Nostalgia in renovations

Sometimes, if one chooses to renovate a space with some history, whether a restaurant, a residence or even a building exterior, an opportunity presents itself for reinvention, rather than completely starting over. Renovations provide the ability for designers and architects to incorporate elements into the new design from the past. Rather than ignoring what was there before, we can figure out ways to include elements such as specific pieces of furniture, light fixtures or even a material used in one way originally but transformed into another in the new design. Renovations are often inherently nostalgic and they should be treated as such. A good renovation finds the balance between old and new, but more importantly, between creating a new experience while keeping the essence of the previous design.

Renovation is not Preservation

It is human nature to gain comfort with what was originally designed, built or installed, before a renovation. The idea of what will be designed gets outweighed by what we already liked and disliked. We may lean towards furniture that we grew up with; a bar countertop we drank at each night or even those first dollar bills the business made, put up for nostalgic reasons over the years. Our minds get caught visualizing or desiring these previous elements rather than looking forward to what a renovation can inspire.

Renovating a building or space refreshes, upgrades and even recreates the experiences patrons or residents or employees encounter once completed. Remember, there is a huge difference between renovation and preservation and we should not confuse the two. Preservation is meant to preserve what was originally built, most often associated with historic places or sometimes associated with a simple appreciation or attraction to the original design. Preservation is meant to copy or keep what was originally built.

Renovation, on the other hand, is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to make change and provide a newer, better experience than before through the use of design. Renovation can keep the essence of what was originally designed, but not exactly what was originally built.

By Jebulon (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

VR is not perfect

Virtual reality isn’t for everyone. Well, at a high quality, I actually think it is and most people love it. But VR at a low quality … can give you vertigo. The higher the quality, the less staccato the movements. It’s also more expensive, but hey, it’s only money and extremely fun to use.

It is also not for every type of space. Smaller, tighter spaces are not conducive to the 360 degree motion inherent with VR. Talk about nausea. Larger interior spaces are perfect for VR. Fly-throughs are great because they keep you moving and balanced. Though hallways can be claustrophobic, walking down a hallway can be fine as long as you’re not stationary. Exterior buildings work well. Context becomes extremely important so one feels as if it’s real and you’re actually standing outside.

VR may not be perfect, but once you experience it, it is just so cool.

In the blue trunks … 2D, and in the red trunks … 3D

So what’s better, a 2D presentation or a 3D presentation? The answer is neither. The answer is both.  The answer depends on the project and the answer depends on the end product. In all of our presentations, we have found a consistent pattern in how we express our design to the client. First a sketch, typically hand done whether rendered or not, then a more accurate plan based on an Autocad drawing, allowing us to determine real dimensions, adjacencies and site constraints. Then we take it vertical, as a model, so it can be rendered in perspective, sometimes abstractly, sometimes photo quality. And now, we put it into virtual reality for the client to truly experience the design. Ironically though, in the end, we go back to the beginning.  We create product specific to the presentation, whether for marketing, for sales or for construction. The hand done sketch may entice that idealistic buyer. Actual floor plans may succeed in gaining a team’s approval of the project and a virtual reality tour may just wow everyone for that next big job. I think it’s a draw.

Photorealism demands accuracy

I continue to push my employees to generate higher quality in whatever we produce, whether drawings, design or renderings. As we push ourselves, we find that renderings have a broad range of styles and techniques from watercolor to using SketchUp to incorporating Photoshop to photorealism. As we continue to explore these techniques, the progression of styles become more and more real as they develop. The photorealistic side of presentations begins to create a correlation between virtual reality and photorealism, making them more and more relatable. The ability to provide a tool for clients to virtually experience their projects translates to their expectations that what they are visualizing is absolutely accurate. When one views a watercolor, the expectation warrants a romantic expression of the building or space. When one experiences virtual reality, however, the expectation expands to the desire for true accuracy in the experience. That accuracy requires a completion of the design within the photorealistic generation of that design. Ultimately, the architect and client reach a final product sooner rather than later. This impact on the industry will be interesting to watch in the future.

Is that really what it looks like?

A little known secret in the architectural and design industry is that as technology develops, like a computer program or a rendering technique or drafting capabilities, the requirement as designers for attention to detail increases. We cannot get away with lines that don’t cross, flooring that is ‘almost’ the right color or a tree approximately in the correct spot. The tools we use now demand from us our focus and care when designing and presenting to our clients. And now that we are producing renderings through virtual reality, the programs we use allow for that detail. Even more, our clients now expect that detail. It becomes even more imperative for us as designers to take the time to understand what that material really is that we’re showing or to ensure the orientation of the building is truly positioned properly. Most importantly, our client wants to know, “Is that really what it looks like?”

It sure seems real!

In my last post, I discussed 2D renderings as a tool for presentation purposes. And for most clients, renderings always succeed in telling the story. We use programs like SketchUp, Photoshop, 3D Studio Max and Rhino to create 3D models which turn into 2D presentations. But now, we can take it to another level. We can place clients inside the space or even standing on the sidewalk admiring their future building. Looking at a snapshot of an experience only allows the viewer to visualize what is shown in that snapshot. But with virtual reality, we literally place the viewer in the space, allowing them to view 360 degrees of details, proportions, materials and context. This amazing tool gives the client the ability to both feel the space or building, and also place themselves in an environment that is as close to reality as possible, even though it is not.

Can I see it in 3D?

We often get asked the question, “Can I see it in 3D?” And my answer is always the same, “Well, we can actually show you a 3D perspective, but it’s in 2D.” When an image is printed on a piece of paper, it is automatically 2D by nature of it being on a piece of paper. Interior perspectives of spaces or exterior renderings of buildings are all … well … 2D. And remember, 2D images and renderings are extremely valuable. They provide the client the ability to visualize the space or structure on a piece of paper as an image projecting something more real than what they can personally visualize. Just as still shots or photographs capture moments in time for people to appreciate and enjoy, so does the 2D rendering.

In our next blog post, we’ll explain how we are taking this technique to a whole new level of visual experience.

Always Look Up

We often find ourselves scanning our surroundings on only one level.  We walk down the street, in a city or a park or in our own neighborhoods, we inherently focus on what is at eye level.  We nod to the passerby, we look in a storefront window, or we avoid the stationary trashcan located exactly where we are walking.  However, above all of this, there are experiences and moments that should not be missed.  There are landscaped gardens visible from tops of buildings, the occasional majestic, bald eagle flies overhead, or even sculptures that make your mind think twice about what’s going on in the sky.  Always look up.  You may miss something important.

Colorado Series:
Design for Reading

During our trip to Colorado Springs, we had the pleasure of actually staying in the house that we were hired to redesign.  After the first day and a half of preparing for and taking interior photographs, we then got a chance to slow down and relax.  After slipping on my Uggs and pulling out my latest Baldacci book, I was sitting in the living room and realized something.  Before this moment, I couldn’t figure out why this classic modern home with a true wood ceiling, heavy timber beams, concrete columns, eight foot tall glass windows and real concrete tile felt like such a warm, inviting space.  And then it hit me.  The space made you want to read a book.  All of those components; the oversized fireplace, the classic modern furniture, the wonderful scenery seen through the expanse of clear glass, were simply designed to encourage one to read.  And I realized that using the act of reading as a benchmark for design, forces us as architects and interior designers to create spaces that are proportioned, appropriately sized and finished in a way that provides comfort and satisfaction.