions occur even before any technical aspects to it. Once I have an idea of what to convey, any tool can help make it happen. So I start sketching, sometimes on paper, sometimes directly in the 3D space. I have been using 3D as the main medium of design for about 8 years now so it is very natural to jump right into it. Once I have the composition right, the story aligned, capture angle fixed, I start playing around with materials. Over the course of professional practice, I collected a library of pictures of real life materials, which I find extremely useful in hyper-real quality visualization rather than using computer generated graphics. Final touches are lighting and environment settings for the mood of the visual, if it is a sunny day or a foggy afternoon. Export in 300 DPI and it’s ready to publish.
AD: What software / tools do you use to create your artwork?
CA: I mainly use Rhino for building the spaces. This is a software highly used in professional practice, so I was well educated about it in school already and have been using it as my main medium of design. Visualization softwares have been expanding significantly in the last few years, so after jumping around in a few of them I have found myself land on Enscape for both work and art. Blender is another software I use for stills and currently experimenting with it for animations. There are quite a bit of plug-ins out there to populate geometry and enhance texture also, sometimes those are useful as well.
AD: Can you tell us about Exit, your latest collection?
CA: EXIT is an art project I have been working on for a few months now. It is a collection of spaces that break the mundane aesthetics of the built reality? As we are expanding into creating digital environments and experimenting with the advanced technology for visual storytelling, we can project any reality of a setting. The members of the collection offer unique and distinct alternative environments like green suede walls in a basketball court or soft solo churches, even fifty-people dinner tables. Each space provokes an unusual reading of a familiar context with a story. They are thoughts borrowed from real-life but put into satirical or unexpected contexts to break away from it. They are EXITs from reality.
The story starts as a concept to tease the audience with hyper-real aesthetics, rather than computer generated for more familiarity of a scene. With mud on floor to stains on the plaster walls the scenes carry real life imperfections to make believe of absolute reality, delusional or genuine. The spaces appear euphoric, delightful, sometimes wow but strange.
I have started to work on this collection only a few months ago as a response to the reality of the architectural practice. From my professional experience, which is not a very long time, but long enough to understand the structure of the practice, the design process of any building or a project is usually 1/3rd of the entirety of it. The rest is the execution. While I was working on large-scale projects which required day to day focus on execution, these spaces became the creative release. Without any functional reality, structural necessities or monetary restrictions I was able to “exit” from my own reality. I created one space each week, challenging myself with a unique concept each time and once there were 10 that I really liked I started sharing them on social media. Ever since I try to take this project as my creative journal and put my thoughts into visual stories.
AD: How would you describe your artistic style?
CA: I would say the closest would be visual realism where the images appear as close as to a photo rather than computer generated. I try to capture real-life imperfections as much as possible to create familiarity to the viewer. From mud on the floor to stains on plaster, the material library is a collection of real life textures which is why the images appear as close as possible to reality. With the advanced technology, the graphics and lighting resolution are significantly growing within the industry which allow for hyper-real effects, I am adapting it.
AD: Where do you find your inspirations?
CA: Good architecture practice comes from the precedent in my opinion. The precedent is in the books, in travels, in conversations. As you understand how a building served its time and context, you have insight into the thoughts of the creator. This is true for any tangible product ever made from fashion to literature to arts. I learn from my personal heroines/heros for inspiration. Valerio Olgiati, John Lautner, Rem Koolhaas, Ricardo Bofill, Diana Vreeland for her creative vision. I can keep a very long list but today I am inspired by these individuals. One big concept I studied very carefully is Michel Foucault’s heterotopias which he describes as discursive spaces that are transforming, incoherent and disturbing. They are worlds within worlds to “upset” what’s outside. Less of a political or societal reference but more as a disturbance to the daily routine, EXIT carries a similar mood of escapism with the heterotopias.
AD: How does a degree in architecture contribute to a career like yours?
CA: I am an architect in practice, but it’s true I am expanding my creative journey into different fields these days. EXIT is taking surprising turns in terms of collaborations, engagement, IRL activations and visibility. I think having a solid foundation and background in architecture is liberating this journey to find its different forms. When you are in school, you really learn all the tools possible to tell a story, besides any software there is an intensive education on architectural history, literature, statics, even graphic design. I find all that learning is coming to the surface every time I jump into designing a space both at work and with my art. I believe the digital space has been a great tool to put my vision out there to reach out to large audiences, build a unique and consistent style. Eventually the dream is to make these spaces come to life, as houses, spas, destination churches, experiences and a lot more ways I may be can’t think of at the moment. So I am holding onto my architect self tightly.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: The Future of Architectural Visualizations, proudly presented by Enscape, the most intuitive real-time rendering and virtual reality plugin for Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, Archicad, and Vectorworks. Enscape plugs directly into your modeling software, giving you an integrated visualization and design workflow.
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