Name : Veronica Saunders
Country : Australia
Company : Gabriel Saunders Pty ltd
Position : Director
Website : gabrielsaunders.com.au
[ Sélène Vilaseca ]
Veronica Saunders is the co-founder of Gabriel Saunders, a creative studio specialized in architectural visualization. Since its inception in 2010, the studio has provided customized solutions for architecture, interior design projects, and product brands worldwide. Veronica’s signature touch infuses all of her work, from renderings to interior styling, with a unique sensitivity. She combines minimalistic modern architecture with a touch of harmony, sensitivity, and attention to detail.
Moreover, I was particularly interested in interviewing a woman in the ArchViz field, as I have previously only interviewed men. I believe that Veronica’s perspective and experiences as a woman in the industry will offer valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by women in the field of architecture and design.
So, let’s get to know Veronica!
Hi Veronica, I’m curious about your background : how did you get your start in the 3D visualization industry?
After beginning a fine art degree in Tasmania, I was studying Art history and sculpture then I shifted into Interior Design at RMIT Melbourne which was a degree that enabled me to design from a blank space and taught me how to think to create solutions. After a few years of going back and forth to Japan to organize and curate exhibitions (as an Australian representative) I decided to accept a job in Melbourne for a high end interior design firm.
Can you tell us more about the circumstances in which you founded the studio, about Costa, your relationship as co-founders and how it has evolved over time? What are the responsibilities of each one? How do you divide tasks?
I was working at Crowd Productions with Costa Gabriel and we were working on design solutions for clients in crisis (at that time we were focusing on getting patrons to the cinema and working with clients in the banking sector dealing with the transformative nature of the internet and it’s impacts on banking and people not going into the physical space of the bank). Costa is amazing at understanding the technical and digital environment – my skillset is understanding with a passion our wider context, research and understanding of how we live. Costa and I began the conversation of looking into the 3dviz industry, we were always intrigued by the idea of creating only if it meant that you felt something, as though you could touch it through the image. I guess what we were trying to create was photo realism. We have a great balance, always being each other’s sounding board and constant voice of constructive criticism. We have an understanding and a love of knowledge and thinking. We have not separated the responsibilities (not without trying). Every project comes into the studio and leaves with Costa and I having the first and final word.
“Every project comes into the studio and leaves with Costa and I having the first and final word. ”
What sets Gabriel Saunders apart from other rendering studios?
I would like to say we think ‘bigger picture’ as to what GS can bring to a project – whether that be recognising certain elements that add to a more cohesive project. For example we respond to the area, whether it be sun/surf, winter/snow. There is always a demographic to unpack and cultural implications that resonate with new freedoms and a way of living. We consider the architecture and how the building responds to the lighting conditions at different times of the day/year. We analyze the interiors to understand how we can enhance what’s in the space. We enjoy challenging the client group to better understand the intent and purpose of each project. Clients trust that we will bring our opinion and experience to the table.
Could you tell us about any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re particularly excited about?
We are currently working on some amazing hotels and build-to-rent models, also the product industry, we’ve been creating curated digital environments to showcase products.
In your opinion, what does it mean to be a successful business in today’s world, and how does your company strive to achieve that success?
Success for us comes from the team we surround ourselves with. We always ensure that our team is made up of people who will always strive to be better, and that comes in many forms.
“Success for us comes from the team we surround ourselves with. We always ensure that our team is made up of people who will always strive to be better.”
What is your perspective on the role of women in architecture, real estate and specifically in the field of architectural visualization?
In our company, a viz artist is one component of many and there is not one specific area that is weighted to gender.
As a woman leader in architecture visualization, what challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?
I have been confronted with challenges and in these moments I have called them out on the spot. I have the ability to read the room and a strong voice that I use if necessary. I think I get more protective of my staff if there is bad behavior directed towards them from any gender. Everyone in my team has a voice and I expect them to be treated with respect. I also have an amazing co-director and we both call out bad behavior if we see it. We lean into our values and tend to not attract clients that would not treat others as equals.
“Everyone in my team has a voice and I expect them to be treated with respect.”
