Tag Archives: design

Are you VReady?

Peter Greaves

 

 

Peter Greaves on the great potential of virtual reality in architecture, the best products on the market, and how we’re using VR at Make.

 

The ‘Virtual Renaissance’
Virtual reality (VR) has had a few false starts over the years, but it’s matured into a technology ready for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications. 2016 was heralded as the year of the ‘Virtual Renaissance’, with VR moving beyond its traditional gaming and entertainment sphere into front rooms and business fields as diverse as retail, charity, education and medicine, among others.

With architects now able to use VR software to easily create and interact with computer-generated 3D environments, it’s not hard to envisage virtual reality joining CAD, physical models and the pen as an essential design tool of the future, with architects and clients able to ‘step into’ their designs at the flick of a switch.

Still from the virtual reality setup of a building Still from the virtual reality setup of a building

Exploring buildings with VR
VR is already beginning to influence real estate sales, especially in the United States. Property developers there are using it to sell off-plan homes, with customers responding positively to the opportunity to stand inside an apartment before it’s been built. This illustrates the huge advantage VR has over a CGI on a flatscreen: a realistic sense of scale.

Architects who’ve spent their lives looking at 2D plans and 3D computer models have become experts at interpreting them and imagining the space they’re trying to show. But it’s always tricky to convey this to clients. The most successful method to date has been the physical model, which is much easier to understand than flat approximations of space. But even with the speed and ease afforded by 3D printing, models still have their limitations, namely, that they’re built at a greatly reduced scale, meaning a good amount of imagination is still needed to understand the building. Architects rarely have the freedom to build a 1:1 model of even a single room of a building, and if we do manage to mock up a space, it’s usually late in the design process or even during construction. VR could potentially solve this problem, allowing architects to present fully 3D, 1:1 scale ‘models’ of buildings for clients to explore.

The best VR for architects
The four main products currently on the market for architects that Make is exploring are:

  1. Oculus Rift – kick-starting the current VR renaissance, this headset lets users look around a 3D space. Movement is limited and primarily a seated experience, with the avatar controlled with a standard gaming console controller.
  2. HTC Vive – what we use at Make, the Vive introduces ‘room scale’, with two small tracking lasers that locate the user’s head and the visuals respond as the user walks, jumps or even lies down, creating the sensation of being in a different place – a phenomenon known as ‘presence’. It also uses two wand controllers, similar to the Nintendo Wii’s remote, that let users see their hands and interact with objects within the virtual world. People can use these tracked controllers to paint with a virtual brush, or pan and rotate a model or image, simply by moving their hands.
  3. Google Cardboard – a simpler solution in which users put their smartphone inside a special cardboard box with two lenses and look inside. Here, the smartphone forms the screen and brains of the machine and can produce a visually similar 3D environment to other methods. Apart from that it’s quite limited, but it does have one major advantage: it’s extremely cheap and portable, making it easy to take to meetings or send to clients, who can download an app or model and view it in 360-degree, 3D video.
  4. PlayStation VR – promises some of the more impressive VR features at an affordable price point, which many predict will be what brings this product to living rooms across the globe. Clients, once they’ve tried on their children’s VR goggles and look around the fantastical worlds developers are creating, might rightly ask, “Why can’t I walk around in my BIM model?”

Woman using HTC Vive    Man using HTC Vive

VR at Make
At Make, we’ve used our HTC Vive on several projects so far, allowing clients to view and even ‘stand inside’ their building at full scale as we design it. The response has been overwhelmingly positive: we can more easily explain our design decisions, and they can more easily understand the building. Take ceiling height, for example: you can try to explain how certain dimensions will feel, but it’s far more effective to put a client inside the room and let them see for themselves. It’s also far less time consuming and expensive than mocking up a false ceiling somewhere. BIM modelling has such a high level of detail that a good VR tour of the model can offer a full-scale mock-up of the whole building before a single spade has broken ground.

We’ve also started printing our own version of Google Cardboard viewers to send out to clients. These can be posted flat and sent alongside project documents, drawings and renders to offer an additional description of the building, either as an immersive environment or a 3D video and flyby. The ability to convey a true sense of scale, even in this simple form, is a powerful addition to our current forms of media.

VR and the future of architecture
VR is certain to have a tremendous impact on how we communicate our designs to clients and make design decisions. Simulating the way light enters a room, the way sound insulation reacts to ambient noise, even evoking a sense of place – this and more is on the horizon once VR is combined with existing and emerging technologies.

Integrating this level of immersion into the design process will undoubtedly lead to better-realised visions and more successful designs in the future, not just at Make but across the industry at large.

