What's Up with Entourage?

An in-depth look at a niche aspect of rendering culture: The Scale Figure, or Entourage.
By contact@ari.school

As standard practice goes in the images of archviz, entourage (or, scale figures), are ubiquitous. Entourage figures are the photoshopped layers of people added to a rendered image, either to imply the use of the space or to demonstrate scale. We see architectural entourages everywhere because these figures are designed to be anywhere. As long as these figures are dressed appropriately for the imaged weather, they can exist in any context. As shared digital sources, entourage figures can live on websites, in office libraries, or on personal desktops. No matter their residence, entourage figures function the same. They are generic filler content used to drop into unbuilt architecture landscapes, to demonstrate some abstract idea of inhabitability.

We see a massive quantity of entourage figures readily available on websites like Skalgubbar and spin-offs like Escala Latina, NonScandinavia, SkalgubBrasil to provide generic figures in .png form for users to download ad infinitum. These figures can also be downloaded as scalies, or CAD blocks to sprinkle all over any final hour Illustrator files.

Despite their incredible quantity and ubiquity, the figures and objects on Skalgubbar and its spin-offs are not memes nor viral images—they are emphatically the opposite. These figures are used to populate architectural images with neutral and polite figures, to render an unbuilt space “inhabitable” by everyday people. Despite this premise, these libraries of figures have been deployed ad nauseum in architectural imagery. These figures haunt everything from student projects to professional proposals. With no initial intention of doing so, architects have rendered these entourage figures a sort of unironic architectural meme; the contexts of these figures shift infinitely, but their performance always populates an image through the most sterile and indolent means possible.

In fact, the sterility of popular entourage figures now causes them to stand out, to be instantly recognizable like a meme but without the evolution or spawning. The dominantly Scandinavian hipster entourage of Skalgubbar caused the first wave of disciplinary backlash that created more diverse options like the aforementioned Escala Latina, NonScandinavia and SkalgubBrasil. These entourage figures could be rendered into an even greater variety of contexts. While these sites offer more diverse figures, their use has generated the same results as Skalgubbar: the overuse of the same figures and furniture erases the very content they intend to showcase. The architectural images filled with these .pngs read more as compositional arrangements of the same repeated figures, rather than as visual narratives illustrating spatial content. Even more, these figures repeat, repeat, repeat without adapting their meaning or evolving as signs.

When looking at the incredible quantity of architectural entourages, we see that regardless of the content they depict, they generate the same result: their overuse in architectural images does not spawn new or transformed meaning, and oftentimes detract from the project. One take away from this is to use these figures more deliberately, and create one’s own library. An alternative interpretation might be to just not use them at all.

What do you think of entourage figures? Do you use them in your work, or not at all? Message us and we’ll feature your replies in a follow-up post!

*Find the full version of this article here.

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