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.

The Power of the Sketch

By Barron Schimberg, AIA LEED AP

Barron SchimbergWe recently worked on a project with another architect.  He was old school, using sketches and watercolors to express his thoughts and design.  We’re new school, using technology to represent our ideas and accurately portray the space and how the building will look.  We believe that if we show our ideas more true to form, rather than conceptual, we should be better able to sell clients on our visions and services.

So, the other architect and I went back and forth, almost competing for the love of the client.  In true, ego-driven architect fashion, we urged the client to “Pick me! Pick me!”

At a pivotal moment in the design process, we had an opportunity to win over the client.  We chose to represent an interior space in a colored pencil, hand-drawn sketch.  Although technology was used to set up the perspective, we used the power of the sketch to create the rendering.  The client was sold!

Personal, hand-drawn renderings seem to be what clients want. Why is this?

We find that hand-done drawings fire up the client’s imagination, giving them a better sense of what it might actually feel like to live or work in the redesigned space or building.  It makes them feel good, which is what the client wants to experience.

As noted in a previous blog post, actually, all of my projects begin with a sketch. It is the architect’s original tool to allow ideas to flow and creativity to thrive.

I learned to sketch buildings at a semester abroad in Greece.  I was taught how to judge proportion and scale and notice more details in a surrounding environment.

Computer-aided drawings provide an extremely accurate and cost-effective way to plan every detail of how a building will be constructed. But to a person who doesn’t work in construction, that just doesn’t matter.

The graphics shown below are some renderings and sketches we have done in the past.  They have successfully allowed the client to see the project in progress. But they have also been relaxing and enjoyable to draw.

So I am curious: Do you prefer the computer renderings or the sketches? If so, why?

When hiring an architect for your next project, would you like to see hand-drawn sketches along with your renderings? Let me know what you think!




When Pen Meets Paper


Exploring The Built Environment: Always Look Back

By Barron Schimberg, AIA

Recently, my wife Patty and I visited the High Line, an elevated park running along Manhattan’s west side. Converted from a historic freight rail line, the High Line is an extraordinary and popular public space. As we walked north, we were reminded of the following:

  • Even in a major city like New York, there is always a different perspective from a pedestrian eye.
  • Urban oddities create visual stimulation and unique moments that provide opportunities in our lives for creativity and enjoyable experiences.
  • Always look back. As we walked past buildings and saw what was in front of us, we often turned around and looked at what we had passed. When we did, we saw completely different shapes, moments, and spaces.

What fascinated me the most about the High Line was the experience that this park provides pedestrians:

  • The opportunity to sit over a roadway and watch cars go by, like birds sitting on a wire.
  • The view between two multi-story buildings of wires, cables, ductwork, and windows creating a quilt-like patchwork of shapes and lines.
  • A peek into the mind of an architect or sculptor or an artist about how they chose to express an aesthetic, not at eye level, but at 30 feet above grade.

The question for me is: How many amazing experiences are out there in other cities that we are either missing, or could create?

Fun sculpture on a roof

Modern architecture juxtaposed with a 20th century building. Seeing it at 30-ft. above grade lets you truly experience the two styles.

Space between two buildings

Modern glazing juxtaposed with old, industrial building mass

I shot the photos above as we walked in the High Line. To glimpse other views from the park, visit the Image Galleries section on the official High Line website.


The High Line

Build Well for Environmental Wellness

By Barron Schimberg, AIA, LEED AP

Barron SchimbergA well-designed, well-built building is not just structurally sound. It should also be environmentally healthy.  Professional architects, designers, engineers and building contractors have expanded the concept of “building well” by learning how to do what is right for the environment.

In my opinion, architects have a moral and ethical obligation to learn how to keep the built environment healthy and well.  According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings in the U.S. are responsible for 40% of the energy consumption, 39% of CO2 emissions, and 13% of our nation’s water consumption.

Because I care about the quality of life for my family and community, I am a proud member of the U.S. Green Building Council and became a LEED Accredited Professional (AP) in Building Design and Construction.  (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.)

Although many clients aren’t yet ready to adopt LEED’s whole-building approach to sustainability,
our design team can always recommend ways to make your building projects more environmentally sound. We can find ways to improve energy efficiency, control stormwater runoff, and/or reduce water usage, soil erosion, light pollution, and construction waste.  Plus, we can suggest ways to help maintain the air quality inside your building.

Here are just three practices we routinely follow to design environmentally well buildings:

  • During master planning, we consider the environmental impact of the building’s orientation, its relationship to the site context, and adjacent structures.
  • When designing a shell building, we provide as much natural daylight as possible through glazing, translucent panels, or skylights.
  • In designing interiors, we recommend using less environmentally harmful materials and finishes, such as recycled glass tiles, low VOC paint, or FSC-certified woods.

At The Schimberg Group, we like keeping up with the newest options for designing environmentally healthy buildings. And, we are always happy to share what we’ve learned.

You might be surprised to discover that many environmentally friendly options have become more affordable, more accessible, and more aesthetically appealing.

Personally, I am impressed that more clients are interested in using materials made from recycled products, or materials that were manufactured locally instead of being shipped from overseas. I look forward to the day when solar panels are sufficiently affordable for use on the roofs of the average construction project in Florida and society is truly ready to construct buildings with zero carbon footprints.

If you have any questions about sustainable building sites and environmentally healthy building designs, please do not hesitate to call us at 941-894-6888 or email us at info@tsg-fl.com.


About the U.S Green Building Council

What LEED Is

Are Apple Stores Too ‘Pane-ful’?

By Barron Schimberg, AIA

In his biography “Steve Jobs,” Walter Isaacson devotes an entire chapter (Chapter 29) to describing Steve’s involvement in the design of Apple’s retail stores. According to the book, “the architectural firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson designed the signature stores, but Jobs made all of the major decisions.” He wanted the store to “become the most powerful physical expression of the brand” and control the customer experience of buying an Apple product in a store.

Isaacson reports that in the newest stores Jobs insisted on replacing 18 smaller panes of glass with four huge panes made from newer technology. He says design-team member Ron Johnson told him that Steve’s goal was to build a glass box with fewer elements, because “it’s better, it’s simpler, and it’s at the forefront of technology. That’s where Steve likes to be, in both his products and his stores.”

Recently, an 83-year-old woman sued Apple for $1 million after she broke her nose walking into the door in an Apple store in Manhasset, Long Island. According to news reports, her lawyer is blaming modern high-tech architecture.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIez3iwZ92s?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

This incident surely wasn’t the type of customer experience Jobs was envisioning.

Blaming the architecture is absurd.

In my opinion, this is simply a reflection of our litigious society. PR-conscious, financially healthy companies such as Apple seem to attract an unusually high share of frivolous lawsuits.

What’s your take? Should modern architecture be blamed for an accident that could just as easily happen in any building with sparkling clean glass doors?


CNET: Women breaks nose on Apple store, sues for $1 million

“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson