If I ask you what is the first thing you think of when I say the word ‘celebrity’, what would you be your answer? Brad Pit? Kim Kardashian? Johnny Depp? Ellen Degeneres? Will Smith? Or maybe you think of Frank Gehry? Bjarke Ingels? Zaha Hadid? When people define what a celebrity is, it tends to be something like ‘a famous person, especially in entertainment or sport‘ however it can also be the ‘state of being well known‘. It’s this second idea of celebrity that this blog post will focus on, as you will not know these people’s names but trust me, they are well known.

Architectural renders can be a beautiful thing, with photo-realstic images filling up A0s. Walk around an architecture school at final review and you will see dozens, if not hundreds, of different designs. These designs exploring different ideas, using different materiality, forms and design styles. Each student also has a different output in terms of colours, rendering style, layout and so fourth. Little do these students know that celebrities are with them in that room.

The above project, Googleplex by Bjarke Ingels Group and Thomas Heatherwick, is rendered beautifully. The reflections, the shadows, the greenery, the…. OH MY THERE’S A CELEBRITY COUPLE HERE! It’s the couple walking away from us, with the gentleman slinging the bag over his shoulder! This couple has appeared in many renders at final review, mine as well, and no doubt will feature in 97% of student’s renders at the end of this semester. However, who are they? We see them all the time but we don’t even know their name!

Do you see that man getting a closer look at BIG’s Serpentine Pavilion? You probably see him getting a closer look at something in a lot of renders… Oh and the couple is also here!


COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A design project conceived by two graduate students from the University of Maryland’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation… credit _ http://www.umdrightnow.umd.edu/news/umd-team-honored-sustainable-design-american-institute-architects

How many people can you recognise in this rendering? I have used six people before in my own renderings, on multiple occasions. The mother holding the playful child’s hand is one that is often seen, sometimes her shirt colour may change though!

It isn’t a surprise a lot of renders use the same people, and it isn’t really a bad thing. Websites such as Skalgubbar give free access to a lot of cut-outs, and makes our jobs a bit easier when it’s 2am and need to populate a render for review that is at 9am. Sometimes we don’t have the time to Google search people, or worse, go out and photograph our own people and cut out the background. I often reuse the same people in not only different projects, but often different renders for the same project. Some people you would expect to see in my render are seen in the main image on the home screen (which is one of my renders) and that’s the yoga girl, coffee guy, mum and daughter and man taking photo. And you wouldn’t be surprised if you saw these same people in your own, or your friend’s render either.

These people, and many more, are the unsung celebrities in architecture. We may not know their name, or what they ate for breakfast, but they are well-known. You will see them at every review in architecture school. You will see them in many starchitect’s renders. You will see them all over the world. However there is something I often wonder about these celebrities… Do the real-life version of themselves know just how famous they are?