Commercial architecture and planning at Lowney Architecture

Often, while drinking morning coffee at my desk, I read the latest SketchUp-related stories and blog posts found by my favorite search engine and alert tool. One of these searches led me to the folks at Lowney Architecture. Their firm uses SketchUp for all types of projects -- big and small -- and they create SketchUp animations to better communicate their design ideas to clients and public agencies. Check out the case study they wrote below:

Animating the Discussion: An Oakland architecture firm uses SketchUp generated movies to improve design communication with commercial clients and general public. Lowney Architecture, www.lowneyarch.com

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how valuable is a movie? When it comes to communicating three dimensional ideas quickly, SketchUp models and animations speak volumes.

The reality of commercial architecture in today’s economic climate is one of increasingly condensed project schedules and budgets. Traditional visualization tools, such as physical models, simply take too long to produce in detail, analyze and alter. And sophisticated visualization programs like 3D Studio Max, while excellent for photo-realistic renderings and advanced animations, can be cost prohibitive, challenging to use, and incredibly difficult to master.

The Lowney crew uses SketchUp movies for projects of all types and scales, from restaurants to entire shopping centers; single family homes to mixed-use residential towers; site planning to urban planning. It is an exceptionally adaptable and scalable tool for communicating the firm’s designs to clients and public agencies.

Front View

Lowney uses Autodesk’s REVIT for technical drawings and design analysis, but BIM software is information-driven, and does not allow the free-flow process of idea generation, representation and manipulation that SketchUp’s intuitive interface enables.

The young firm’s body of work already includes a number of high profile commercial projects such as the award winning Whole Foods Market in Oakland. When Safeway Inc. engaged the firm’s design services to tackle some of their own more difficult urban redevelopment projects, using SketchUp movies to communicate design became a mainstay of Lowney’s design process.

Side view

One of Safeway’s complex mixed-commercial projects is going through the planning approval process in Oakland. The site is a triangular block bordered by College and Claremont Avenues in Oakland’s Rockridge district. An existing 27,000 SF 1960’s era Safeway and a corner gas station will be replaced by a new 50,000 SF Safeway on the upper floor, with 12,000 SF of retail shops and covered parking at street level. The goals were to create a full service grocery store for the community, to minimize visible surface parking, and to further enliven the strong pedestrian retail experience along College Avenue.

Top view

The proposed design and urban context were constructed in SketchUp and dozens of animated fly-around clips were rendered and edited together for presentation to the clients, community groups, and city officials. The movie was rendered in SketchUp and edited in Adobe Premier Elements in early 2009.

Watch additional movies and find project information on the firm’s website.

About the Author

Chris Cronin

An @Last Software alum, Chris currently manages all things Business Development for SketchUp. London-based these days, Chris can be found traveling around Europe sampling the local cuisine when he's not working.

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