The context

3D Modeling and texturing use the original blueprints and photos of the house as a reference to create the same look for the 3D Renderings.  This can be a tool the can be helpful when restoring a historic building.

Read on to see how we created the architectural visualizations for the “Suntop Homes”, a 1938 experiment project by the well-known American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The 3D Renderings were made before the restoration of one of the houses. We recreated in 3D the building and all its details using the original blueprints and photos. Let’s explore the methods used for this project:

  1. 3D Modeling of the houses and the landscape
  2. Rendering Photo-realistic images with the interior and the exterior
  3. 360 Panorama used on Virtual Reality headset
  4. Walk-through Animation for every room and the exterior.

Services

Location

Year

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3D Rendering

Pennsylvania, USA

2018

1. The requirements for creating the 3D Renderings:

 

The client requirement was to make a 3D model based on the original design of the “Suntop Homes”, a project that was created by the well-known American architect F.Ll.Wright to become the “minimal housing” standard of the 1930s.
To help the restoration project of this heritage building, we created 3D architectural images, with accurate details, following the original blueprints.
We began the work before one of the four units entered in a complete renovation, therefore you will find several 3D Renderings that recreate the original look of the house throughout this post. A 3D animation and 360 panoramas are also included.
Regarding the exterior, the 3D renderings give a good understanding of the building volume and its architectural characteristics, as the name “Suntop” comes from the interplay of several decks and roof terrace with the general landscape. In this project, we can see Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural theme of the “breaking the box” to generate a dynamic volume and interplay between the vertical and the horizontal planes.
Because “Suntop” is a group of four homes, a good privacy degree was obtained with the help of the vegetation in the landscape design and the pin-wheel plan, thus the other houses are barely visible.
It is well known that F.Ll.Wright designed even the smallest details and accessories for his projects, therefore the accuracy of the digital model is key. Thus, the interior 3D renderings show all the fixtures and the furniture. Also, the “Usonian” interior space created by F.Ll.Wright to refer to a national United States style, is with the help of the 3D fly-through, easy to observe.
For a better understanding of the “Suntop Home”, we created a fly-through video with the exterior and interior of the house. Afterward, we created videos for guided tours and for the HTC Vive VR headset.
A challenge was to create fast 3D renderings with a high amount of details, based on old blueprints that were a bit blurred. The given scans lost some of the information and we had to combine them with pictures to get an accurate 3D Model. Adobe Photoshop was also a great tool for increasing the contrast of the drawings. Using the Levels and Contrast slides, you can remove the unnecessary brighter areas. Then export the floor-plan drawings as Jpeg to Sketchup where 3D modeling gets done. The “Suntop Homes” are heritage buildings, which require special conservation and restoration measures. Therefore, very few interventions were made to the exterior and the interior of the house.

2.Location and site plan:

The “Suntop Homes” are located in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, USA.
These are quadruple houses with clear zoning on each floor. There is a total of 210 sqm laid on three floors.
The initial plan of this real estate experiment was to build six such homes, but the WW2, high construction costs, and other reasons interrupted it.
In this project, F.Ll.Wright applied principles from his “Broadacre City” plan, a garden-based alternative to suburban and urban expansion, to rethink the notion of group housing. With the help of a pinwheel plan, each of the four units that compose the “Suntop Homes”, offers its inhabitants a private garden and sun terrace, with interior living spaces divided into four separate levels.

3.The functional layout:

The arrangement of functions is optimal for young families.
For example, the kitchen, located on the second floor has a central role. It has a panoramic view of the garden outside and the living room area on the ground floor. The design allows seeing on the upper floor terrace through a wide window. The terrace has a higher railing and good visibility from inside the house. This makes it suitable for children to play.

