Over the past ten years, KDG has delivered a variety of architectural solutions to a wide diversity of clients. But there is one result that they avoid at all costs.
One thing we never want to happen is for the client to walk into their final building and say, “Wow…I didn’t know it would look like this.”
This is why visualization plays a foundational role in the KDG architecture and design process. By helping the client envision their final goal in architectural detail, Dan and his team can mitigate the risk of a client not recognizing the project they had in mind.
“What’s in my head makes perfect sense—I can see it, I can visualize, but if I can’t communicate it in some way besides words, visualization becomes that tool to communicate design intent.”
While Pinterest images, material samples and verbal descriptions play a part in getting the design process started, many clients have trouble piecing together an imagined building project, much less being able to communicate about it with the KDG team. Even drawings often pose a challenge in helping the client determine whether KDG accurately translated their needs and desires into architecture.
“When a client comes in and you can tell they’re really struggling with looking at a piece of paper and seeing a three-dimensional reality, that’s unnerving for me. We as designers and architects have to be on the forefront of using that technology to help our clients visualize.”
KDG uses sophisticated design technology that can actually place the client in their space digitally. “When I can move them back to the computer, walk them through a model, and watch their eyes light up—‘I see it now.’”
KDG’s software not only provides a three-dimensional rendering of a client’s architecture project, but it offers a “fly-through” experience of navigating the building.
“We can tell them where they’re standing and which direction they’re looking, turn them in different directions—it’s so effective and so powerful.”
This technology allows for design tweaks at the level of the individual user. For mission-minded projects, spinning the design around allows a client to virtually go and “sit” anywhere in the auditorium to determine how to improve the “bad seat” in the house. The option of changing sun angles allows them to see what the space looks like at different times of day— is the pastor’s office getting blinded by sun at 2 p.m., his best time of day to study?
“The whole idea,” Dan says, ”is to get the client to understand what they’re investing in, as well as mitigate mistakes. By building this thing virtually, we get to sit inside it.”
The use of this technology offers a valuable opportunity for younger members of the KDG staff to offer value and build their skills. “We pursue generational diversity,” Dan says. “In our small staff of twelve, we have leadership with twenty-five-plus years of experience, but we also have a student who is an ACM alumnus and is going to Ohio State for architecture next year. He’s had two years of exposure to the technology we use on a daily basis; we’ve taken him from drawing theoretical projects in high school to real projects where he gets to use those talents immediately.”
For Dan, it’s imperative to get the young members of staff in the room with the client, contributing and playing an active role in the architecture process.
“It’s easier for me to communicate the intent when someone else who is keyed into the technology handles that part. And particularly in a church building project, these are the kids who are really sitting in the chairs. They’re going to be the next generation, so I want to know what they see and feel about the design.”
Communication and Collaboration
This sophisticated architecture technology brings its own challenges. When a client is able to take this virtual step into the space KDG has designed for them, there can be a tendency to take a deep dive into details.
“More than just three-dimensional space, you start looking at texture, color, orientation, etc. But you don’t want to go that far that quick.” With too much detail provided in the visualization, the client may have a negative reaction based more on colors of walls, or direction of sunlight, rather than to the layout that the visualization is meant to provide. At this stage in the process, Dan says, “we’re just trying to help them see the spatial qualities for now—the rest will be seen as the design process unfolds.”
Another advantage of this architecture technology is its use for church leaders in casting a vision for their congregation. KDG can set up a fly-through presentation for the leaders to help communicate goals and progress to investors, banks, and congregants in a way that is often far more effective than just a physical model.
It’s important for clients to know, Dan says, that visualization isn’t just about the bona fides of a specific software program. Most versions of this technology offer the same set of features; what’s more, they change so fast that being married to a single technological solution almost guarantees irrelevance in just a few years.
The real key, he says, is understanding how to use this technology as a communication tool with the client. Without asking the right questions, technology is just bells and whistles. It requires human expertise and experience to create an architectural solution that the client instantly recognizes when they step inside.
“Being a visionary leader, I’m asking questions that help me clearly understand what the long-term goal is. If we don’t know we’re going to the moon, we may not even know we need a rocket. Once we know our final destination, we can collaborate on ways to get there.”