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extclrtest_tnfp.jpgThorncrown Chapel Design Study: The purpose of this design study was to recreate 100% digitally the 'essence' of a favorite architectural project, Thorncrown Chapel by Fay Jones, located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  The real challenge was creating the natural setting that the site exists within, completely in a 3D digital format. The setting is important because it is an integral part to the architectural design.

There are many shortcuts and techniques for creating natural terrains and landscapes, there are even specific programs that were tested for this process for our internal analysis of existing products and techniques currently available. 

The scene is scaled from old raster scans of blueprints, photos and referencing work by others. It is not 100% accurate in all details, we have approximated on items such as the wall sconce lamps, which we have simplified a bit due to the lack of information. Aside from recreating the 'essence' of the famous architectural project, we wanted to try and recreate everything in 3D so that I could circle around the project and even do animations. This ended up pushing our software and hardware to the limit, but it was an interesting exercise and the end result was pretty interesting. Scene is completely 3D with final exterior shot having some clouds faked into sky with PhotoShop, otherwise what you see is a digital element. (Click on images below to see larger versions.)


The white model image shows the un-textured scene with the entity meshes visible. Notice how the leaves on the bushes and trees are flat planes, this is the only real not fully 3D modeled part of the scene as it would take tremendous amounts of memory to store fully modeled leaves. Instead a flat plane is used and a material that has an image of a leaf and another image that indicates what part of the flat plane should be invisible so that only the leaf shape and color are visible.  This method can be used to create billboards of people and trees and save lots of memory, but that is not what this study was about and does not give the immersive imagery we were after. In the end we created 'mental ray' proxies (instances of the actual 3D models) of each tree/bush and placed them throughout the scene. This gave us a true 3D scene with less memory requirements for our systems.


Final architectural rendering of exterior with textures applied, the only real 2D work here is faking in some clouds in the background, and the rest of the image is how it was rendered out without post processing work done to it, outside of the clouds. In a typical project, post work is used to tweak and enhance the image, once again, this was not what this exercise was about, creating a completely 3D scene was the goal.



Interior images are un-touched and appear as they did after the software was finished rendering. These images help express the concept of a repetitive wood member structure mimicking the outside forest canopy while capturing the essence of the Roman basilica, which early Christians adapted to use as churches, thus giving the building the quality of "Church ness" without really looking like a church or chapel that you have likely seen before. That is part of the genius of this design.