This design for a mixed-use urban project includes two full city blocks and over a million square feet of rentable space. The design was put together in pursuit of a project contract over the course of about a month.
It focused on a strong connection between indoor and outdoor spaces and using natural light to create a healthy environment for building users.
I was involved from concept design through the final submission. My main role involved leading a rendering team and extensive 3D modeling to bring the team's ideas to life.
I gained valuable leadership experience in the process, and learned a lot about model optimization and team workflows for dealing with large models and many assets.
A large portion of my work focused on a video that highlights key parts of the design through a sequence of animations.
Other major deliverables included a set of still renderings. I modeled each of the scenes you see below, combining assets from different sources, texture mapping the materials, and setting up lighting to create realistic scenes. Select any image to view the gallery full screen.
Due to our short time frame, it was really important to dial in the concept early. We began by holding daily design charrettes to get as many ideas on the table as possible. When we found an idea we liked, we split into groups to iterate in parallel before coming back together to share the evolution of our ideas.
After a few days, we were able to pin down an initial concept we were confident with. This process taught me to be flexible in my design thinking and open to new ideas regardless of attachments to prior ones.
The concept we landed on played with the idea of carving into the urban fabric to create outdoor green space as a building amenity. Because our project was sited on two adjacent blocks, we chose to leverage the space available between them to create a "canyon" or green oasis as an escape from the typical urban landscape.
Once we had our initial concept, my work involved 3D modeling and developing the design to prepare for the rendering process. I led this effort while guiding teammates to help me with some of the modeling work. To make the best use of our time, we planned out the final views we wanted to show to focus our effort within those frames.
While coordinating with teammates to model these focused areas in Revit, I pulled the views together in Lumion to populate them with assets like cars, people, and plants.
This involved careful communication with internal team members and the landscape architect to make sure the design intent was being captured accurately.
When the model was developed with enough detail, I used Lumion's built in effects to enhance the images before exporting and did some additional post-processing in Photoshop to finalize them.
Although the renderings looked great, we knew creating an animation would push our submission to the next level. With about a week left, our team decided we had enough time to pull one together using the content we had already modeled for our renderings.
Taking a closer look at what we had to work with, we put together a storyboard that highlighted the best features of the design. Specifically, we wanted to show the seamless connection between indoor and outdoor spaces and highlight the building's amenities and access to natural light.
As happy as I was with the animation, we ended up coming just short of winning the contract. I recently revisited the project to consider ways we could have made our submission stronger.
With a project so large, it can be hard to get a feeling for the design, even with a compelling animation. If the client could have understood the design better by seeing the whole model, they may have had the same confidence in our design that we did.
Taking this into consideration, I decided to work with augmented reality to create an interactive model of our design.
Starting with our original model, I soon learned the need to optimize the geometry for AR due to the large file size. I brought it into Blender to remove excess detail, and imported the new model into Unity to create the AR experience.
The idea was to use image tracking to host the model on the project's site plan. Working with the plan as my image target, I used Unity's AR Foundation SDK and Apple's ARKit to build the experience to my phone.
To make the experience interactive, I incorporated a section plane that a user can drag through the model. This allows the user to interact with the model in real-time to understand relationships that can't be seen in the renderings.
It's hard to say if this experience would have made the difference in the competition results, but I think it's a really exciting tool that breaks away from conventional methods to show 3D models in new ways.
Despite the results the competition, I got a lot of value out of this project, gaining leadership experience and learning about team workflows for complex models.
It also taught me about optimizing assets and creating more usable, interactive experiences that can be applied across multiple industries.
I'm looking forward to expanding on what I learned here to develop more advanced prototypes and interactions in the future.