Making designs look real?

Recently we had the PLACE landscape design studio coming to talk in the China seminar. In their presentation, One of PLACE Principle, Charles mentioned about their design procedures, which usually just have quick turn-around by sending the client some pictures of existing landscape, and continue for detailed design when the concept part is approved. This seems to be a rather simple way of communicating landscape design, which may not be possible for architecture design.

Responding to my question on whether he sees differences among US and China on the effort on perspectives, models, or digital 3D animation for design work, Charles acknowledged that in US this component was not automatically included. He would have to make it clear to his client that how much extra it would cost. It is the clients’ decision to pay for it or not. In China, the presentation of the design seems to be the most important part which are required in all kinds of meetings through the whole processes of the design. The assumption is that the decision makers are not professionals, and they make the project decision mainly on how it would look like in the future.

This bias on design presentation really has been really long. In my college days, several classmates who could draw well very soon received so many ‘Si Huo’ (private projects) that they were able to live ‘luxurious life’ very early. The visualization company, shuijingshi, started in early 1990s by several seniors. I also remember working with several colleagues in the small dormitory and produced five perspectives using the color spraying gun, and made a fortune of 5,000 yuan in a week! That was still the before digital time.

What goes beyond architecture design, is the need to visualize urban development at a city level. The local government officials want to show off their development achievement. I think most people know that there is a planning museum in every city in China. They started with large scale models of the whole city, and some in a way that you can walk on top of the models of the city buildings. The following is the model in Beijing Planning museum, from here.

With the development of digital media, one of my classmates has successfully started a digital GIS modeling company, Weijinghang, currently with 300 employees. The museums sometimes are not quick enough to adapt to the fast changes in Chinese cities. What he made it possible is to have a room with several projectors, it can display the city’s digital model in front of you. You can even zoom to the areas that you are most interested in and look into details.

媲美世博会沙特馆 全球最大数字沙盘诞生

This friend of mine asked me whether I can help to market his product in US. My first response was that definitely it is not possible in the US urban planning field. City government here would not be possible to spend tax dollars on displaying the urban development. Recently I heard that they won a project working with Singapore urban development authority.

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