Leading the Architectural Visualisation Revolution

Leading the Architectural Visualisation Revolution

22 Apr 2022

3D architecture visualisation and rendering has become an artform in its own right. Digital technologies mean we are now able to create architectural representations of such complexity and intricacy that they take your breath away. Cutaways and layer peels now allow you to get right under the skin, not just of buildings, but entire cities. 3D CGI visualisations are now widely featured in TV design series and even being used to bring architectural history dramatically to light in programmes such as BBC 2’s Invisible cities .

These sophisticated techniques are among the most powerful tools to have emerged in the history of architectural communication. They are transforming the ways architects can interact with clients, planning authorities and public audiences.

As one of the earliest adopters of Building Information Modelling (BIM) design technologies, Halliday Fraser Munro has been able to pioneer many of the breakthroughs in the visualisation revolution.

In this article, we’ll examine why these changes are not just superficial but are having a powerful effect on the material nature of our built environment, how we design it and how we use it.

The leap to lightspeed

Where once, architectural projects would have taken shape as 2D blueprint drawings and sketches or “artist’s impressions”, we now have access to photorealistic visualisations. These use data from real photographs taken by our technicians and used to render 3D digital models to perfection.

Once these are built and rendered, we can showcase projects with immersive cinematic techniques, such as depth of field to draw your eye and guide you through the space. We can even present concepts interactively allowing the viewer to move through buildings and explore the design from every possible angle.

Sophisticated software also enables us to show the movement of light around a building over time This helps clients understand how the building will feel and operate day to day. We can even show how the building will feel in fog, rain or at night to convey the mood of the building in every light.

This level of detail has had a transformative effect on the way that people see buildings. Most people found 2D drawings hard to interpret and failed to appreciate the true scale of a design. Now they can actually interact with the design and come close to immersing themselves in the real thing.

Why visualisations are much more than skin deep

At Halliday Fraser Munro we don’t believe that visualisations should be the icing on the cake. They are much more than a final gloss for presentations. We see them as integral and informative to the design process itself. They don’t just help clients appreciate what is being created. They also give designers a clearer understanding of both the quantitative and qualitative nature of the spaces they are creating.

Working to high levels of visualisation throughout an architectural project helps bring everyone involved to a shared understanding of the project at the earliest possible stage. This reduces the likelihood of expensive and time-consuming compromises further down the project pathway.  And, with projects taking anything from a few months to a few years, it is essential to establish a clear, shared vision as early as possible

While other architecture practices are happy to use external suppliers to create visual representations of their work, we believe this aspect of what we do is far too important to farm out to others. We have taken real care to cultivate an in-house team, skilled in the use of cutting-edge digital technologies to create exceptional visualisations.

This also enables us to involve the visualisation specialist throughout the design journey and they can work closely with the architects to understand and explore the nuances and complexities of the project.

Telling the story in style

The potential of sophisticated visualisation to bring buildings to life, before a single stone has been laid, cannot be overestimated. It has the power to inspire and excite the viewer and drive buy-in from clients, planners and the people who will live in and around the building.

We are currently working on a new pavilion for the business school in Aberdeen and our 3D modelling and visualisations are being used to present the building to staff and students. They are able to navigate the space, exploring how rooms connect and this enables them to occupy the building mentally before they physically move into the completed space.

High quality visual experiences of this kind reinforce a sense of professionalism. They demonstrate the time and effort that has gone into a design and illustrate the thoroughness of the approach. This helps to diffuse criticism, as projects are examined by planners and designs pass into the public domain.

Visualisations are increasingly valuable in demonstrating new functionalities as new, sustainable, building techniques and technologies are pioneered. Animated cutaways and sections can actively demonstrate how Passivhaus designs work showing how new heat and ventilation routes operate within the structure of the building.

Building a digital twin to protect the original

The concept of digital twins is relatively simple – a physical object, such as a building, has an identical virtual counterpart. While the idea may be simple, creating them is infinitely more complex. The first example was when NASA built an identical twin of Apollo 13 so they could use the model on earth to replicate what was happening in the active spacecraft.

Nowadays the data we can use to inform our modelling has increased exponentially and the model can actively draw on information from everything from the Internet of Things and the Cloud to robotics, machine learning, and Big Data analytics.

Creating digital twins of buildings, and even cities, brings a host of potential benefits. It allows us to model exactly how that building will perform under given circumstances. This will be invaluable in tackling things like climate change allowing us to examine a building’s performance over time and model the potential impact of mitigation strategies.

Digital twins will also prove invaluable in maintaining and refurbishing buildings so managers understand exactly what they are dealing with in any part of the building. And, of course, creating a digital twin can play a vital role in rebuilding structures that have been damaged. The 360° mapping undertaken after the initial fire at the Glasgow School of Art has helped inform the reconstruction work following the catastrophic, second fire.

To find out more about how exceptional, in-house visualisation skills can transform the shape and efficiency of your forthcoming architectural projects, get in touch with david.halliday@hfm.co.uk. We’d love to demonstrate what we can do in full 3D, 360° detail.