Surrealism in Architecture and 3D Design
Digital Surrealism and Architecture
Dreams have long been a subject of artistic exploration. Where does our subconscious go during sleep? What do our dreams mean, and is it possible to ever transform them into physical reality?
Where do we go when we dream? This surreal territory has proved to be fertile ground for a new generation of contemporary 3D artists who work at the intersection of architecture, interior design, and digital technology. Drawing upon utopian hopes and dystopian fears, the fantastical landscapes of these creations offer an intriguing glimpse into a new movement in digital art.
Alexis Christodoulou, a digital artist from Cape Town, finds inspiration in the artistic movements of the 1960s. Neo-futuristic movements play a significant role in his pure aesthetics.
The rise of this form of artistic expression is closely tied to the growth of technology and social media—a combination that has had an immeasurable impact on artistic environments, particularly their convergence. In the digital realm, art, interior design, and architecture are no longer distinct entities. In surreal dreamscapes, they merge seamlessly.
The widespread use of 3D modeling software has made this aesthetic fusion possible. Architecture and design are no longer analogues. Today, buildings can be realized digitally using programs such as Rhinoceros 3D, Enscape, Lumion, or Octane. 3D architectural rendering has become a commonplace phenomenon and is ubiquitous. It often becomes difficult to distinguish reality from digital imagery.
Peter Tarka showcases an illustrative approach to his work. Many of his compositions, which often resemble large-scale models or miniatures, utilize elements of architecture and design to construct intricate worlds within themselves.
Art and 3D
3D modeling software is not exclusive to any particular industry. You don't have to be an architect to design a building or an interior designer to visualize a space. In recent years, this has become increasingly popular among artists who take the visual language of traditional computer graphics and apply it in new and interesting ways.
Like many contemporary visual trends, the dreamscapes movement has been shaped by social media platforms through which it has spread. On Instagram, user habits are regulated by the platform, and likes are fueled by algorithms that determine trends. In this digital echo chamber, trends propagate memetically. Visual motifs characteristic of dreamscapes—iridescent orbs, pink skies, curved doorways, pools—recur across the platform in both art and real-life imagery. While these elements and their popularity are not new, the intriguing combinations achieved through 3D graphics bring something fresh to the table.
Architectural projects by Parisian Hugo Fournier are inspired by the forms of Hungarian architect Antti Lovag, as well as more refined modernists, including Claudio Silvestrin and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
In the dreamscapes, different design movements interplay with each other. Postmodern pastel constructions can just as easily accommodate a surrealistic pool and a suspended sphere as they can Swiss artist Ubald Klug's undulating sofas or the recent but iconic Roly Poly chair by Faye Toogood. As artists are hired for advertising campaigns spanning various products, from fashion to furniture and technology, this blurring of the real and unreal becomes an increasingly common phenomenon, and an effective marketing tool.
Samsung's "Perfect Reality" campaign since 2019 serves as an example of how 3D rendering transforms from art into advertising. In a two-part video promoting the QLED 8K television, the hyperrealistic nature of Six N. Five's work conveys the visual quality of the product. The campaign unfolds in a fantastical landscape where moons multiply and disappear, and "reality" is reproduced for the audience through the television screen.
Six N. Five is a master of using pastel landscapes to create the realms of utopian landscapes worthy of novels. The Barcelona-based studio combines their artistic vision with a wide range of clients such as Samsung, Microsoft, and Nike.
Dreamspace in art and advertising
In 2018, the physical and digital collided when artist Andrés Reisinger posted a 3D-rendered image of the Hortensia chair on Instagram. The dark pink lounge chair went viral, garnering thousands of likes and gaining fans. Clients approached the studio wanting to purchase a piece of furniture that physically did not exist. Reisinger responded to the popular demand, and in 2019, the Hortensia chair became a real product, with its iconic textured appearance brought to life through 20,000 quivering pink petals. Here, the unreal gives birth to the real.
This confusion seems fitting, considering the surreal nature of dreams. These scenes do not seek to provide answers but rather propose questions. Alexis Christodoulou's incredible interiors evoke the works of M.C. Escher, with staircases you can never climb to the top of, and an undeniable overarching reference to René Magritte.
However, the oneiric spaces that arise from this genre of digital art are not always utopian. Like the works of surrealists, they can also be haunting and supernatural, meant to evoke fear or apprehension. Philip Hodas' post-apocalyptic 3D visualizations accomplish just that: amidst overgrown landscapes, icons of pop culture stand abandoned - lifeless Mickey Mouse heads and shattered Pokéballs. Though familiar to us, they provoke unease. Such scenes operate as unsettling counterparts, working to disrupt fixed ideas and introduce unreal possibilities into an otherwise seemingly real scene.
London-based artist Charlotte Taylor's utopia with high ceilings and furniture is just a few subtle details away from reality. She tells us, «I imagine spaces becoming inhabitable architecture, and I am beginning to explore this in my practice, working on interior design and retail projects.»
Games, augmented reality, virtual reality, and special cinematic effects offer the same uncanny experiences that defy the laws of physics. Designers have the ability to reverse gravity, manipulate time and space. From the cyberpunk streets of «Blade Runner 2049» to the Afrofuturistic heart of Wakanda in «Black Panther,» the achievements of computer graphics take immersive world-building to a new level.
We have never before had the ability to visualize the world as we would like to see it, and that means 3D modeling software holds tremendous potential for free thinking. If it can liberate architecture and design from the constraints of reality, it undoubtedly has the power to do the same for other aspects of our lives. So, are these visions of dreams or of an entirely new world?