Woman using VR headset

Tagged , , , ,

Relevant Cities

By John Prevc

Cities need to keep pace with societal changes in order to ensure that they remain relevant for their inhabitants. This means designing flexible and adaptable cities where streets, spaces and buildings are able to slowly metamorphosize into places that resonate in their own time. Cities need to mature carefully, keeping the best and most significant markers of their culture and identity and hence preserving their individuality and essence.

We are unable to accurately guess where we will be even in the not-too-distant future. Keeping our cities relevant for the communities that inhabit them requires an understanding of the human condition and in particular our social and economic interdependence and our need to exchange information with each other. The human condition is consistent and universal, adapting to the context of place and time. Relevant cities are therefore a product of time and how we as humans interface with it.

Today’s relevant cities

Successful cities are cities that offer people opportunities to improve their lives. Whether it’s through an increase in employment opportunities, better housing, a well-established social infrastructure, a connected and well-maintained transport system or simply a cool place to be and hang out, it’s choice that’s the differentiator.

So how do successful cities optimise choice? We believe that one of the most significant factors is greater density. The exchange of information is at the heart of both economic and social success in the community. Through increased density connections are improved. Dense cities encourage social inclusion, foster business development, improve connections between members of the community and help to reinforce identity and a sense of place through design excellence.

High density life

High density brings life to the city

How do we deliver design excellence within a high-density city location? Our starting point would be to ask the community what it is that they feel they need. Consulting with the community and broader stakeholders will make cities more relevant. The specifics of place and the maintenance of uniqueness is something that lives in those who experience the area on a day-to-day basis. It is when a community is asked to adopt a commercial or political vision imposed from those on the outside that relevance is lost.

We can no longer consider the family unit in the traditional way. We are a more mobile society, more often than not living away from our families as we follow work opportunities. We live on our own for much longer at both ends of our lives and the fear of isolation brings us closer to those living and working around us. Our city communities are an extended family and often bring more relevance to our lives than our own blood line.

These social changes, together with an escalation in property prices especially in London, suggest that homes need to become more affordable either through a policy of subsidy or/and the consideration of smaller homes for single person habitation. Smaller homes will not however help families with children. Families with children are finding it increasingly difficult to afford three and four bedroom homes. If we are to encourage whole life city living and a more balanced community we will need to build variety of size and tenure.

Cities with greater densities encourage people to walk and cycle as distances between destinations are reduced and more accessible. Improvements in health and wellbeing are tangible results of this, with all of the social, environmental and economic benefits that this brings. The reduction in the pace of movement increases opportunities for people to meet informally and exchange information. This improves social cohesion and has economic benefit. It also makes for a more vibrant and active public realm which is safer.

Lower car use

Dense cities have lower car use than small suburban towns

Dense cities are green cities in both the physical and figurative sense. They offer visual and functional amenity at all scales, from the balcony to the private garden through to the public square and park. Density is a balance between building and open space giving people an environment where there are clear and well-defined boundaries between their public and private lives.

Density improves choice not only in terms of jobs and housing but also in terms of the types of goods and services available on the high street. Competition increases choice, reduces costs and improves quality. A significant population within the local community allows the market to offer a bespoke service which is adaptive and flexible following the societal needs which it will reflect if it is to be successful. For cities to remain relevant they need to be nimble and responsive adapting to the community they serve.

Flexible buildings

Flexible cities enable buildings to evolve with time

 

This essay was extracted from the Future Spaces Foundation report: Vital Cities not Garden Cities: the answer to the nation’s housing shortage?

 

Tagged , , , ,

The future of architecture – Katy Ghahremani

We asked ten architects – each of whom joined Make in a different year since 2004 – to write about how they see architecture and the built environment changing over the next ten years. Here is the first of those responses.

 

Katy Ghahremani profile picture

Katy Ghahremani
Make Partner since 2004

As proven by empirical research (ZZA Responsive User Environments, 2011), ‘third place’ working is the new norm. The boundaries in people’s lives are blurring: there is no longer a clear-cut separation between work and play, in either physical location or time of day. We therefore require the spaces around us to change in the future, to reflect our new way of living, working and playing.

‘Third places’ blur the boundaries between activities and functions; coffee shops, private members’ clubs, library spaces, residents’ lounges – these are all private/public places that are not defined by a single activity. They are public to the extent that the user has no responsibility for their maintenance or management, yet they are private in that the users have some sort of commonality – either through geographical location or interest.

