Projecting the future
26 July 2012
Students from the Welsh School of Architecture were ahead of the times in May with their animations and images based on 3D modelling projected onto iconic University buildings, similar to those that appeared on Buckingham Palace just weeks later for the Queen's Jubilee celebrations.
The Cardiff University Vertical Studio module brings first and second year students together and forms part of the BSc in Architectural Studies. Over a 3 week period students learned how to develop designs, surveys and theoretical discussion while learning an array of sophisticated 3D modelling and animation techniques to project onto University and City buildings.
The students showcased their designs using multiple lighting techniques and cutting edge technology. 'The module allowed students to explore themes and techniques which are often outside that of 'typical' design projects. Innovative methods and tools were used in a way which explored architecture outside the studio and resulted in outputs which engaged the public through an exciting and novel medium,' says Nick Humes, Research Associate and Module Leader.
The module was designed to allow students to develop a portfolio of work that can assist them in future career development. 'I wanted to create a unit where students are able to express their ideas and creativity as well as challenging their critical thinking,' explains Nick, 'The project aimed to review the architectural features of a building including the surfaces and spaces created. The animations, lighting schemes and interactive tools not only energised the facades but provided the students with a new understanding of architectural techniques.'
The course encompassed an array of project management skills as Nick illustrates, 'The students learnt and experienced the importance of time management and establishing working relationships. The staff at City Hall were fantastic – they could see the merit in this project and were very supportive, agreeing for us to use their building as a canvass for exploring the effects of lighting. It was an uplifting experience for the students to see their work on such a iconic city building and see pedestrians and passing cars slowing down to look at this impressive installation.'
The selection of advanced lighting was supplied by Philips and controllers such as the Colour Power Core and Colour Graze were combined with a high powered 20,000 lumen projector to create the dynamic lighting schemes. 'In terms of the designs, students were encouraged to focus on a theme or express a topic, some opting to work on an interactive tool created as part of ongoing research in the School. The results produced a showcase of varying themes with over 500 slides in various locations; from the Welsh flag on the Bute Building to a block of high-rise flats onto a disused toilet block by Main Building,' says Nick.
The Welsh School of Architecture hosts the SkyDome, an artificial sky and heliodon facility that mimics sky conditions. This was used in preparation for exploring the affect of light, shadow, texture and colour on architectural compositions in tandem with the social effects of lighting schemes. 'The process began by producing architectural surveys of the buildings before using computer-aided design (CAD) and a variety of 3D modeling softwares and techniques to create and test the renders and animations. Model buildings and small scale projections were then created in the SkyDome to demonstrate this work as part of the Vertical Studio exhibition,' explains Nick.
The course concluded with an evening outdoor exhibition in the form of a tour of various projections on to building facades. 'This project was very much owned by the students from start to finish,' says Nick, 'Students learnt so much during this process in terms of new skills and knowledge that will help them in their final year and prepare them for future careers.'
'We were ahead of the times with this project and the students were ecstatic to see this technology being used in the Jubilee celebrations weeks later, but nothing compared to the first time the projector was turned on and weeks of hard work shone on the architecture building,' exclaims Nick, 'We were able to project live satellite images from the Hubble telescope as well as interactive software tools which worked with the elements of building. I think going forward we can expect more live video streaming and interactive creations to develop. The possibilities with this technology are endless and I feel very proud that our students have been the first to work with Philips on such a project and to have been at the forefront of this development.'