Realizing a Cultural Experience Through BIM
The Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG) was founded in 2018 to combat the lack of representation of Black talent and culture in the design industry. The group is comprised of artists, makers and designers, and hosts exhibitions, project collaborations and events tailored toward “fostering the next generation of artists, makers and designers, by working with leaders of institutions, design firms, publications and manufacturers to create an inclusive design culture.”
When BADG sought to create a virtual concept show house they needed architectural and design partners to help bring their vision to life. The Obsidian Experience is as a digitally rendered 3D concept house, featuring work from more than 20 BADG creators, including architects, interior designers and artists.
The Obsidian Experience was first conceived as a virtual replacement for the show house projects that were getting canceled due to COVID. “It evolved into a concept house virtual experience for Black families to reimagine domestic life by setting it a few years into the future – similar to the concept cars that you might see at the car show,” said Nina Cooke John, one of the initiating members of the Obsidian Experience. The goal of Obsidian is to reach as many people who may not have access to high-end game engines, while still allowing them to be fully immersed. This required a lightweight, browser-hosted model that could alleviate the project’s heavy image processing.
To achieve the ambitious and challenging project, BADG worked with prominent technology partners and firms including the Autodesk Foundation, Studio Cooke John, Leyden Lewis Design Studio, and global BIM consultancy Microdesk.
BADG’s creators conceptualized their spaces with a focus on Innovation, Technology, Sustainability and Futurism. Microdesk’s Co-Innovation Lab and an Autodesk Foundation team then worked together to create the architectural shell, leveraging 3D asset management to compile the digital files and bring the project to life.
“We depended heavily on [Microdesk’s] coordination of what was technologically possible based on our vision,” said Cooke John. “[They] also looked closely at the required workflow needs and how Unity could be integrated into the project. We also used the 3D modeling skills of the Autodesk Foundation team.”
BADG’s team leveraged donated Autodesk software, including Revit®, 3ds Max®, Maya®, and BIM 360® Design to transform a collection of sketches into a realistic virtual experience. For a quicker modeling turnover, the 3D concept house was crafted in Revit and the organic elements were finished in Maya; where scenes, cameras, lights, materials and assets could be rendered together.
Microdesk consultants provided a detailed list of workflow options, software recommendations and time estimates. Later, the team shifted towards the architectural design of the house, working directly with BADG in weekly design review meetings. Microdesk led the technical decisions early on, including transferring the original Rhino file into a Revit family as a reference.
A Revit massing was then crafted with more human ratios to ensure the proportions would feel natural for the virtual experience. Ceiling heights, 3D walkable areas and other important design changes were made after BADG saw the design come to life in 3D. The central file was hosted on BIM 360 Design which allowed all of the key stakeholders to easily view updates, add notes and extract measurements, as well as, coordinate file transfers and modeling. The final rendering was completed by 3D design studio, Duke Renderings.
“Through digitalization, we implemented technologies that enabled an immersive experience,” said Microdesk Architectural Solutions Specialist, Felix Cambou. “This experience allowed us to develop a Unity workflow for future projects. Our goal is to support the industry in integrating innovative practices, new interactive technologies, immersive simulations, and provide audiences with a richer experience, while still focusing on the arts and culture” said Cambou.
The Obsidian Experience was unveiled in January of 2021 and hosted a number of live discussions and launch parties throughout February. “The project celebrates the amazing work of the designers in the Guild,” said Cooke John. “It provides a platform for discussions around the issues of representation in design as well as Black domestic life. It has broadened our reach and visibility.”
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