Dissertation Series: Visualising atmosphere

Sophie Bennett image 2

Article by: Gaynor Orvis

Publication date:

Contrary to the opinion that dissertations can be boring and tedious, the students in this series use their final study as an opportunity to explore a subject close to their hearts. They prove dissertations can be a chance to delve deep into a topic that ignites your imagination.

Using ingenuity and creativity, these BA (Hons) Architecture students use their work to ask important questions and develop their own unique way of interpreting the world around them.

Here Sophie looks at the use of atmospheric visuals to help bring an architectural project to life and asks whether they can portray an idealistic and ultimately unattainable outcome. She questions whether architects have a responsibility to critique these images and bring them back within the realms of reality.

Sophie Bennett image 1

Sophie Bennett image 1

Image 1: Evoking atmosphere through artistic techniques (collage by author)

Joseph Wright of Derby (1773) Iron Forge Viewed from Outside [Oil on canvas] Web Gallery of Art [Online] Available at: https://www.wga.hu/index1.html (Accessed: 4 December 2020)

Luxigon (no date) REX / THE RONALD O. PERELMAN PERFORMING ARTS CENTER IN NYC / USA [CGI]. Available at: https://www.luxigon.com/ (Accessed: 30 November 2020)

Sophie Bennett image 2

Sophie Bennett image 2

Image 2: The Real vs. the Rendered (collage by author)

Sunberg, D. (2016) The Walker Tower as it appears today. [Online] Available at: https://www.multifamilyexecutive.com/design-development/former-new-york-telephone-building-soars-as-ultra-high-end-condo_o (Accessed: 13 December 2020)


Sophie Bennett image 3

Sophie Bennett image 3

Image 3: Colour palette analysis of 50 CGI visuals (illustration by author)


Visualising atmosphere: An investigation into the effect of atmospheric imagery on our perception of architecture


Sophie Bennett

Capturing the atmosphere within an image has always been the goal for painters and photographers; to present a picture to the viewer, which evokes an emotional response. The same can be said of architectural drawings and visuals.

The architect or designer wants the viewer to imagine themselves approaching this new building or space, to visualise themselves passing through doorways and discovering what lies within.

Technological advancements have paved the way for increasingly realistic CGI's (computer generated imagery). However, attention must be paid to the impact these images are having on our perception of architecture.

These visuals often portray an idealistic, manicured representation of reality; an atmosphere that the observer wishes to be a part of – but is this reality actually achievable?

Capturing the true atmosphere and ambiance of something is so vastly difficult. The question is, is it possible to portray it honestly, using a purely two-dimensional, graphic representation?

The area of atmospheric visuals within the context of architecture has had, to date, limited exploration from the field of phenomenology or image theory. This dissertation aims to shed light on this topic, whilst constantly considers the effect it has on our perception of architecture.

The work asks whether architects have a responsibility when it comes to what is being portrayed. It concludes that architectural visuals can often fictionalise the atmospheres within the projects they are portraying. And this ultimately can taint our perception of the final built form. It also suggests that the onus is on both architects and observers alike, to bring atmospheric visuals back within the realms of reality.

I thoroughly enjoyed researching, reading, and ultimately writing this dissertation. It has come to be a topic that I feel passionate about and has given me knowledge which I hope to take on into my future career.