Design & Test.
Working with incredibly tiny spaces is difficult because it can be hard to judge space purely by viewing 3D models and line drawings – without context, a narrow or short space can seem deceptively large in a render.
By keeping track of a physical representation of the space with a roll of tape, we can put into perspective the size restraints of the design.
With a tight time frame and a one-person design team for the architectural and interior design of the spaces and its virtual presentation, I chose to work in a game engine workflow: design and model in Rhino3d, then visualize in Unreal Engine, with interactions programmed in the Blueprints visual coding platform.
Instead of physically modelling or rendering and photoshopping, I was able to drop updated model data into Unreal, adjust the textures and lights, then have a run at it in VR.
Especially when the spaces are so tight in these micro-units, rolling out test builds to try out fit and scale was essential in maximizing usable spaces.
Grabbing coworkers (Shirley) to test out the units and get feedback on the design was also much easier – instead of having to brief them on the design and catch them up on the design changes, they eagerly put on the VR headset and explored the spaces for themselves. This generated more useful design feedback since there was no need to understand drawings and decipher intent.
Design In Progress.
Iterative design was enhanced by rapid testing of architectural form and materials within Unreal Engine. This early walkthrough shows ideas being explored within the space, as well as testing of various textures like tile types and paint colors.
As a design tool, this allowed for making informed changes and confirming design choices. While this walkthrough does not show much variation in material, later iterations would implement real life materials – tiles or paint swatches were scanned or photographed into the project’s virtual material library for easy testing.
Besides using this as a design tool, the goal of using VR is to enable clients (both of the building and the future residents) to preview the unbuilt building.
Considering that these users are likely inexperienced with using VR, the experience of navigating the model was also important – I had to make the experience as easy and intuitive as possible.
To transition between unit types, the user would approach the door, tap a unit number (like an elevator) and grab the handle to begin the transition.
To the right, the user can be seen selecting Unit 7, then grabbing the doorknob to initiate the transition. Also, the Look-to-teleport blue “halo” can be seen, following the user’s gaze.
While this is rather intuitive in VR, some users have issues with motion sickness within the headset.
Quick switching to controller or keyboard/mouse allows for alternative modes of navigation. This is also useful for presentations to multiple people, where the presenter can guide the group through the space by taking control of the view.
Additional controls like taking screenshot photos makes capturing views to share or as renders quick and simple.
Interactive elements within the unit, such as sliding furnitures and doors, can be programmed to be manipulated by the user.
Here, the user can activate elements with their VR controller to push a table into different configurations, or open a sliding partition to reveal the bathroom.
Not only does this help in providing a convincing depiction of the architectural innovations, it introduces fun elements that users can play with and remember. This helps to sell novel applications.
Before it's ready.
As a presentation tool, this allowed for future residents to virtually tour the main spaces and sample the six unit types, giving them an opportunity to try out their new homes – to scale and furnished.
This included the design of six units (each floor has unique unit types) and the atrium – iteratively developing the design itself, as well as realizing its rendering in VR.
Click a Unit below to view a walkthrough from that floor. This was rendered from Unreal Engine, and later used in marketing material for the launch of TREEHOUSE.
(please excuse the marketing text overlay!)
After plenty of work and coordination with the rest of the team at BODAA, as well as KOLON GLOBAL, the VR Showroom was launched (2018) in Seoul across from the building site. From a hole in the ground to a concrete shell to the final form, TREEHOUSE began to take shape.
By 2019, TREEHOUSE finished construction, inviting excited tenants into our individually crafted 72 units. This was an amazing opportunity for our young and tiny startup studio to flex our design skills with another project completed and realized.
We received several awards, including an Architecture Masterprize!