This concept is evolving into an everyday occurrence with the advancement of technology, yet the design of places and buildings is only just catching up. Enlightened developers and operators are investing in delivering these ‘third places’ within their buildings. Although it is difficult to quantify the revenue generated solely by these ‘third places’, we can see their impact in the increase in value of the building/development and the increase in interest by end-users and tenants.

Katy Ghahremani quote

We are now seeing this concept extend beyond the design of interiors into overall architecture and, on a bigger scale, masterplans. There is an increase in developers seeking architects who have a broader view of design and are less specialised in a particular typology. This will allow architects to be able to bring in ideas and concepts from other typologies – to create ‘third places’ both on a micro and a macro scale.

Tagged ,

Developing a design for the facade of 7–10 Hanover Square

By Catherine Bertola

‘My design for the facade is inspired by eighteenth-century woven Spitalfield silk, which was produced in London during the period when Hanover Square was established. When it was first built, Hanover Square was a very fashionable residential address whose inhabitants dressed in the finest silk and lace. In the nineteenth century the square became more commercial in nature and was home to a range of tailors, milliners, embroiderers and other textile traders. Fabric is therefore woven into the history of the site, making it a fitting concept for the public art commission. The contemporary appropriation of a historic pattern on the facade will create an interesting connection to the origins of the square.

In order for the work to have a specific resonance with the history of the site, I chose an appropriation of an eighteenth-century silk design produced for King George II’s coronation canopy. George II was Great Britain’s second Hanoverian king – the dynasty after which Hanover Square was named. Spitalfield silk was designed and manufactured a short distance from the site and was among the most expensive and coveted silk of its time. The original fabric would have been woven from gold thread and the finest coloured silk and stood as a symbol of the King’s status and wealth. I felt that the association with luxury and quality was appropriate for a building of this calibre.

1. An 18th century silk design produced for King George II's coronation canopy. 2. The final facade design; the different tones represent different depths of carving.

1. An 18th century silk design produced for King George II’s coronation canopy.
2. The final facade design; the different tones represent different depths of carving.

The artwork needs to complement the architecture so that the two co-exist symbiotically. I found that the nature of the new building lends itself to bold, abstract imagery. Damask patterns are formed from symmetrical block repeats, which can cover a surface more densely than other types of pattern. One of the advantages of this particular design is that it is easily scalable; it can be expanded to cover more of the surface or reduced to cover less, without losing its impact or integrity.

It is important that the pattern is visible from a distance as people approach the building, while also having an element of detail that is revealed on closer observation. It is formed from motifs of different scales; larger, bolder forms are framed and intersected with more complex, intricate detailing. From a distance the pattern is striking and instantly recognisable, while the detail provides visual interest when viewed at close quarters. The pattern sweeps across the two facades, uniting the surface and giving the sense of wrapping the building. The mass is concentrated on the corner, although the focus is on the principal facade and accentuates the primary entrance.

The pattern has been simplified for use on a contemporary building and adapted for the technical purposes of carving into stone. It will be carved at different depths to give a sculptural feel and add a visual richness to the surface, creating a dynamic play of shadow and light that will animate the facades. The motifs have been separated into four layers which correspond to a specific surface depth. The first layer is the face of the facade itself; the second layer sits proud of the facade; and the remaining two layers are cut into the facade. The various depths will weather differently over time, further accentuating the pattern and allowing it to take on a life of its own.’

You can find out more about the project on our website: www.makearchitects.com/projects/7-10-hanover-square/

Biography
Catherine Bertola was born in Rugby in 1976. She studied Fine Art at Newcastle University and currently lives and works in Gateshead. She has collaborated on a broad range of commissions and exhibitions, both nationally and internationally, with institutions such as the Museum of Arts and Design (USA), Kunsthalle zu Kiel (Germany), Artium (Spain), the National Museum Wales, the V&A, the Whitworth Art Gallery, the Government Art Collection and the National Trust (UK).
 
Bluestockings (Fanny Burney), 2009, pen on paper, 85 x 135cm. (c) Colin Davison

Bluestockings (Fanny Burney), 2009, pen on paper, 85 x 135cm.
(c) Colin Davison

Layer/s, lost without trace, 2009, dust, PVA, paper and tacks. (c) Jerry Hardman Jones

Layer/s, lost without trace, 2009, dust, PVA, paper and tacks.
(c) Jerry Hardman Jones

Unfurling Splendour (Adaptation II), 2009, dust and PVA, 600 x 300cm. (c) Greg Clement

Unfurling Splendour (Adaptation II), 2009, dust and PVA, 600 x 300cm.
(c) Greg Clement


		
Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: