Reflective Sculpture Design Accelerated with Visualizer Technology
December 5, 2013

Reflective Sculpture Design Accelerated with Visualizer Technology

The art of public sculpture demands that its creators demonstrate a unique ability to blend creativity with physical spaces. Matching highly developed ideas and concepts in public locations presents a challenging canvas and often, a difficult planning process.

However, when public sculpture expert Heath Satow was called upon to create an intricate piece for the University of Alaska Anchorage's ConocoPhillips Integrated Science Building, he had a design in mind and a card up his sleeve - one that enabled him to harness the power of digital technology.

Satow Sculture

"This sculpture's look needed to align with the central atrium of a science building that connects to other halls; it needed to be complex and yet somehow remain simple," said Satow. "The importance of connection in this building made me think of the term 'inflorescence' (a botany term for the flowering part of a plant, arranged on an axis, with many parts coming together to form a whole). Since the UAA Integrated Science building is an interdisciplinary 'coming together of the minds,' I used the inspiration of inflorescence as the core design for the sculpture."

To visualize his idea quickly, Satow used the Neon viewport plug-in in Rhino 5. This plug-in is based on Visualizer technology from Imagination Technologies, the same framework used to create the popular Visualizer for Maya plug-in. Neon brought real-time visualization capabilities to his project, alleviating the need for time-intensive test renders. More time meant more ideations, and with every new ideation, Satow's work became better than the time before.

"The first step was placing a panoramic photo of the science building into my scene; this was absolutely essential in getting the design right," noted Satow. "I wanted to use Neon to see exactly how this sculpture reflected the shapes and colors coming from the sky and surrounding buildings. That 'Inflorescence' fractured the images just like I imagined it would."

After establishing the environment with a virtual replica of the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, the Neon viewport was used to maximize his look development process. The ability to take on the full weight of interactive, photo-realistic graphics and speed up the visualization process with a Series2 R2100 card allows Satow to push, pull, and tweak his way to quick creative decisions.  

"I was actually able to see what my sculpture looked like from the interior of the ConocoPhillips building," said Satow. "If I saw something I didn't feel like fit, I could change it right there so my final design is as close as to the real thing as I can possibly get before production."

With his modeling process finalized, Satow's next step was to win over his clients and get ready for changes. Client critiques can be substantial, which makes look development tools like Neon essential for speeding up a brand-new design, or making quick changes in the room. 

For his 'Inflorescence' sculpture, Satow employed Neon's ability to create photo-realistic animations that rapidly addressed his client's suggestions. Whereas an 800-frame animation might take days to render in other programs, Neon cut it down to a little over an hour. And when he added in the Series2 card, Satow cut this down to 20 minutes.

"I can now render in an hour what used to take me overnight," he notes. "It's like the leap I made from cardboard models to CAD designs. With Neon, I don't have to say 'that's close enough' anymore."

Satow Sculture