Glowing Architecture

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Glowing Architecture

Yi Ren


The inspiration of the project came from creatures with bioluminescent genes that emit light from chemical reactions occurring on a cellular level. The reaction is highly efficient. This natural light source creates opportunity for electricity substitution. The project envisions how bio-luminescence could affect architecture and the environment. The site is located in a small village in Shangxi, China. It is an imagination of providing lighting to the village that has limited access to electricity, from farming their own bio-luminescent plants.

Yi Ren_Biolum Town_01



Who influences you graphically?

The people who influence me could be different from project to project. For example, the BioLum Town drawing is inspired by Rem Koolhaas, and the Harlem Housing is influences by MOS. Having one or two examples in mind helps me generate ideas of my own representation methods. Sometimes their style may be presented in my final result; sometimes it may fade away during my work process. I also research a lot, not only looking at architecture drawings but also paintings and 3D visual designs.

What defines the way you choose to represent a project?

I choose representation techniques through the basic settings of each project. BioLum Town is a study of glowing plants, which requires a night environment. It makes the project different from others by it’s dark background with lots of lighting conditions. Then I associated with a Koolhaas’ diagram of Pard de la Villette. He used different shades of black, various patterns and line weights to present depth on a flat drawing. Personally, I love axonometric drawings. It carries information of plan and elevation at the same time, also contains consistent scale compared to perspective.

Yi Ren_BioLum Town_01.1

I love using colors in my drawings. I learnt a lot about representing hierarchy through line weights and pattern in school, I also think different color and saturation could function well. Detroit Riverwalk was probably the first project I decide to use color. The colors do not indicate materiality, but function and environment. I tend to use the color that is relevant to it’s function, however in a abstract and nonrealistic way.

Yi Ren_Biolum Town_03

What programs do you use and what is your work process? 

I use Rhino, Vray, and the Creative Cloud set. I may focus on different programs according to the result I want to achieve. Housing in Harlem axon drawing is mostly rendered in Rhino. It is more efficient when it involves a lot of texture and materials. On the contrary, the elevation drawing was all made through photoshop. In this case, color scheme is important to keep the consistency.

Efficiency is very important in my work process that makes me flexible on the time I spend on different programs. I would look at few drawings from others to decide what direction I want to go. Then mock up a process in my mind of how to make this drawing. Once I have an idea, I would put away the drawings, and produce according to my project. I would look back at the examples every once a while. It is helpful for me to build up sensation, while keeping my own personality.

Yi Ren_Biolum Town_02

How and to what extent has one project influenced the other?

I tend to try something different in each project, and experiment on different styles of drawings. I’m not yet settled with one method. There are a lot for me to explore. From design perspective, all the projects tie to human activities and social engagement. From representation perspective, they may be different to show different stories.


Yi Ren recently graduated from the Ohio State University, Knowlton School of Architecture (KSA); and is in the process of becoming  an associate at Davis Wince, LTD. He transferred from Beijing Forestry University in China to OSU in 2012, from where he majored in City and Regional Planning. In 2014, Yi began his architecture education as a graduate student at KSA. His works were selected into student archives several times., he became a teaching assistant for Architecture Representation class in 2015, which had a significant influence on forming his personal perspective on graphics and drawings.



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