How SAOTA uses Lumion to enrich the collaborative process
Based in Cape Town, South Africa, SAOTA is an award-winning team of architects and designers. With projects spanning six continents, the firm’s distinctive work ranges from single residential to commercial projects in over 86 countries. SAOTA’s design philosophy is embodied in the spirit of enquiry and the desire to seek the challenges of new projects, as well as solutions that are not only unique but sustainable and timeless.
We spoke to Senior Associate Philip Bartman to find out how Lumion elevates the team’s design process, and how they utilize visualization to establish common ground and cross barriers of language.
Building realistic expectations
According to Bartman, visualization plays a number of critical roles throughout the design process. “As passionate designers, it’s important to enjoy the process of developing and conceptualizing projects. It's also important that we have fun while doing it. Lumion allows us to do exactly that. It’s a big part of our collaborative process,” he told us.
“Our studio is made up of a variety of individuals from various cultural backgrounds and we have been able to use Lumion as an artistic tool to portray our passion for cinematography and craftsmanship in our work. Whether fresh out of university or at management level, we can all share in this experience of a project, looking at it from different angles, and understanding the elements that we are working with,” he went on to explain.
The Lumion Masterclass
SAOTA relies on visualization at every stage of design, from inception to design development.
Since it’s used so frequently, the firm has established an in-house visualization department, whose responsibility it is to teach the team, grow, and collaborate with studio members to use Lumion. “The skills are constantly developing so quickly that we had to create a department that can actually capture all of this data,” said Bartman.
The team regularly comes together in what’s known as the Lumion Masterclass to share tips and tricks on the latest updates and technical developments of the program. “We have created the opportunity to come together as an office and highlight some of the brilliant skills that are being developed using the software. We often give the opportunity to much younger staff to present their findings, skills, and showcase what they have achieved,” Bartman explained.
Investigating context through visualization
These skills are put into practice right from the get-go by the SAOTA team. In the inception stage of a project, visualization is especially useful in investigating contextual considerations such as the site’s surroundings and climate.
“Our internal design process allows for critical engagement to understand the intricacies of each project and empathize with the end user and their experience. Lumion is a pivotal tool in recreating the reality of the context, climatic region, site specific elements, and landscape that impact our design thinking – ensuring that the clues we gather are documented in a tangible and realistic way in order for us to respond accordingly,” Bartman explained.
Visualization is one of those really powerful tools that transcends many languages. That's the beautiful thing about design - it's also something that brings us together.
Senior Associate, SAOTA
Making informed decisions
Once the initial research has been completed, the main aspects of the design need to be developed.
During this phase, the SAOTA team once again relies on visualization to make informed decisions about the more granular details of the project. “I think technology has developed so much over the past five to 10 years that there are very few elements that are left to question,” Bartman told us.
Lumion helps us to look at very specific things through the different design stages and it’s amazing to be able to experience that in 3D. It's been an incredible tool to help us to make informed decisions, making answering difficult questions much easier.
Senior Associate, SAOTA
Translating designs into experiences
Presenting designs to clients from all backgrounds has historically been a challenge for architects. But with the advancement of visualization, there’s a more effective way of transporting viewers inside their heads and allowing them to get a proper feel for every aspect of their design.
Making ideas a reality
A key attraction of Lumion for SAOTA is the way it enables architects to show exactly what they are imagining. Or, in Bartman’s words, “tell a story that is true and honest.” While it’s important to show the beauty and detail of a design, it’s also essential to depict the reality of it. Bartman explains, “the idea of visualization is that we bring our clients closer to a realistic expectation. For us, it isn’t about selling a dream or an idea that can't be realized because that would be detrimental and it would be a missed opportunity.”
With that in mind, it’s clear that SAOTA uses visualization as a way of illustrating what’s possible within a brief, rather than persuading clients to go in a different direction. “We've definitely used it as a tool to convince clients of ideas that we are really sure can work,” explained Bartman.
Building a connection
The benefits of visualization throughout the design process are countless. It has a unique ability to transcend borders and communicate ideas in a way that wasn’t possible little more than a decade ago. Bartman explains, “visualization is one of those really powerful tools that transcends many languages. That's the beautiful thing about design - it's also something that brings us together.”
As well as bringing people together, visualization provides an easy way of capturing the spirit of a place and sharing that with others. In the words of Bartman, “as a designer, it’s super important that what you’re imagining and what you’re dreaming is really what you want to show to your clients. Because ultimately, that is our job - we have to dream for people.”
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