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    Virtual Cranbrook Unites Tradition and Technology

    by Laura Clary

    In the 1920s and 30s, the famous Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen committed both his talent and his spirit to the Cranbrook Academy of Art . This pioneer of the Arts and Crafts movement served as campus architect and president of the art school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. His goal was to create an environment for master artisans and students to live and work together.

    Now that spirit of collaboration is being played out with the modern Cranbrook and its neighboring institution, Lawrence Technological University. LTU architecture students are applying computer technology to build Virtual Cranbrook.

    These days, many architecture programs are eager to enter the digital age but are concerned that it might contradict their traditions and reputation. However, the students at LTU are demonstrating that extraordinary results can be achieved, in service to architectural history, by combining their design and freehand drawing skills with computer modeling, rendering, and animation.

    These students are charged with the task of virtually recreating the architectural masterpieces of Saarinen's Cranbrook Academy of Art. They are trying not only to accurately reproduce the architectural detailing, furnishings, and artwork in 3D model form but to capture and communicate the atmosphere of the spaces.

    Pioneering spirit

    Eliel Saarinen's family immigrated from Finland to the United States following the notoriety that he received from his entry for the Chicago Tribune's design competition. Despite his second place award, Saarinen's design for the Tribune Tower was considered superior to the winner by architectural critics and other architects.

     

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    ArchWeek Photo

    The photorealism of the dining room is due not to a rendering process but to accurate portrayals of color, texture, and tones.
    Image: Ryan Grabow

    ArchWeek Photo

    The courtyard renderings use light to draw the viewer's attention.
    Image: Robert Johnson, Ron Rader, Nathan Wayne

     

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