Sunday, October 15, 2006

Falkestrasse-Coop Himmelb(l)au: Modelled in SketchUp, Rendered in Cheetah3D

A model of the famous Falkestrasse Dachaufbau by Austrian architects Coop Himmelb(l)au. A bit of judicious texture mapping and some post-processing work in Photoshop has tied the whole thing together nicely. Modelling in SketchUp, lighting, rendering and animation (see above for a fly-through) in Cheetah.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Falkestrasse - Coop Himmelb(l)au - A Model in SketchUp: Exteriors

Well, it was a dirty job, but someone had to do it...Every architecture student's wet dream, the Falkestrasse Roof Remodelling in Vienna by Coop Himmelblau.
I had been meaning to tackle this one for years – I thought it was just about the hardest thing I could set myself to model in SketchUp. And it was pretty difficult – but I succeeded with SketchUp where I'd failed with other heavyweight modellers like form•Z and LightWave. I had to work from photos out on the web – No plans or sections. And there's very little printed material – no monographs, for example – for such an iconic structure. However, a friend, Jeff Jacobs, sent me some scans of the original Architectural Review article from 1987, which contained some structural axonometrics. Not the easiest drawings to fathom, but helped tremendously in revealing 'hidden details'. I'd say, as it stands, it's about 85% accurate. I still know what needs to be put right...
As an aside, is it Himmelblau (Sky Blue) or Himmelbau (Heavenly Building)? Answer: it's both.They parenthesize the 'L' so you can have it both ways, the funsters.

One of the great things about building models is being able to see the building from unexpected angles. I love the drama of this widescreen close-up, and it gives you a glimpse through to the little-seen rear end of the development.

The same view as the previous, but rendered using HDRI in my favourite renderer, Cheetah3D. Amazing that radiosity renders like this can be knocked out in a few minutes. Well, you can on a Mac Pro. This is actually a render of a later model than the SketchUp render above it. Again, you may like to play Spot the Difference. For 'People Of A Certain Age' this view always makes me think of 'Cloudbase' from Captain Scarlet.

Again, a view you'll never get to see. Here you can see how the entire bow truss is tied back to the prismatic structure on the balcony/mezzanine level. I don't know how this is anchored, though. If you've ever thought that the whole thing looks as if it's balanced on the edge of the roof – well, that's because it is.

Finally, the classic view that everyone's familiar with, with the actual background from the original Architectural Review cover photo doing duties as an HDRI source, and setting the building nicely in its environment. A bit of judicious texture mapping to the building itself will bring it all together nicely.
If you squint, it looks quite real

Falkestrasse – Coop Himmelb(l)au - A model in SketchUp: Interiors

Again, a little-seen view from the balcony, with a good view of the canopy and folded plate. There's a light fitting at balcony level (see previous original) that I can't quite figure out. The magazine shot is here for comparison.

A view looking up at the balcony, standing in the main meeting room space (just behind the table, in fact). Since this is a SketchUp render, the shadows are extremely harsh – SU has no internal or ambient light sources, only the sun. Also this had to be rendered out in version 4.0, to counter version 5's well-known 'Shadow Volume' bug.


Taking the model into Cheetah (via FBX) we can take the lighting up to a whole new level. Again, HDRI gives us an almost luminous light quality. The 'blow outs' around the beam that braces the balcony to the canopy and around the exterior walls above the canopy are particularly convincing. I also love the light breakthrough at the back of the folded plate wher it joins the wall.
This image also has a lot of interior light sources: uplighters on the underside of the folded plate; the lamps in the 'girder light'; the fluorescent in the hallway. The neon glow on the tube, is, however, a post-render in Photoshop using layer effects. Cheetah doesn't support that lighting model yet.

Here's a try-out using Soft Shadow mapping...a bit rough, but quite effective...and it could produce a way out of the 'flickering shadow' problem.


Of course, this only works for flat, single surfaces...I wonder if SU's engineers could come up with a solution for automatic wrapping...?