Last week we received some lovely photos of the outdoor play space at the Renown Park Children’s Centre, completed last year for DECD. The plants are flourishing and it’s wonderful to see the children playing in the space. As the trees mature it will be even better, with more shade and variation in height across the landscape. We used predominately local native plants as well as some fruits and veggies and deciduous trees.
Beautiful renders can really capture the atmosphere of a project and help show the client not only what their project will look like but also how the virtual space can become a useable one. But for many of our projects, spending hours on competition style rendering or the cost of outsourcing is just unrealistic.
In times past, smaller projects have been left with flat elevations and renders that can make it difficult to convey our true design intent to the client. It’s easy for us to imagine and trust in our vision for a building, but the process of client consultation can really benefit from the client sharing in this.
Over the past year we’ve found plug-in programs to be immensely useful for quick and easy render production. Creating convincing images and walk-throughs without the need to spend hours on settings, materials and editing, our plug-ins create rendered images in real-time using graphics from your BIM material library.
From fast white card models, to realistic rendering; this tool allows the client to gain a greater understanding of our designs – what they see is what they’ll actually get. The panoramas and whole model walk-throughs allow for a far more immersive experience and can be used to easily and accessibly bring VR into small projects. It also means the rendered images are always easily updated as the BIM model changes.
At Russell and Yelland we have been working with Virtual Reality for a year now. We would like to share some of our experiences and lessons from this journey which we see as the early days of VR.
The term Virtual Reality is an oxymoron; it is the combination of unreal ‘virtual’ and real ‘reality’. Virtual in this context is the computer simulation of what our senses perceive to be the world around us: that is, Reality. From its beginning VR hardware has looked like a bulky, cumbersome set of goggles. While the technology is evolving it’s appearance has not changed much.
VR is not a new thing but recently there has been renewed interest and big name technology companies are jumping on board.
There are two key factors which recently arrived and made Virtual Reality accessible for architectural firms such as Russell and Yelland. We already had the first piece of the puzzle, the virtual 3D model, because this is part of our regular architectural design workflow.
The recent innovations which have been able to plug into our architectural practice are;
- VR hardware, now accessible, user friendly and at a level of quality able to provide an immersive experience.
- Real-time rendering software, aka a ‘gaming engine’ that runs in our regular design environment.
A life-like experience where one can move around the environment requires a powerful computer to perform the real-time graphics processing to update the view corresponding to every movement the user makes. The hardware providing the best experience right now is a ‘head tracking virtual reality headset’; the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two products which have created the recent VR sensation. These headsets both launched consumer products in 2016. Both plug into a desktop computer and require additional sensors placed around the user to translate real world movement into the virtual environment. The VR hardware acts as both the screen and the input (keyboard/mouse), movements of the users head are translated to input commands for the virtual environment.
The virtual environment must respond instantaneously to the actions of the viewer to create a convincing reality. Without the recent development of graphics technology and ‘gaming engines’ we would have to wait hours for CAD software to render a single realistic image. While not a super realistic representation, what the gaming engines lack in detail they make up for with speed. Real-time speed. Using our regular design software we are now able to plug-in a gaming engine and see our digital models in a life-like view while; moving through them, working on a design or trying different options.
The graphic output required to present an immersive VR experience is beyond anything we require regular video to provide and it all comes down to the frame rate. Typically a video can look seamless at 24 frames per second but when you introduce head tracking (the ability for the viewpoint of the scene to move in relation to the users movements) the frame rate demand skyrockets. A typical video feed at 24 frames per second, strobes as you turn your head, leaving gaps of darkness in the path of your glance. This is referred to as ‘latency’, not only does latency disrupt the immersion of the scene it is also a cause of motion sickness. The output recommended for a realistic experience with a motion tracking VR headset is 90 frames per second (FPS) and that is per eye, as there is a unique image sent to each eye. Comparing that to the movie industry standard of 24, a quality VR experience is asking the PC to output a total of 180 FPS which is 7.5 times more images than a movie presents its viewers with. Even The Hobbit movie which created fanfare with its “High Frame Rate” of 48 FPS is not even a third of this frequency. With that perspective it is not surprising you need a very powerful PC to produce this graphic output.
Such a setup is not very portable, though we did take the whole kit to Brompton Primary School for a media event (as pictured), it is not something you would want to assemble every meeting. At a minimum it required; 5 power outlets, the desktop PC, the PC monitor, two independent sensors plugged in and on tripods and the headset link box. We also set up a projector so the students not wearing the headset could see what was happening in the virtual environment.
With all of the setup, bulk and cables between everything including from the users headset to the PC we have still found the experience and comprehension of a design to be unequalled by any other presentation method. There have also been a spectrum of ways we can share these experiences with varying dependence on technology.
