Visualizing Projects in the West Indies for Remote Clients

Over the past couple of years, Morehouse MacDonald and Associates has been fortunate to establish a solid presence within two resort real estate development organizations—Four Seasons Resort Estates (FSRE) and Kiawah Partners—working, respectively, on new homes within master-planned resort communities for private clients. In our initial foray into Caribbean architecture, we have had both the privilege and challenge of working for European clients as far away as Russia.

Tackling the Distance

MMA had already developed the expertise in designing for our Boston clientele in areas remote from the cold winters of New England. And while the islands of the Caribbean are a mere three-hour jet ride from our previous theater of operation, this time our clients for these projects were nearly a day ahead of us, in eastern Europe. How to bridge the gap?

Starting with a new residence in Christophe Harbour on St. Kitts, MMA turned up the volume of output with computerized visualizations. Typically, such work may take place further into our design process, however, our European clients had high expectations that our distance would get collapsed with modern technology. We quickly met those expectations.

Our client was unclear about the three-dimensional conditions of the roof on their new home — just the roof, not the body of the house. And although we were far from being complete in our design work, they wanted to view the roof (and building) from any side and spin it around—even on their iPad.

To meet this challenge, MMA turned to software made in Finland that, at that time, was the only software in the world that could display such a 3D model on an iPad and offer real-time co-viewing. Interestingly, the product happened to be tailor-made to work hand-and-glove with our primary CAD application.

MMA used software made in Finland to push 3D models to clients in Russia so they could evaluate our designs on their computer or even their iPad.

MMA used software made in Finland to push 3D models to clients in Russia, so they could evaluate our designs on their computer or their iPad.

Over the course of the project, we continued working with our client in Russia in this manner delivering, at particular intervals, updates and enhancements to the building design as it evolved and was refined. Since the model originated from our primary CAD software, we could also geographically run accurate sunlight and shadow studies, as shown in the image below. Utilizing the Cinema 4D rendering engine inside our CAD program, the simplified-looking model (above) shown with uniform light, suddenly comes to life (below) with digitally accurate physical sunlight sources, pinpointing the precise “shadow drape” at any hour of the day, on any day of the year.

Our early conceptual model was perfect for eventually looking at daylight at all hours of the day on the house and site.

Eventually, MMA would fully merge the final model as it evolved with a very accurate ‘site development’ model partially completed by our client’s rep in the United Kingdom. The ease at which MMA can work at delivering such big data files is greatly aided by our firm’s use of our primary cloud software for project management.

From Russia to Nevis: Storytelling A Project Through Animation

Morehouse MacDonald and Associates is also working for private clients on the island of Nevis. At the Four Seasons Resort Estates, our second client from Russia possesses one of the most stunning hillside lots on which to build a new estate. The site program includes a pavilion-based layout of the main house, garage, guest house, pools, terraces, and tennis court—all on an incredibly steep site.

MMA worked alongside landscape architect and planner Henry Dowling of PLAN Studios to create a site master plan layout that positioned nearly every significant component of the building program to possess its own set of commanding views of the island and ocean beyond. Yet, while the design team could explore and experience the spatial arrangement of the built form and natural cascading landscape—using professional software tools that we have mastered—our clients over in Europe could not. Furthermore, given some limited language barriers with our European clients, the 3D visualizations became a type of universal language amongst all stakeholders.

This early stage SketchUp model, bereft of the actual lush vegetation on the site, reveals the dramatic slope and vertical dimensions of the project site.

This early stage SketchUp model, bereft of the actual lush vegetation on the site, reveals the dramatic slope and vertical dimensions of the project site.In order to tell the story of how each building component worked in relationship to each other and the site itself, MMA built a detailed site and architectural model in SketchUp. Initially, as the model came up in development, it did not possess any vegetation, which is typical of the process but in this case very revealing to the designers involved. When the MMA design team had walked the site in person it had to traverse vegetation so thick it made it difficult for the team to actually catch the views of the ocean that the finished house would possess.

A screenshot of the final QuickTime animation walk-thru movie.

A screenshot of the final QuickTime animation walk-thru movie.

In the final model a layer of vegetation, guided in placement by the landscape architect PLAN Studios, adds that final material dimension to the space of the site, furnishing the visualization with the necessary foreground and background material that brings the resultant animation to life and adds the spatial realism present in the actual site. When the final animation walk-through was fully unveiled in a GoTo Meeting with the client in Europe, landscape architect in Nevis, and MMA back in Lexington, the end result was an enthusiastic client delighted with the tout ensemble of discreet buildings and landscape terraces and pools.

Both projects are now beyond the design phase and either under construction or in construction drawing phases. In working to visualize projects for truly remote clients, MMA has further refined its technical abilities to serve such clients, adding to our capacities for both our regional and growing international client base.