Our Organic Airport
Given that we already had a transparency map we liked, we were presented with a new problem; how to produce physical geometry from a bitmap? The result would be planar, so all that was necessary was a simple extrusion of the bitmap. Instead of tediously tracing each line, we brought the document into Adobe Illustrator and used the Live Trace function to derive vector data from the raster image.
This information was exported as a .dwg file, and we used controls within form-Z to reduce the number of vertices and control the poly-count of the extrusion. The final geometry was visually pleasing and time effective.
A hierarchy of importance emerged from these approaches. For the landside roof, elements were separated both to enable workable rendering times and to allow for future edits to the surface geometry.
For the concourse roof and facades, the dynamic between 2D and 3D, vector and pixel, was used to allow us to manipulate different ideas within the most adept interface, in this case Photoshop. Both solutions offered significant time savings and workflow advantages over traditional Boolean modeling approaches.
When working on this competition project, it was critical to rapidly produce images that quickly and easily conveyed our ideas. There were circumstances in which the time required to complete a modeling operation or rendering forced us to try alternate methods.
We often found it more helpful to obtain the look or structure of an image by isolating its elements and tackling them separately rather than trying to get the perfect image from a single rendering pass. Similar to Jeremy Birn's process of rendering in layers in which one separates highlights, shadows, and color — which he described in Digital Lighting and Rendering — we separated distinct elements of the rendering to later be compiled in or produced in Photoshop.
The best example of this process can be seen in the main rendering of our concourse. Here, several elements were combined to give an overall feeling of lightness and resolution that would have been impossible to resolve in modeled geometry under the given time constraints.
The base image provided the lighting, shadows, and colors for the scene on top of which other elements could be added. Rather than using complex mapping procedures to achieve the several openings in the interior surface, we simply masked them in Photoshop to expose the winter gardens and shops behind.
Using Wacom graphics tablets, we painted in the illusion of depth; glass was rendered separately and layered in Photoshop. A traveler information screen was flat-mapped to the entire interior surface and masked in Photoshop so it would appear as an integrated element, thus avoiding the procedures associated with placing a decal.
These and other processes were combined to gain the qualities we desired in the least amount of time. The separation of distinct elements also offered reduced rendering times and flexibility for each element within the final image.
In our experience, architectural competitions are an exercise in graphic communication as much as in design. The processes of producing work for such an end require the creative manipulation of a variety of resources to accomplish architectural tasks within time constraints.
Rather than relying on a single solution, it seems prudent to judiciously allocate tasks based on the strengths and compatibility between media. Throughout the production of this airport design, we used a variety of available tools to accomplish our goal, projecting a positive and optimistic image of the future of air travel.
Michael Frederick and James Diewald developed their award-winning project while students at Miami University, working with faculty sponsors Murali Paranandi and Raffi Tomassian. They also received advice from Mark Molen of Yang Molen Design and Chad Everett of the Cincinnati International Airport. The competition was sponsored by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
A version of this article was first published in Digital Pedagogies: Partnerships in Learning 14, reprinted here with permission of the publisher, auto-des-sys, Inc.
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