Tronic recently created this new promotional film for 56 Leonard Street, a yet-to-be completed residential building in Manhattan designed by international rock stars of high-profile architecture, Herzog & de Meuron. It got me thinking about one of my favorite topics: the use of motion graphics and animation to convey a sense of space and poetry.
I’m not talking about architectural visualization. I’m talking about something more, a balance between realism and abstraction that creates a desire to be “there,” even when “there” doesn’t exist yet—especially when there doesn’t exist yet.
Tronic calls it architectural filmmaking. I like that. If you watch 56 Leonard Street and another, very different project they created for Daniel Libeskind, you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about. The buildings are definitely the primary subjects of the films, but they’re presented in a way that invites the imaginative participation of the viewer.
I asked Vivian and Jesse at Tronic a couple questions about the special challenges of architectural filmmaking:
Architectural filmmaking seems like an intensely technical field. Early on, I entertained the idea of getting into it before realizing that I essentially needed a degree in architecture before I could get started in earnest. If you hadn’t gone to school for architecture, do you think you would have been able to pull off your projects?
Our architectural training was critical in imagining and creating this film. Herzog and de Meuron were interested in collaborating with us specifically because of our shared aesthetic and conceptual language. Not only did we need to technically be able to understand their design of the building, but we needed to be able to imagine, using that knowledge, how the architectonic components of the building could animate and come together to form the building in its entirety in a way that stayed true to the architect’s vision.
For large scale commercial projects like 56 Leonard, architectural filmmaking seems to enter the equation at two key moments: 1) When the architects are selling their ideas to their clients, and 2) When the clients are selling the building to tenants. Is this an accurate appraisal? If so, how are the two challenges different? How are the approaches to rendering and presentation different?
Yes, those two stages are correct. There is one main difference between them and that is representation. The first stage, the architect selling their idea to the client, is entirely based on accurately representing reality, the reality of their design. We’re not interested in participating in this stage because filmmaking, experimentation, abstraction and narrative do not come into play.
The second stage, the client commissioning a film for potential buyers, is not about representing reality, on the contrary, it is about positioning the film in such a way as to create an alternate reality, one based not on representation necessarily but on projected desires and possibilities. This shift away from pure representation is what is compelling to us and why we chose to work on both of these projects.
If you like this sort of work, you might also enjoy The Chicago Spire site (not created by Tronic) and this video created by Brooklyn Foundry for the Office of Metropolitan Architecture.
I’d love to see more architecture motion design/animation projects. Please share them in the comments!