4.The use of materials and light:

The name “Suntop Homes” indicates a very human, warm, and protective environment. The use of wood and the exposed brick give comfort as they are natural warm materials. The interior walls are blanketed with the same natural Missouri limestone as the exterior, and rich-hued white oak flooring and millwork provide a warm contrast. Connected to the living area, the exterior can serve as an extension of the family room. The large windows and extended height of the ceiling allow more natural light into the house. Even the small spaces are comfortable and look spacious. Also, the lighting fixtures designed by F.Ll.Wright complement the general interior forms and bathe the warm colors of the wood and red brick into a very cozy atmosphere. These qualities increase also visual comfort and psychological wellbeing. This is due to the flow created by Frank Lloyd Wright between the interior and the exterior. This flow is named by the architectural theorist Thomas This-Evensen the “in-between space” in Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs.

5.The restoration challenges :

The new owner wanted to recover the original look of the house, as designed by F.Ll.Wright.
The restoration was necessary as the house was not lived in for several years and the wood balconies showed degradation due to the rain infiltrations. The roof had water leaks, that are one of the most delicate challenges in a restoration project, especially for a heritage building, where the authenticity of the original materials is key in preserving the general value of the building. The renovation project, therefore, included replacements of the missing parts by painting them the same color. You can see the interventions to some wooden elements in the attached photo.

6. Project research:

The research for this project was documented upon the original design details found in the Patent filled by Frank Lloyd Wright for the “Suntop Homes”. We also used architecture books containing the functional layout and the materials used. Also, many photos from the actual site were available and we were helped by the client with new measurements during the renovation, that allowed us to accurately model the details.

7. The software used for creating Architectural Visualizations:

The architectural 3D renderings that we created helped to visualize the original 1938 design. The renovation of one of the units of the F.Ll.Wright project was a great chance to have access to detailed information about the house. We modeled the furniture after his original drawings. We have created the main textures from scratch using the photos and mapping them on the objects. For the patterns, we used the existing house photos cropped to look seamless. The textures of the house are brick, wood, and red concrete for the floors. A significant amount of time was dedicated to studying the changes during the time since it was built. Then we tried to recreate the initial look of the house.

  • 3D Modeling in Sketchup:
We used Sketchup Pro for the 3D Modeling, due to the speed it allows in working with simple shapes. The file can be exported in several 3D Animation or Rendering software such as 3DS Max with Vray, Corona, or Lumion. The 3D model follows the original scanned floor-plans.
Our studio focuses on architectural visualizations by creating 3D photo-realistic renderings. To do this, with the complete Sketchup model, we’ve used 3DS Max. The plugins we have used with high-resolution textures are Vray and Corona. With these, you can create very good quality 3D renderings for architectural visualizations. A particular detail about the landscape is the high number of trees and plants, which requires an optimization of the PC resources. Therefore we have created Xref files with the vegetation, that allows loading the RAM only when the specific elements are being calculated. A useful plugin is Itoo Forest Pack which can scatter grass over a surface with a realistic look.
  • Walkthrough 3d Animation using Lumion:
For the architectural 3D animation we’ve used Lumion. Compared to other software, it has a very good rendering time for each of the frames. It allows creating complex scenes with a fast turn-around time. It can import the material ID from Sketchup, then add it’s own textures from a very large material library. It also has a big number of plants and trees that already have their own animation. After adding the objects, we created the walk-through by adding the camera frames. Lumion makes the camera movements between frames and then it calculates the movie. You can watch below the complete 3D animation here.

8. Sum up

In conclusion, working on “Suntop Homes” thought us many things about architectural design and it represented a great opportunity to be able to help the restoration of a well-known project. Frank Lloyd Wright planned the house with the user needs in mind. The functional layout was revolutionary for its time, as it wanted to set a new living standard, in terms of functional zoning, the relation between interior and exterior, the integration in landscape design, as well as the use of revolutionary systems for air circulation and heating.
3D Architectural Visualisations can be therefore very helpful when renovating your house or restoring a heritage building.
The resulted images can show an easy to understand preview before even starting the construction work. If there are changes, they can be easily modified in the 3D, so that the client can have the best understanding of the future project.
The 3D photo-realistic renderings are also very useful on the actual building site, as they explain with precision what the project should look like.
3D renderings and walk-through tours are great tools both for architects and clients, rich in information, time and money-savers.
We would love to contribute to future heritage restoration projects!

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