International architectural practice Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) is constantly striving to improve efficiencies and enable greater creative exploration through the application of the latest technologies. With nine offices worldwide and projects based anywhere from Europe to the US and China, the company takes a global approach to its design process by fostering collaboration; it’s not uncommon for a single project to involve team members based in London, New York, and Singapore, for example, who come together virtually in what Cobus Bothma, Director of Applied Research, calls their “tenth office”.
To enable collaborative remote working, KPF has been exploring real-time collaboration technology for some years, including NVIDIA’s project Holodeck. More recently, the company’s VR specialist Michael Koutsoubis has led the accelerated adoption of Prospect by IrisVR by distributing Oculus Quest headsets to multiple teams in both the US and the UK. The team also bases some of its custom development on the collaborative VR templates inside Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. These efforts enable multiple users, who may be located across the world, to review and edit designs together. In today’s pandemic-imposed work-from-home environment, this becomes particularly relevant. It’s a hot topic at the moment. Bothma recently joined a panel of industry experts in Virtual Spaces and the Future of Collaboration, the debut episode of Epic Games’ new video series, The Pulse, which uncovers emerging trends in interactive technology.
Real-time technology also helps KPF’s designers to review, communicate, and present their designs more efficiently and effectively, and Bothma’s team is continually updating its toolkit to leverage the latest innovations in both software and hardware. Case in point, Unreal Engine and NVIDIA’s RTX technology enable real-time ray tracing, offering the possibility of photorealistic renderings that include dynamic soft shadows, accurate reflections, and HDR image-based lighting in fractions of seconds per frame.
Bringing Twinmotion into the Mix for Fast and Easy Visualization
Recently, KPF has increased its use of Twinmotion, a fast and easy real-time archviz tool, also from Epic Games. Twinmotion enables the company’s designers to take data from CAD or BIM applications like Rhino or Revit and very quickly create high-quality images, animations, and interactive experiences. Twinmotion fits in the middle-ground of KPF’s software arsenal, between the simple one-click visualization solutions and the full power of Unreal Engine.
“Our designers often work on fast-paced projects, and they do not have the time to develop, customize, and optimize geometries,” explains Bothma. “They need to have very clear workflows and paths to get from design to visualization, fabrication or analysis, and we see Twinmotion fitting into the visualization bracket very well.”
One of Twinmotion’s strengths is its ability to aggregate large-scale geometry from multiple sources in a single file, and to update any part with a single click. It’s something Bothma values highly. “With the scale of projects that we work on, many design applications cannot contain or collate all the geometry that we generate, without becoming very slow,” he says. “Typically, we will have multiple users working on several different files at the same time; some of them might be working on the façade for example, while another might be working on the landscaping. With Twinmotion, we can bring together these diverse Rhino and Revit files and feed them continuously into the central database where we can generate visualizations.”
As well as Revit and Rhino, Twinmotion offers one-click synchronization with ARCHICAD, SketchUp Pro, and RIKCAD, and also supports FBX, C4D, and OBJ files, making it possible to work with data from almost any 3D modeling solution, and facilitating rapid design iterations.
Painting a Complete Picture to Understand and Communicate Design Intent
Once the geometry is in Twinmotion, adding high-quality props and materials is as simple as dragging and dropping from the software’s extensive library, which is continually being extended and improved. Twinmotion 2020.2 brings more realistic water and car paint, parametric doors that open automatically when approached, and new animated construction vehicles, among many other new features.
Natural lighting is built into the scene, with the ability to define an accurate geo-location and north offset, together with the date and time of day. There’s also a library of artificial lights. Vegetation, including trees whose leaves blow in the wind and that can grow from saplings to maturity, can be placed, painted, or scattered on geometry. Animated people and vehicles are added with the click of a mouse. It’s even possible to change the season and the weather, simply by moving a slider.
“Twinmotion helps us tell the story of our designs and communicates our ideas and strategies to the client effectively,” explains Ayman Tawfeeq, Architectural designer at KPF. “Designers no longer have to wait to visualize their work; instead, we can produce multiple design iteration visuals and interact with our models in real time.”
“We generate the building completely,” says Bothma. “We do all the landscaping and add vegetation, people and cars if we want to. This allows designers and clients to move around the model freely, in real time. It allows them to discover unique moments and decide what images and animations to capture, for example, finding a nice immersive moment going between two buildings.”
Koutsoubis agrees, “This is a new paradigm for design communication. In traditional workflows, we choose specific views to present, and then it can require hours of rendering time and intensive work from specialists. But Twinmotion is democratizing the tools architects have to tell stories. Anyone can fully populate their scene within an hour, and produce renderings and videos almost instantly. Designers and clients can navigate the model together in real time, and it brings a new dimension of trust and collaboration to the process."
For those wishing to explore Twinmotion for themselves, there’s a free unlimited-length trial.