Venice Biennale
I figured I'd take the opportiunity to do something that not a lot of people in architecture, visualization or any related field often do, and that is a complete comprehensive breakdown of how a project starts, moves, and ultimately finishes.

In July, I was asked to join Australia's team for the 2014 Venice Biennale curated by Rem Koolhaas. To help them re-imagine 3 separate, unbuilt contemporary projects by 3 architecture firms from the country.

Being a Canadian, I was initially reluctant, but decided it'd be a great opportunity to learn, to appreciate my adopted country's architecture and of course to be part of arguably the most anticipated Venice Biennale in recent memory.

The task involves a minute-long animation showcasing the soul of each unbuilt project as well as the development of an augmented reality model for visitors to Australia's pavilion in Venice.

The process will be relatively arduous but I'll try to thoroughly document every aspect of one out of the three projects to show how an animation like this is developed.

As the project is about to get under way, I will soon be flooding this blog with details of how the animations are coming as well as teaser imagery regarding Venice (without spoiling the unveling!).


Notes on Software*

I will be using Rhino, 3ds Max, A little bit of ZBrush, Vray, Photoshop (Stills), After Effects (Animation), Premiere & Magic Bullet Looks. Although this is my preferred method of working, you can substitute whatever software you are comfortable with, i.e. Mental Ray, Cinema 4d, Revit, Sketchup, Sony Vegas; the list goes on and on. Most concepts can be applied across many different workflows and if you understand the basics, then there's no real reason to fret about the tools used.

Supplied Section & Plans

Original Rendering by Andrew Maynard Architects

Still from Final Animation


As architects, students, animators or designers, it's always a pretty good idea to surround yourself with context. By this, I mean understanding underlying variables associated with any given project. Since I am involved with architecture, I look at variables like site, vegetation, materials, atmosphere, etc. How is someone supposed to feel inside, outside or near this building?

I sat down with some of the architects of the projects and received briefs from others. Some points were very specific (vegetation and landscape, materiality, etc). Others were more open to interpretation. In any case, allowing the architects to explain the ideas behind their respective projects was a fantastic way to really start to understanding the soul of each building.

The project I'd like to use for this tutorial is Andrew Maynard's Styx Valley Protest Shelter. It is a simple timber building used to shelter protesters against the logging of Tasmania's old-growth forests.

With landscape really being the focus of the project, vegetation is an important factor in setting the tone and framing a lot of the shots.


Since a lot of those reading this prefer their own method of modelling, I won't spend much time discussing what was done in rhino, aside from a few brief notes. I'm also embarrassed that I didn't bother using layers due to being told last minute about having to model the shelter myself.

After receiving the plans and a section from Andrew, I began creating a model in Rhino using simple curve extrusions. This was probably one of the most tedious aspects of the project as it involved getting the envelope of the building just right to prevent light leaks in 3ds Max down the road. I modelled the exterior wooden cladding, the simple construction materials and interior-clad plywood panelling. Some additional modelling was done in 3ds but only once the scene was nearly ready to apply materials.

It should be noted that generally, I wouldn't advise modelling things like wooden cladding, but considering the amount of swinging and opening doors in the shelter, everything had to line up perfectly, therefore I wanted to make sure no matter what I did with the doors and windows, the wooden cladding would match up.

Importing the Rhino model into Max is easiest when using an ACIS (.sat) file as all geometry will have it's own material IDs, although you may want to immediately convert the body objects into editable polys for more accurate mapping later on.

In the real world, almost everything is somewhat blunt. Take a look at the desk you're currently sitting at, chances are, the edges aren't perfectly sharp. If you have perfect rectilinear cubes, the edges will not catch lighting and look very artificial in the final rendering. There are a couple of ways around this, like Vray EdgesTex which works okay, but I I would advise chamfering corners early on in the modelling process. I usually fillet edges in rhino, or chamfer edges in max, depending. The more subtle the chamfer, usually the better. Not many tables have anything larger than a few millimetres or 1/8" unless done intentionally or stylistically (3/8" Chamfer).