Gensler, the largest design and architecture firm in the world, is known for its structural marvels, from the gleaming, 2,073-foot Shanghai Tower in China to the world’s first 3D-printed office in Dubai, printed and installed in just 17 days.
So when it came time to remodel its Los Angeles workspace, it was no surprise that Gensler was at the forefront of innovation. To create its new, sleek campus — composed of flexible workspaces, “wellness rooms” and a verdant patio — Gensler used an immersive, digital experience that’s revolutionizing the world of architectural design: mixed reality.
Gensler used SketchUp Viewer on Microsoft HoloLens, a mixed-reality solution that allows users to virtually experience and inhabit holographic designs. Developed by Trimble, a global engineering and construction technology company, the application is the first extensible, commercial Microsoft HoloLens application in the Windows Store and is quickly becoming an essential tool for faster, easier ways to create and collaborate. For many projects, mixed reality has become the new design reality, used in everything from custom staircases and medical labs to sports arenas and factory remodels.
“Mixed reality is the next evolutionary step of our ability to communicate the design product,” said Alan Robles, Gensler’s firmwide creative media leader. “One of the great things about being able to bring our design materials out of screen space and into real space is that we can interact with and evaluate our design product in context. That’s really powerful.”
Gensler used the technology to create a skybridge that connects two buildings in its recently remodeled Los Angeles office. With SketchUp Viewer on HoloLens, architects placed a holographic, glass-encased bridge on the interior wall they wanted to tear out and studied its impact.
“We could evaluate the height of the bridge panels and decide if they aesthetically met our requirements and whether we saw any problems,” said Robles. “It allowed us to make better decisions on what the ultimate product would look like.”
A longtime challenge for architects, engineers and construction pros has been communicating an envisioned space with stakeholders before it exists. They’ve gone from vellum drawings and pretty watercolors to 3D computer renderings and tiny foam models — all time-consuming to make and update, and limited in conveying end results. It’s hard to imagine a miniature office as an actual office you’ll work in. It’s tough to envision the scale, size and feel of a 3D image by looking at a 2D screen.
SketchUp Viewer puts Trimble’s popular 3D modeling software onto Microsoft’s self-contained, holographic computer, allowing people to do what Trimble calls “experiential design review.” Users can walk around a tabletop hologram and rescale, move and rotate it. They can also inhabit a 3D model on a 1:1 scale, allowing them to naturally “feel” and understand a model in a physical setting, while accessing essential building information modeling (BIM) data. BIM is the digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a structure.
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