by Neometro

Dialogue | Phil Horton of Mr P Studios.

Architecture, Design, People - by Open Journal
  • Commercial Road for Ritz & Ghougassian

27th October, 2021

‘Visualisation’ is a term which evokes speculation and a notion of sensorial engagement. At Melbourne-based studio Mr P, the term largely extends to image making for the built environment and is dedicated to articulating spatial, contextual and aesthetic conditions when those have not yet crept into physical existence. We chatted with Mr P’s Director Phil Horton about the resonance and relevance of visualisation today and how the images that are being conjured blur the boundary between digital renders and photography while remaining wholly distinct.


Open Journal (OJ): How did Mr P begin? What is its story?

Phil Horton (PH): Like most good things that happen in life, I was very fortunate and lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I am from the UK and randomly met an Australian girl (my now wife) who dragged me along with her back to Melbourne as she was fed up with the English weather.

At the time (2011) The UK was still scrambling slowly out of the 2009 GFC and it was all a bit doom and gloom, so I thought, why not!? Melbourne is sunny and 30 degrees everyday.. right!?

Luckily for me the Melbourne property market, unlike the weather, was on fire and towers were popping up for fun everywhere. There was high demand for my work and our talented team of artists grew organically from there. 

Munro House for Mim Design

Munro House for Mim Design

OJ: How important is visualisation in the current creative climate? 

PH: I think it has always been a vital tool in the creative process, like a camera it helps communicate somebody’s vision. In our line of work (communicating the unbuilt environment) visualisation helps design teams make confident decisions. Similarly, like a camera, the results can vary significantly depending on who is creatively capturing/portraying that vision. 

19 Cubbit Street for Kennon Architects

OJ: Given the somewhat speculative nature of the work, how do you work with clients to ascertain how a rendered environment will emerge? E.g. the quality of light and sensorial experience of the product or space?

PH: We have two basic rules that we follow for all projects. 

1. Geographical location – Where is the building located? Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland have completely different sunlight and fauna and this information will always help set a tone for that project. What is the neighbouring context? Is there anything interesting that can help frame the composition or help define the sites location? If geographically possible, we love to visit the site at multiple times of day to truly understand how the proposed architecture will integrate into its locale when built. We find too often these days that many 3D renders feel like they could be anywhere, its just a grass verge, hint of road and a kerb line. You literally would not know if it was in Toorak or Toowoomba. 

2. Materiality – When working with good architecture, the design teams have thought about the above in great detail and their design is a response it which helps us define what will represent the form and material finishes in the best light. For example, if you are working with a powdery concert facade I personally would not be hitting it with an orange low sun, I want to represent the material in its truest form and probably push for an ambient/diffuse light. 

Flinders House for Ritz & Ghougassian

OJ: What are the reasons for visually representing a conceptual space? How does the discipline support the development of a project?

PH: Often, our visualisations are the first time clients, sales and design teams have seen their projects come to life in detail. The visualisation process helps them make important decisions that will greatly improve the end users experience. 

Sea Burleigh for Koichi Takada Architects

OJ: The term ‘visualisation’ alludes to the ability to see something before it is tangible. Does the process of creating a render support different parts of a project? Perhaps as a development tool? Styling and furniture layout indicator? As well as an instrument to conjure imagery for marketing before architecture is complete?

PH: As brushed upon above, it can be used as a design tool plus it’s an intuitive way to help value manage a build. Although its main purpose is as a sales tool to help communicate to potential clients why they should buy into that specific development. 

Three Norfolk for Bruce Henderson Architects

OJ: How do you see renders complimenting photography and vice versa?

PH: I think they have always worked in unison. We are big fans of using photography in all of our projects, we rarely go all 3D in our images as I find renders integrated into photography always help us achieve a better result.

Also, we have too much fun collaborating with photographers and have learned so much from photographers like Rory Gardiner and Tom Blachford. Equally both Rory and Tom are really excited by 3D and are always asking questions when we work together. 

Technically speaking, I find it quite funny how renderers try to add many imperfections and photographers try and remove them. I’ve been told photographers think its a compliment if you say their shot looks like a render. 

9 Wilson Ave, Brunswick for NEOMETRO™

Interview compiled by Tiffany Jade

With many thanks to Phil Horton (and his wife) and Mr P for their provision of images and inspiration.

Mr P has worked with NEOMETRO™ to produce illustrations for both 56 Shaftesbury, Thornbury and 9 Wilson Ave, Brunswick


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