Question…have you ever described a three dimensional element like a car or piece of art, only to see the listener’s eyes glaze over? Or perhaps you were the one who couldn’t see it? It happens all the time in my home. I will be visualizing a house and rooms in great detail, but my wife just can’t picture it. “Can you draw it for me?” she often refrains. Hence, file drawers filled with design perspectives sketched on everything from paper napkins to fine drawing paper.
Even us designers need to have three dimensional drawings to make sure we get the design right. The details are everything, from the impact of an entry, the scale and proportion of a room, how stairs connect floors, the sightlines into or through a space, to how an exterior elevation comes alive.
In the past, hand sketches were the tool of choice, and those who could draw beautifully sold their ideas on the spot. I still prefer hand-drawn or watercolor images to photo-realistic renderings. They remain more dreamlike to me, implying an idea at its infancy.That said, our talented design team at Ashton Woods use a variety of methods to bring our ideas to life. From beautifully detailed, computer generated drawings that evoke a handcrafted touch, to rather cold wire frame sketches that morph from watercolors to marker-drawn images we fill with nuanced details until the end product meets the dream. Where our drawings end, our construction team and trade partners begin, making the design dream into the design model you, literally, step into.
Google has developed a software called “Sketch-up” (It’s so easy to operate even I can use it). Now we can quickly develop a wire frame model of a room or house and examine the special relationships created within. For example, sight lines from public rooms to private spaces can be exposed, as can a transitional space that might be too big or too small to make it experiential and special.
For outside of the home, we can look at the massings of a single elevation and verify the design was carried out to create a diverse streetscape. When standing side-by-side, we want the houses to display a mix of horizontal and vertical slips that add character to the neighborhood, while allowing each facade to represent a unique architectural style.
Visit The Heritage at Crabapple, an Ashton Woods Community in Atlanta, GA
Sketch-up isn’t the only tool we have in our belt. We typically use AutoCAD to create both two-dimensional drawings to build our houses and three-dimensional models as virtual walk-throughs before a build. During this process, we add textures, materials, colors—even people. It’s amazing how powerful it is to walk through a house before it’s physically built. The ease of modifying things on the computer sets free my internal desire to continually improve things without incurring the cost or delay of a real-life model.
That’s why we have a saying here at AW, “our homes are built twice.” It’s actually a process that originated with our parent company “The Great Gulf Group” which ensures everything works together beautifully. The first build is in CAD, utilizing 3D BIM (Building Information Modeling that provides a material list), as well as a link to the design and manufacturing of structural components. Then, after what seems like a million calculations, we “build” a second time on-site with virtually no errors. I like to think this process is how we come by our inquisitiveness and our dedication to details. It’s in our DNA. From inspirational drawing to structurally accurate renderings, building every home twice is the best evaluation tool we have to make each house the best.
Visit Towne Lake, an Ashton Woods Community in Houston, TX
Now, as to what the future holds, it is anyone’s guess. At some point, the buying experience will allow for virtual walk-thrus of your house on your lot to make sure that everything is perfect with the design of your home. It will take full advantage of the orientation and views of the lot from both the interior and exterior vantage points. But then it gets scary. Fast-forward ten or 15 years, and home builders begin to sell virtual-reality goggles and cardboard boxes. Will you and your family live in a cinematic model? The images are getting that good, but that sure sounds like a nightmare to me. It all gets back to the real, genuine and authentic. The heart and the soul of a house. Nothing beats reality – and I think virtual reality will not become the home of the future.