Interviews

By Jeff Mottle

Women in Arch Viz - Christa Hamilton

The Residences at the West Hollywood EDITION for Witkoff, 2017, DBOX

 

Tell us about your current role and what you are doing in the industry.

As a partner at DBOX in New York, I am a creative director and co-head of the CGI team. In my current work on a number of marketing campaigns for residential projects in New York and Los Angeles, I am involved in all aspects of design and development, including branding, print collateral, photography, sales gallery experiences, and full sets of visuals.

I also co-teach a visual representation course at Cornell University's College of Architecture, Art and Planning. You can see the students’ work here:  timeframescornell.tumblr.com

The Residences at the West Hollywood EDITION for Witkoff, 2017, DBOX

The Residences at the West Hollywood EDITION for Witkoff, 2017, DBOX

The Residences at the West Hollywood EDITION for Witkoff, 2017, DBOX


 

What was the path you took to get where you are today and was this always the role you thought you would have? What was your dream job as a kid and why?

Growing up, I loved drawing and painting and took every art class possible in school. When applying to college, I decided to study architecture as it seemed to be a blend of my interests in both art and math (and thanks to a push from my dad!). I received a Bachelor of Science in Design (Architecture) from University of Nebraska’s College of Architecture before moving to New York, where I received a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. While enjoying the design studios, I also gravitated to the drawing, film and 3D classes. Upon graduation, I saw a listing for a job at DBOX and it seemed like a great fit.

 

What is the best and worst decision you've ever made?

The best decision was moving to New York City. It has shaped so many aspects of my life, particularly my education and design sensibility. It’s also where I met my husband and started my family.

One of the hardest things is balancing my career and the time I spend with my kids.

Undisclosed, 2010, DBOX

 

Based on our industry survey, women still only represent 7% of the industry.  Do you have any thoughts on this, how it can be changed, and if it will be changed in the foreseeable future.

I’m a bit surprised that this number is so low. In my early years at DBOX, there were times when I was the only woman, or one of very few women, on our CG  team. I’m happy to say that we currently have a team that’s nearly 50% women. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is the norm at many studios, but I hope it is a good sign for the shifting demographic in arch viz.

Similar to my own experience, I think more global change will come with time. As young women are able to work with or see other women who are successful in arch viz, then I think they will be more likely to pursue it as a career. 

West Kowloon Cultural District for Foster + Partners, 2011, DBOX

West Kowloon Cultural District for Foster + Partners, 2011, DBOX

 

Name three other women, who are not working in this industry, that impacted your work artistically and/or the path you took to get where you are today. [include links if applicable]

Georgia O’Keeffe – When I was a kid, I used to practice painting by replicating her work.

Zaha Hadid – I remember her giving a lecture when I was at Columbia. She was an incredibly confident woman and, of course, an amazing designer and artist. 

My mom – She worked in the tech industry, spending a decade at Microsoft, so computers were part of our daily life very early on. She also showed me what it means to be both a working professional and an attentive mother.

What motivates/inspires you the most?

I’m inspired by the projects that force me outside of my comfort zone. These are the projects where I have to push myself technically and creatively, and where I have to work the hardest.

108 LEONARD for Elad Group, 2018, DBOX
 

 

108 LEONARD for Elad Group, 2018, DBOX

 

108 LEONARD for Elad Group, 2018, DBOX

 

 

What lessons have you learned in your career that you think would benefit others in the field?

Being surrounded and supported by a strong team is very important. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented artists at DBOX, including many amazing women, who have all brought their own skills and creativity to the projects shown here. These collaborations make the best visuals and projects overall.

When working with clients, confidence is key. Standing up for your creative decisions is an important part of ensuring good work. I’ve struggled with this at times but have found that gaining more experience has been the best way to build my own confidence.

What has been your proudest achievement in business to date?

I am most proud of recent projects such as The Residences at The West Hollywood EDITION, 108 LEONARD, and One Hundred East Fifty Third Street by Foster + Partners, where I have worked as a creative director and have had the opportunity to be involved in all aspects of the project.  

WEHOEDITIONRESIDENCES.COM

108LEONARD.COM

100E53.COM

One Hundred East Fifty Third Street for RFR, 2015, DBOX

 

 

What other artistic pursuits or creative outlets do you pursue outside of your day to day work?  [Please include visuals/links to include in the article]

I love photography, especially taking travel photos and photos of my two sons. I also enjoy doing little, and sometimes big, design projects at home. A few years ago, my husband and I designed and renovated our apartment, doing all of the work ourselves.

Where do you see the industry going?  Does it look significantly different from where it is today? If so, how?

I think we are already seeing a shift in the visual content we are asked to create. Certainly, we will be creating more interactive and immersive experiences, as well as designing more creative content specifically for digital advertising/social media. Even with this shift, we still seem to be doing just as many, if not more, still renderings than ever before.

The XI for HFZ Capital Group, 2018, DBOX

 

Please name five artists, creatives or business people (outside of the archviz industry) who have inspired you.

In the class that I co-teach we use many different artists as inspiration, and we stress how much there is to learn from the work of other artists.

Julius Shulman and Ezra Stoller – Masters of architectural photography, they established a symbiotic relationship with the architects whose works they documented, creating compositions that inspire arch viz today.

Edward Hopper and Canaletto – Masters of lighting, they used it as a tool for storytelling and to suggest mood and emotions in ways that are great references for arch viz.

Peter Funch and Gregor Graf – Their work shows the power of additive and subtractive photo editing, and its ability to document time and alter our perception of a scene.

Prospect Park's LeFrak Center for Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects, 2012, DBOX

 

 

Please name five artists within the industry you think have influenced your own work or have influenced the industry?

I joined DBOX shortly after finishing graduate school in 2004, so my own work has been the most influenced by all the talented people I have worked with here – Matthew Bannister, Keith Bomely and Martin Solarte, to name a few.

As a women do you feel you had to work harder or do anything differently than your male counterparts to get where you are today?

There are certainly areas where I’ve had to work hard to prove myself and gain the respect of colleagues and clients. I’ve focused on using my artistic strengths along with my background in architecture and ability to work well with clients to help me build success.

What advice would you give women thinking about entering into the arch viz industry?

Go for it! This is an incredibly interesting industry. It’s a fantastic mix of architecture, design, art and technology. I think the most important aspect of becoming great at arch viz is developing your artistic eye. Photography, drawing and painting are all great tools to help your understanding of lighting, composition and storytelling.

One West End for Elad Group and Silverstein Properties, 2014, DBOX

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you as it pertains to working in this industry?

I think one of the biggest challenges for women is rising into leadership roles.  As more women are able to take these positions, it will create more welcoming workplaces for young women entering arch viz.

Anecdotally, I have noticed that on average the women artists within the arch viz industry tend to be some of the most talented people in our field.  Would you agree? If so, why do you think that is?  

I absolutely agree. Many women start a career in arch viz because they have a strong art and design background, which is key to becoming a great artist in this field.

Undisclosed, 2011, DBOX

 

Where do you envision yourself 10 years from now? What are you doing and what did you do to get there?

I hope I’m still working in arch viz and involved in great projects. I’m excited about working on new types of creative content and experiences as the industry evolves. I also hope I am working with even more women and am able to serve as a mentor to a new generation of women in arch viz. 

Please take one of your favourite projects and walk us through the piece.  

One project that I am still very proud of is the set of visuals and interactive presentation showing Santiago Calatrava’s World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which we created for Westfield back in 2012. The project’s greatest challenge was designing a tool to explain the maze of subterranean retail space, as well as its connection to transportation and its location within surrounding New York City.

We started by selecting a key vantage point that captured the full site and could be used to tell the story at various scales. From there we created a set of diagrammatic visuals, some identifying nearby neighborhoods and businesses, and others cutting through each floor and simplifying the space into a more understandable plan.

 

Interactive Sales Application for Westfield, 2012, DBOX

In addition to the diagrammatic images, we created a set of renderings that showed the interior of the transportation hub.  We also developed a series of animation sequences that led the viewer through four of the WTC entrances and through the underground retail space to arrive at the oculus. 

World Trade Center Transportation Hub for Westfield, 2012, DBOX

 

World Trade Center Transportation Hub for Westfield, 2012, DBOX

 

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About this article

Women in Arch Viz - Christa Hamilton partner, creative director and co-head of the CGI team at DBOX in New York.

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About the author

Jeff Mottle

Founder at CGarchitect

placeCalgary, CA