Stay tuned for part two to hear what else we have been up to!
This project recently won an IESANZ SA/NT lighting Award of Excellence.
The judges stated:
“It was evident from the street as soon as we arrived at the site that this was going to be something special. An excellent example of project coordination between all design partners – architect, interior designer, engineer, lighting designer and client. The integration of architecture and lighting is exceptional. The attention to detail by all involved (including the electrical contractor is first-rate. All involved in this project should be commended on an excellent result.”
Project Architects: Emily Chalk & Craig Buckberry, Russell & Yelland
Lighting Designers: Robert Bartosik & Anthony Davidson, Secon Consulting Engineers
The new Administration Building at Galilee Catholic School at Aldinga received a Commendation in the recent inaugural Learning Environments Australasia SA Regional Awards.
The Building includes reception, staff, parish and community facilities.
In July 2016 the SA Government announced a stimulus package for the creation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) facilities in 139 public schools across South Australia.
Construction of the Brompton Primary School STEM project commenced in December 2016 with a site visit from the Minister for Education and Child Development, the Hon. Susan Close. It will be one of the first of the STEM Works projects to be completed.
The design aims to encourage hands-on making and open-ended creative investigations.The robust finishes and open-plan workshop feel will show that the space is not ‘precious’ – it’s there to be used and it’s okay to make a mess!
The children will be the ‘star of the show’, with many locations for displaying and celebrating their work. Almost every surface will be interactive, including the ceiling, which is designed for hanging things from. Wall surfaces will used for display, storage, creation and collaboration, via a lego wall, pegboards, slat wall and whiteboards.
The four zones in the STEM space are denoted by different flooring, but are all interconnected, allowing multiple patterns of use. The dark room space is more formal, used for presentations, demonstrations, green-screen work and light experiments. The timber structure around the dark room is designed to with exposed connections to show how it was assembled.
The STEM space will connect to the courtyard and the veggie garden, as well as into the classrooms to the north. STEM will not be a ‘special’ activity but a normal part of the school day, easily accessible and highly visible.
To visualise this project in 3D, click on the image below to jump into a panoramic 3D representation. Each label will take you to a different view.
Is school design for STEM about encouraging chance encounters across subject areas?
The recent announcement by the SA Government of a $250m stimulus package to provide Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) facilities for government schools has prompted the question: what does designing for STEM look like?
There are many articles noting how STEM skills are vital to the future of Australia; concerns about low numbers of science and mathematics graduates; and much talk about innovation. When it comes to design of spaces for STEM in schools, the principles seem to be the same as for most other disciplines: flexible, adaptable and interconnected environments which encourage a range of learning styles and cater for different group sizes and activities. We have seen the introduction of the Maker movement into schools, with laser cutters and 3D printers now common, and the rise of all things digital.
When planning the UniSA College Centre for Science and Maths at Mawson Lakes, we emphasized a range of table, seating and display possibilities with less emphasis on traditional lab experiments and more on space for 3D printers and scanners. The structure of the existing building only allowed us to create very small display windows facing circulation areas – but this became an advantage as it gives a museum-like prestige to the objects on display. The building fabric also tells a story – the recycled timber ceiling screen is a graph of global warming. Continue reading
The quest for an internship is something all architecture students are keen to get their hands on. I was uncertain of what I expected to see and also what was expected of me. I knew, however, that the internship would shed light on my understanding of architecture as a profession.
There has been much discussion recently about the role of an Architect , and as a profession we are aiming to explain to the community what an Architect does., Having recently completed my registration studies, this topic has been of particular interest to me. Registration has opened my eyes to exactly how important it is for the Architect, as the lead consultant of the design team, to communicate and coordinate with all members of the project team through all stages of the project.
I’d like to reflect on how the concept of the competent child has changed the way I work as an architect.
I can be a procrastinator. There are bits of the house extension we did over 20 years ago that aren’t quite finished. But I like getting things finished. Those involved in building projects at home or at school will know the final touches can take a long time.
I’m lucky enough to have been involved in the Galilee Catholic School at Aldinga Beach, South Australia, with Tina Adamo and then Jodie Higgins and the staff since its inception in 2005. I’ve worked on additional research projects related to early childhood, been involved in the Carla Rinaldi residency and was fortunate to have been on the SA study tour to Reggio Emilia at the beginning of last year. Throughout all of these experiences what has stood out for me has been the honesty involved in not pretending to have all the answers. So for me the interesting outcome of really taking to heart the concept of the competent child is that it’s never finished.
Sure, you can finish the new building. You can design for flexibility and adaptability. But if you are listening to the competent child, you will celebrate the changes that they make to what was planned. That environment will never be “finished”.