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Person to Know: A Man Making Imaginary Architectural Spaces

By Guan Tan

An architectural render of an imaginary space that Alexis Christodoulou created.
 
Alexis Christodoulou
An architectural render of an imaginary space that Alexis Christodoulou created.

Are all the photographs on Instagram real? If snapped with a camera, then it's safe to say that they are. Yet, more often than not, images are heavily edited with Photoshop and other editing apps. "Technically nothing on Instagram is real," 34-year-old Alexis Christodoulou quips. 

So Christodoulou took it a step further, creating unreal images that look real. In 2013, he started posting software-made images of imaginary architectural spaces on his Instagram account, @teaaalexis. A few favourites that he picked out include a white-washed residential swimming pool space with sinuous lines running through. The tall, narrow arches carved into walls are decorated with white blinds, filtering streams of sunlight in. The viewer is positioned in perspective such that it feels as if he or she is present in the room. The viewers then perform a double tap on the image to like it. What they're liking is the atmosphere in the image. It's calming, it's relaxing, it's trendy, but there's actually no such place in the world. 

Alexis Christodoulou
 

By day the South African works in advertising and helps out with his family's winemaking business. He's "not formally trained as a designer or architect". On the side, he spends the majority of his time creating these imaginary images. "They're all imaginary with obviously borrowed elements from spaces I've seen, photos I've collected and ideas I've had since a child, of places I'd like to walk around in." 

Christodoulou takes his time to create a satisfactory image, it can range from a quick hour to "sometimes about two days." He begins by "looking at some spaces, either real or photographs, and seeing if anything grabs me before making some rough sketches. Then I get started on a render, get all hot and frustrated and delete and start again. Usually takes me about five times before I get one I like." He works on two design softwares, namely Cinema 4D and Photoshop to create these images. 

The images did not stay in his imagination for too long. Individuals have approached him to buy his designs. Last year, he participated in a "small exhibition" in a bid to bring his imaginary images to life. This year, he'll be looking for new ways to do so again. 

Alexis Christodoulou
 

Christodoulou's imaginary architectural renders have gained a following on Instagram – one that is rapidly increasing. Why are people interested in imaginary architectural spaces such as his images? To him, the traditional use of architectural renders used to be "a little boring...but I think they definitely do their job". Yet, there is more room for creativity in these renders. "Perhaps there's space for a new genre – in more artistic concepts... I think what I do reflects a current trend or colour scheme more than I'd like to admit." Instead of restricting design softwares and renders to architectural designers, maybe the winemaker or customer service officer can experiment with it as well. Or maybe the younger creatives can inject a higher dose of current design trends to architectural design. The more brains, the better it is right?

What Christodoulou is doing is essentially opening up a creative commons pool on Instagram for architectural design. Maybe in the future, individuals untrained in architecture like himself can participate in architectural design by submitting their imaginary ideas to said social media platform. "Maybe it will simply bridge a gap, between design trends and architecture," he adds. "We need a more homogenous world." 

To his knowledge, there are not many designers and artists producing renders of imaginary, trendy architectural spaces. Yet, when this trend catches on with the crowd on Instagram, it might break some rules of the traditional architecture industry. "We're all naturally bound by some rules of what can be done in reality. But as you start exploring the software and experimenting, those rules start to break down." Suddenly, you and I can be architectural designers – just like our relationship with the camera, we're all photographers in our own right.