KEELY COLCLEUGH IS NOT JUST THE PRESIDENT of the American Society of Architectural Illustrators she is also on the Board of A+D Museum and a returning jury member of the Architizer A+ Awards.
A brilliant multitasker, Keely has guided her unique vision of art and architecture through the formation of her studio Kilograph. Founded in 2009, the studio recently just announced “Imagined Landscapes” a VR Experience featuring the unbuilt Michael Graves project, Barranco de Veneguera. The amazing project takes a different kind of view of computerized rendering, creatively transcribing Graves’ famous watercoloring techniques to the realm of VR (virtual reality). The effect is stunning.
When I came to her office, I found her to be quiet and deep in thought. She is impressive and well-spoken, showing off the incredible work that Kilograph does. With both under-graduate and graduate degrees in architecture, she spent her formative years inside some of the world’s most impressive architecture firms—working for Rem Koolhaus (OMA) and AMO, Bruce Mau Design, Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), and Ateliers Jean Nouvel. She has also worked as a pre-visualization artists on the films Iron Man and Superman Returns.
We sat down to talk about her career in architectural visualization and her role as President of the American Society of Architectural Illustrators.
(Akiko Ashley) Keely, can you tell us a brief overview of your career and how it led to you building your own company, Kilograph?
(Keely Colcleugh) I started Kilograph 10 years ago after a stint as an in-house visualization artist at Jean Nouvel’s office in Paris. Prior to this, I had worked as a previz animator, an architect at SOM, and a graphic designer at Bruce Mau. There didn’t seem to be a firm out there that combined everything I was interested in, so I started my own.
Can you tell us about your role as President of American Society of Architectural Illustrators?
As President, I am primarily responsible for organizing the annual conference – “Architecture in Perspective” and the competitions (student and professional). The ASAI is a really interesting organization. They have been around since 1986 and initially focused on the manual methods—hand drawing and watercolor painting—of architectural representation. As techniques have evolved, ASAI has been the home base for integration of digital artwork into archviz.
The idea with the organization has always been to establish the architectural perspectivist as a respected consultant and partner to the architects and architectural firms instead of a “vendor.”
The society remains dedicated to ideas of upholding architectural perspectivism as a profession including the education process, the establishment of standards, as well as important dialogues about perception, professionalism, and stewardship. The idea with the organization has always been to establish the architectural perspectivist as a respected consultant and partner to the architects and architectural firms instead of a “vendor”. These are all very important discussions amidst the global proliferation of digital archviz artists and small companies. Many of these artists are just becoming aware of their value in the design process and how they’re a part of a shared history.
My interest in becoming President was to see how we could engage this new generation of architects—students—in the values of the ASAI.
This is the 34th year for Architecture in Perspective Conference, what do you think is different about the Conference this year than previous years?
This year was all about education. Both in the sense that we were reaching out to more students and schools for the conference, but also recognizing that there are related fields that use some of the same techniques and thought processes. Regardless of our age or number of years in the profession, we can always learn from a new perspective (no pun intended). So we are having artists, matte painters, environment artists, and art directors from the film industry speaking alongside watercolorists and prominent architectural visualization pioneers like Eric de Broche des Combes, who founded Luxigon.
What are some of the key events at this conference?
The Gnomon panel is something we are really excited about. It is free and open to the public and we hope this is a chance to share the value of architectural visualization with the broader entertainment community here in LA.
Can you tell me about the Hugh Ferriss Memorial Prize?
The Hugh Ferriss Memorial Prize is the top award for an image, across all categories, in the annual professional competition. It is named for the pioneer of architectural delineation, Hugh Ferriss. Ferriss was a prominent draftsperson and early illustrator whose dramatic depictions of futuristic cities served as the inspiration for places like Batman’s Gotham City. This year, the winner is a past President! This might mean I should get back to making images again.
What do you think has been changing over the years in architectural visualization?
The proliferation of digital tools that make creating an image much easier. Also the image culture—Instagram and Tumblr—has created a new breed of clients who have specific aesthetic requests. There are also many many more artists around the world than ever before.
Architectural visualization & design is now part of the pipelines in film, television and games. Can you explain to architects reading this, how they might use their skills in these pipelines?
The world surrounding the narrative is increasingly defining the story. As the environments improve fidelity and become more immersive, the stakes grow higher for productions. There will always be a need to create authentic environments—both historical and futuristic—for entertainment. Architects are perfectly positioned for this role. They possess all the skills they need right out of school.
Can you tell me about Kilograph and the work you do, and can you share a recent project?
We are a creative studio dedicated to communicating the value of unbuilt architectural and urban design projects. This includes infrastructure initiatives, retail environments, and any project that could benefit from “spatial storytelling”. Our interest in progressive communications has extended to include more story-driven film narratives, immersive environments, interface design and app development, and environmental graphics and wayfinding.
The world surrounding the narrative is increasingly defining the story. As the environments improve fidelity and become more immersive, the stakes grow higher for productions.
Our most recent project is “Imagined Landscapes,” an immersive new VR experience that explores the work of Michael Graves. We were inspired by both his “Imagined Landscapes” paintings and the work his team did on the Barranco de Veneguera resort concept, so we created a way for people to visit that resort and paint it in using VR watercolors.
What are some of the key tools you use in your work and creativity?
Whiteboards, coffee, candy, conversations. It has changed a lot since I’ve stopped working alone at the computer. I find value in discussing concepts with our artists and hearing their opinions and perspectives. They amaze me.
What types of art influence your work and vision?
It depends on the project and what we are trying to achieve. That said, I admire the photography of Iwan Baan and reference it often. In terms of cinematography and directing, the work of Michael Mann and Terrence Malick are among my favorites. The strength of Barbara Kruger’s conceptual art and the newer work by groups like Team Labs and Refik Anadol are also greatly inspiring.
Unreal Engine and Unity are now entering the visualization market for architectural visualization, what are your thoughts on technology in architectural visualization?
Technology and its evolution is an instrumental part of the workflow in archviz. With successive iterations of software and more streamlined processes we are liberating the artist to create, and to create increasingly immersive scenes.
The definition of architectural visualization is shifting to include more mediums like VR and AR. We need new processes and software to achieve this. Our studio has been using both Unreal and Unity for the past five years. At first it seemed like a novelty, but now it is an instrumental part of how we work.
What architects influenced you? What are some of your favorite architectural projects?
Le Corbusier and Rem Koolhaas are my all time favorites. I also greatly admire the work of Jeanne Gang, Zaha Hadid, and quietly groundbreaking firms like MOS. My favorite buildings are the convent La Tourette by Le Corbusier, the Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City by Alberto Kalach and Juan Palomar, and the Sheats-Goldstein residence here in LA by John Lautner.
Thank you Keely, looking forward to Architecture in Perspective…
More Information on Kilograph and ASAI
For more information about ASAI go to https://www.asai.org/
If you like to attend Architecture in Perspective https://www.asai.org/conference/