Model strengths

Using a combination of resources can create resilient models

For the last few months I’ve been working in Melbourne with a commercial practice and the experience is incredibly similar to working with Ron Arad. I think that for both success has been through shrewd investment in resources, allowing them to approach design from different angles. As residential booms in Melbourne, I use particular resources to build an architectural concept.

 A simple volume complete with floor-plates and facade panelisation is built using Rhino and Grasshopper scripts, with data from each floor-plate and facade harvested for schedules. The geometry is rebuilt in Revit using custom scripts and Dynamo for Revit; then each floor-plate is populated with apartment families (types). Facade studies are built with a degree of detail as Revit options. This geometry is quite free and flexible and is repopulated as the Rhino volume is tweaked. Drawing sets and schedules are quickly created in conjunction with the 3D geometry, closing the design loop and allowing greater refinement of design opportunities.

We combine 3D printing and laser cutting with traditional model making skills to illustrate key design principals

We establish an fbx link from Revit to 3ds Max and place 3D cameras in the scene. Before we have a design the 3D cameras are photo matched with site photos and are masked and filtered in Photoshop or After Effects ready to receive rendered options. With every design iteration, geometry and materials are automatically updated through the fbx link and batch rendered. These rendered views are our base materials for analysing the design and its direction. Vray is used to complete the high end renders due to its speed, although quick gpu renders like Maxwell’s Fire, Octane, and Random Control in conjunction with Lightroom noise control are useful for quick lighting and internal reviews.

In addition to the rendering materials, we use the Makerbot Replicator 2x to produce massing and facade panelisation studies at key points in the design process. The Replicator uses extruded plastic filament which is easy to use and has suitable results. The process of 3D printing is not as quick or accessible as the rendered images. We generally need to rebuild the model for printing tolerances, with a 1 hour print turnaround and 15 minute model clean-up. For this reason we combine 3d printing and laser cutting with traditional model making skills to illustrate key design principals. Despite all the visualisation technology we have, I am still amazed by the power of a well made physical model.

Looking forward there is new potential with the recent development in VR technology. It provides an avenue to experience architecture at a 1:1 scale in an immersive environment. Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift Headsets will change how we think about delivery. Companies like Iris VR have already written commercial software for Oculus, allowing Revit and Sketchup users to walk through models at will. The technology could extend beyond the design field assisting onsite visualisation during construction, and provide new avenues for marketing and sales to offshore clients.

Alan McLean is an architect at Bates Smart Architects in Melbourne