My design process starts at the conceptual level, sketching iterative versions of an idea until I start to form building shapes and configurations in my mind. I go through many configurations before settling on the best design solution.
Though the design process remains very much the same through the years, the tools we use throughout that process continue to change rapidly. There are no quick and easy solutions, but with advancements in technology we can now accomplish a great deal of visualization work in a more cost effective manner than in the past.
Once I have an idea for a building or development and have acquired a functional and operational understanding of the building program and its relationship to the site and larger context, then I can start diagramming an architectural concept in three-dimensional form. It is at this point when Revit comes in handy by facilitating two important steps:
- Massing the three-dimensional model(s), to study various 3D possible configurations.
- Studying options related to surface finishes and materials, lighting solutions, shadows, etc.
The second step above is where Cloud Rendering offers its greatest advantage.
Historically producing visually intriguing perspective renderings has been the domain of few unusually gifted architects and artists, since not all architects have the skills set necessary to produce “beautiful drawings”.
But now, the ability to harness the computational power of cloud rendering services directly from the design software interface has ‘democratized’ the ability to visualize and produce compelling and intriguing architectural images of extraordinary quality and beauty.
The following steps illustrate my personal design process once I have developed a fairly detailed 3D model to a point where I can start imagining the building sitting on its site. At this point, I use A360 cloud rendering to help me explore design ideas, as I navigate my way through the design process.
- The first step is a series of shadow studies to validate or adjust design assumptions related to the building orientation on the site, natural light availability all around the perimeter of the building, solar protection devices if necessary, and shadows cast on site features or other adjacent properties that may affect site design considerations.
- The second step is to develop exterior and interior lighting strategies that would help enhance the architectural features of our concept. In order to accomplish this effort efficiently I generally select no more than two light fixtures for interior applications, and one for the exterior. After I have a workable layout, and run some test shots to verify the lighting solution looks good, I start a process of creating different versions from the originally selected lighting fixtures, and start a process of fine-tuning the lighting effects throughout the project. This is where Revit and A360 Rendering reveals the full strength of its power by making all these variations in color rendition, intensity, etc. with just a couple of clicks. So in a very short period of time it is possible to create very believable and eye-catching lighting solutions, which otherwise would require many hours of rendering effort.
- At this point it might be necessary to develop several alternative 3D massing solutions, each one with its own set of lighting features, so we may compare alternatives.
- The next level of development is to explore how various lighting schemes respond to different material and finishes, for example, in a lobby or check-in area of a hospitality project. This step is very similar to setting up the lighting solution, except we manipulate wall, ceiling and floor finishes instead of light fixture properties.
- Concurrently with these multiple rendering efforts I may construct more of the contextual site elements, like adjacent buildings or city blocks, in an effort to consider view opportunities, potential obstructions, and most importantly the various ways customers or guests approach the project site.
All the steps briefly described above require sequential cloud rendering operations of various qualities in order to evaluate the spatial solutions being considered.
I have found that on a large complex project of about 1 million sq. ft. loaded with lighting and a modest material palette, low-res test shots take less than 5 minutes to render on A360, which allows for very quick iterations and adjustments, so when ready for final rendering I know exactly what I am getting without wasting any time.
The key value here is the ability to see and preview options in fairly short order, so a lot of ground can be covered very quickly, efficiently and cost effectively. This alone goes a long way to improve communication with clients and other interested parties since they may not have to wait very long periods of time to see what their new developments look like, and this makes the whole process more integrated and interactive, with client participation more integral to the overall effort.
Manny Lamarche is an architectural designer based in Las Vegas who currently works for Gensler. The opinions expressed in this blog are exclusively his own, in a personal capacity as a long time Autodesk customer and user, and do not reflect or imply in any way his employer's point of view on the subject.