Do you believe there is a gender gap in terms of representation and leadership in the field of architectural visualization? If so, how can it be closed? How do you think diversity and inclusion can benefit the field of architectural visualization, and how can it be fostered?
I think the industry is changing for the best and moving at a fast pace both technologically and ethically. To continually strive for excellent talent and thinkers and attract like-minded clients is something that is important to us. We have witnessed areas in our industry that attract specific genders but we are humbled that our company is not weighted towards a specific gender.
What advice would you give to young women who are interested in pursuing a career in architectural visualization?
Go for it.
How do you find balance between running your own company and managing your personal life? What advice do you have for others trying to do the same?
It has had its moments. Especially during the pandemic where the mental health of the team was so important. We made an effort to book individual check ins with the team and the work became secondary to personal life. Then I realized I had not looked after my own personal life, so I relocated to a place where I can breathe, look out, smile and go for walks knowing everything was going to be okay. On the flip side the transformative nature of COVID has enabled me to work from my country house and commute to Melbourne. This lifestyle choice would have been a more drastic decision if not.
Where do you draw inspiration for your artistic creations and how do you stay motivated in your work?
It’s interesting what we see come into the studio. We lean into the uncomfortable and unconventional which is more motivating to me as a studio. Groundhog day scares me. Diversity excites me.
“Groundhog day scares me. Diversity excites me.”
With the emergence of AI-based image generation software like DALL-E and Midjourney, how do you perceive the evolving role of traditional 3D visualization software within the architectural industry, especially considering the advancements in software capabilities and the competitive dynamics?
Software is getting better and better which has been great and the healthy competitiveness within our industry is also fantastic. I see there is flux between the still image and moving more so.
AI is only as good as the thinking and the storytelling that drives it. I’ve seen the team generate AI images and yet if key words are missing the results can be clumsy. I see it as a tool to solve and assist not necessarily to take from our industry.
“AI is only as good as the thinking and the storytelling that drives it. I see it as a tool to solve and assist not necessarily to take from our industry.”
Sustainability is an important issue in today’s world. How does your company integrate sustainability into its work, especially in designing functional and eco-friendly spaces?
We have had some fantastic sustainability-focused projects over the years. The market is becoming more in tune to climate change and sustainability which is great to see. I’ve noticed a shift towards locally sourced items and locally sourced design. Even down to building materials, sustainability ratings and sustainable communities. It’s great to see pushback from our clients’ clients. They are more intelligent and informed than ever before. As a designer you cannot ignore this, it’s fundamental to the way we live our lives. As a company we will always push locally sourced items and design. We attract clients that are sustainably focused because they know we understand their clients and their values.
How do you see the field of architecture visualization evolving in the future, and what opportunities and challenges do you anticipate?
The software is getting better and better. It’s exciting to see the advancement of new technology and assess how we can implement it into our creative process. There have been challenges in the local market with interest rates and the cost of living. We have taken the opportunity to diversify our offering and provide interior renders for product placement which also has incredible benefits for simplifying logistics and enhancing sustainability. These small shifts all seem aligned with the changing needs of the design industry.
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the field of architectural visualization, and what changes do you anticipate in the post-pandemic world?
It has broadened the pool of amazing people in our team. Also the mindset of meetings being attended in one place has drastically changed. It has had its challenges in terms of communication within the team. Learning happens by being surrounded by ideas and problem solving, so our team schedules more structured meetings now that we are all in different places. We have to be open to the fact that we aren’t all sitting in the same room anymore. Ensuring we all have regular structured and unstructured meetings allows us to navigate this.
To conclude, what has been the greatest moment of your career so far?
Growing the company to a strong team of creatives. From Accounts/Production/Marketing/Viz Modelers and Styling. We’re all a team.
And if you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Laugh more, things may not be as they seem. And this too shall pass.
“Laugh more, things may not be as they seem.
And this too shall pass.”
Thank you, Veronica, for being a part of our 10th InterViz! Your dedication to teamwork and your proactive stance against discrimination are inspiring. As you’ve pointed out, the success of Gabriel Saunders is rooted in a team committed to continuous improvement.
Interviz #10 – 16.10.2023 by Sélène Vilaseca