Behind the Virtual Design Process of the Famous Fog House

Architectural dreaming, in 3-D.

3-D visualization is 2020’s version of trompe l’oeil, a technique used to trick the viewer by using points of view and imagery that makes a flat image appear three-dimensional. Contemporary artists are taking on this method by creating digital renderings that can confuse even the most discerning eye.

This virtually constructed architectural home, named the Fog House, went viral when the cult-favourite Instagram account Architecture Hunter shared it. Along with the outpour of “likes” came a flood of curious viewers wondering if this fog-laden oasis actually exists. The award-winning project, designed in 2019, was created in partnership with architect and photographer Alessandro Giraldi and architect Marcelo Moura of Tripper Arquitetura, for a client of Moura’s who one day hopes to turn this virtual dream home into a reality. For now, it lives on the screen and continues to draw attention, asking us to look beyond the image.

We spoke with Giraldi, founder and director of the Rio de Janeiro–based virtual design firm Studio Vir, to break down the creative process behind the Fog House. Giraldi often pulls inspiration from fellow creators in the design space, including Portuguese architectural photographer Fernando Guerra and the Brazilian architecture firm Studio MK27, to create his own digital environments alongside his team. He has been working with computer-generated imagery for over 20 years and has an acute understanding of design, including furnishings, lighting and decor, colour schemes and materials, all essential elements when building 3-D environments. The studio’s driving goal is to productively manipulate the viewer into questioning whether what they are seeing really exists.

 

 

Virtual architecture is not merely a product of the imaginative mind. The 3-D objects used to create these digital images are rooted in the physical world. For many of Giraldi’s projects, he utilizes the brilliant creators over at Quixel, who construct 3-D designs used for art, video games, and architectural visualization. Quixel travels the world to capture objects, textures, and materials by taking thousands of photographs that document the objects’ width, length, and depth, and are then digitized into 3-D models that can be manipulated 360 degrees by the artist via virtual reality software.

Take the rugged boulders, evergreen trees, reflective pool, and plush bed that can be seen in the Fog House. These chosen objects become their own workable medium as Giraldi organizes them into his design. An essential part of the creative process is focusing on how to stay consistent with the tone of the image. Pay attention to the hyper-realistic details, like the mushrooms tucked into the foreground and the contemplative gentleman standing on the edge of his glass-encased bedroom—all making for a deceptively convincing snapshot.

 

 

“I create a background of the technical part, but the most important part that makes us different is this kind of photography-style look. All of my efforts are about architecture, focusing on composition and light,” Giraldi says. “It’s about how you manipulate these two elements.” This includes choosing a focal point, balancing the objects from left to right, and considering how the background complements the foreground. The depth of field is crucial to achieving the photographic look, too. Notice the slight blur of the objects in the first plane and in the background. For the Fog House, he focused on softening the elements to achieve the ambiance of an overcast day when the sunlight becomes more dispersed. Other features include adjusting the level of exposure, the aperture size, and the type of lens the artist is looking through—without ever picking up a camera.

Giraldi explains that although this work is all done on a computer, his work off-screen has been necessary for his development of virtual art, informed by his years of shooting with digital cameras. And just like the diverse perspectives that photographers have, whether inspired by emotion, humanity, or nature, the creators behind 3-D art uphold their unique digital expressions.

From the tranquil forested landscape of Rio de Janeiro to the high-design concept of the structure, the Fog House captures a vibe, if you will, that stirs up both wanderlust and aspiration. Giraldi sees the value in this digitally generated art more than ever during the COVID pandemic. Because travel is limited, we are invited to gaze into these virtual dreamscapes to take us where we might rather be—all in 3-D.

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