Friday, April 23, 2021


 This is the second post in a series on Revit light fixtures and real-time rendering with Enscape3d. The context here is my mission to explore history with BIM, one of the main activities in a project that I call “the way we build “(WWB)  Another strand of WWB looks at building trades, as in my recent work constructing a small house "brick-by-brick."

Some years ago I started modelling Robie House, by Frank Lloyd Wright. I had recently visited Chicago, done the tour, taken photos, and collected drawings on the Web. Wright liked to design everything including the light fittings. Too good an opportunity to miss.  I’m going to start with some exterior views, one of them featuring the warm glow of interior lighting and both of them using the rapid, layered image processing that I described in the previous post on St Anne’s Limehouse.

Frank Lloyd Wright was a big fan of the word “organic” (not referring to vegetables)  Exactly how did he achieve a feeling of looseness and connection-to-nature in a project like this, which is very rectilinear and crisply detailed?  Part of it is in the materials for sure. Do my layered textures help to convey this?  


Let's go inside. I had set up a view of the open-plan, living-dining floor and created Light Fixture families based on those in the photographs I took on site.  I also added a number of items from the Enscape asset library, mostly people and furniture.

The next image summarises the sequence of layers, effects and transparency masks that I used to create the final image at the bottom.  As before I was working rapidly and intuitively, trusting my judgement and mindful of the fact that the Revit model is not final, so I might want to go through this process again. Image processing is fun and gives time to reflect, away from the BIM environment, but don’t make too much of a meal of it.

By the way, the furniture here departs from Wright’s original scheme, although I have tried to select items that are sympathetic to his aesthetic, in a general way.  My goal was to explore the use of lighting families and image processing, not to spend several hours creating furniture families that replicate Wright originals.  If someone wants to go down that route, I'm open to collaboration.


I’m going to throw in a native Revit “realistic” view next.  It’s less atmospheric than my processed exteriors, but still a useful style of view, in my opinion.  For example you might want to discuss the shortcomings of the current Revit model.  Let’s suppose I was touting for collaborators to contribute to this project.  This type of view, when annotated could help to highlight work to be done while retaining a bit of a feel for the actual materials used.

Part of the magic of BIM (I think) is the ability to present the same model in so many different ways.  Photo-real renders are great, but a conventional black & white floor plan opens up another way of understanding the building. Sheets with multiple view types (plan + elevation + schedule) enable a kind of interactive synthesis.  Architects have been doing this kind of thing forever of course, BIM just sources everything from a central data store. 

As an aside, I have to say that I was slightly disappointed to see Autodesk presenting their model of Notre Dame de Paris using rendered images only.  I always think that the best way to illustrate the power of BIM is to use a variety of view styles, from axonometric section box to annotated RCP with call-out details.  No disrespect to the guys who developed my favourite software of course.


But back to Robie House.  I already mentioned the Enscape Assets in my interior shot.  When I look a that view in shaded mode, these assets don’t look so good.  It’s the usual problem of CAD mesh geometry and the visibility of all the triangulation edges.  On the people it just looks a bit weird.  One solution is to over-ride the colour of those edges. If only you could switch off "interior edges" , like we can with floors that have been shape edited to create falls.

My first thought would have been to go to the Entourage category, but for some reason Enscape Assets are all placed in “Planting”.  It’s easy enough to edit the family and change this.  I decided to switch to “Work Plane-Based” also.  I find it easier to adjust the placement of objects when this box is checked.  Also they are less likely to disappear during placement, in my experience.


I think I will do a separate post about my investigations into Enscape Assets.  Nothing very ground-breaking but I carried out some basic experiments which some of you might find interesting.

The bulkhead light in Robie house was fun to make.  As usual I went for medium LOD.  Just enough geometry to look like a typical Wright “circle in square” design.  One of the logos he invented integrates circle, square and cross.  A hint at the Celtic origins he liked to embrace.


I'm going to finish with a pair of images that are less highly processed.  They are both from the same viewpoint but the time of day has been changed so that one of them has sunlight casting across the room at a very low angle.  I have also added a floor-standing lamp of my own invention but somewhat in harmony with the Wright style.  The purpose of this new lamp is to introduce points of interest where things were a bit too bland for my "inner eye".

The upper image fades to grey from right to left.  This creates an interesting effect in the view through the windows on the left side, almost like a pen & ink landscape with distant hills and a misty plane in the middle ground (Wright's beloved Prairie perhaps)

The lower image has a very different feel. There is no sunlight and we are much more conscious of being indoors.  The exterior looks more urban with its muted colours and with subtle reflections of the internal lights.  The processing in this case involves blurring of the image towards both top and bottom, like a depth-of-field effect. So our eyes are drawn to the sharper portion of the image which is a horizontal strip in the middle.  This tends to emphasize the horizontality which characterises Wright's Prairie Style, and it pulls the focus to the heavy masonry of the fireplace which he loved to place at the heart of his homes.

So there you go.  Enscape 3d and artificial lighting as tools in my armory as I explore "the Way We Build" ... pursuing my passion for the history of building, using the power of BIM.


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