LandARCHConcepts (3) - Case Study

Great Garden Design using IRender SU for SketchUp

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We are talking again with Graham Slocombe, a landscape and garden designer from the UK who has over 40 years of professional landscape design experience, and is a long time user of IRender nXt.  He recently entered a competition with a unique garden design that included images rendered with our new IRender SU SketchUp extension.

Hello, Graham!  It’s good to catch up with you, and thank you for giving us insight into your competition entry and for sharing some of the fantastic rendered images you produced in the process.  What was the design brief for the competition?
The design brief was to create a community garden no greater than 100m2 (just over 1,000 sq/ft), capable of stimulating wellbeing.  I chose Hodge Hill in Birmingham as the site for my competition entry.

Birmingham, England

Why did you choose Hodge Hill?
Birmingham is heavily populated, highly urbanised and ethnically diverse. Hodge Hill is an area of Birmingham where unemployment is high and poverty prevalent.  Many of the area’s residents live in post-war high rise buildings with no access to green space or gardens of their own.

What was your design philosophy?
The focus of my proposal was to provide a secure, comfortable and safe place for the community to meet, relax, and socialize.  Landscapes can positively impact our health. An outdoor environmental space, even a smaller space such as this, provides many benefits.

How did that philosophy shape your design objective? 
How landscape design can surreptitiously change lives played a big part in my design. This approach led me to develop the objective of designing a garden in a small space to positively affect community wellbeing and human health.  I wanted to create a garden that subconsciously invites everyone in regardless of ethnicity, social class, or educational level, which in turn can change attitudes to ethnicity and racism within the community.

I developed this theme in the design by drawing attention to, and focusing on our common human ancestry and unity, and our individuality and cultural diversity within the garden by including sensory elements which themselves are known to stimulate wellbeing. If one can stimulate a sense of wellbeing among people, it provides the platform from which human interaction and friendship can spring creating community and impacting wellbeing to a greater degree. The ultimate goal of the garden is to positively impact human wellbeing and community development.

Let’s take a look at how your design turned out
I want the garden to be accessible to all ethnicities and community members and to offer something for all.

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Day and Night Overview

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As well as being visually aesthetic the garden has strong sensory elements for those with impaired vison or mobility. A wheelchair access ramp allows people to descend into the lower levels without navigating steps and for this purpose one drum and one set of tubular bells is set at wheelchair height.

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Entrance Closeup – Ramp Access Clearly Signed

While the garden is overtly visual on account of colour, form and textural contrasts and associations, and movement via water, fire flame and sculpture, the elements of scent are embodied in the planting, especially the low informal hedges of Lavender and the giant Alliums, and being in raised beds these scents are closer to the visitors confined to a wheelchair.

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Raised Beds

As well as its visual appeal, the burble water jet also provides an element of noise to enhance sensory perception while simultaneously masking conversations in that space making them more private.

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Water Jet Feature

The kinetic DNA sculpture has fins which allow the sculpture to rotate in the wind and its inner design utilises this rotating movement to create subtle chimes.  The translucent coloured base pair ‘codes’ catch the sunlight in a dynamic visual way.

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DNA Sculpture Centrepiece – Day and Night Views

Tactical elements like the cool water, the various different plant textures, and the emanating warmth from the firepit when in use, are intrinsic to the garden.

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Being a committed user of our IRender nXt SketchUp extension, you took a leap of faith and started using our new IRender SU (Beta) extension.  How did that work out for you?
I think you can see from the images I’ve provided that things worked out exceptionally well. If images like this do not sell a scheme nothing will! 

IRender nXt has served me very well over the years, so I was skeptical about the new extension.  However, my confidence in IRender SU quickly grew, and I am now really very impressed by the output clarity, speed, and stability.  This project required a lot of rendering (10,000 x 3,522 resolution) and during this time I have had multiple Windows open in the background (email, visually heavy word documents, Adobe, internet searching, watching videos, creating and editing graphics, work in SketchUp, etc.) and have worked with fairly little, if any, machine lag.

Did you enhance the images further?
Yes, I work with an exceptional photographer, David Ktorza (David's website), and he does some minor editing in Photoshop.  Principally he adds some ‘moody’ character and otherwise impossible ambience to the images, like the haze around the arch globe light, or the smoke from the BBQ and the guy’s pipe at night.  Also, he expertly added the people, which otherwise I find is never really satisfactory using 3D people, and somewhat hit and miss even using high quality face-me components rendered in!  By the way, David thought the rendered images were amazing, and he is one to look at images with a critical eye! 

Part of my signature presentation style is to make the images as realistic as possible and to break away from the ubiquitous outline, transparent or silhouette people we used to add in architecture 20 years or more ago to give a sense of scale and use.  We are light years past that phase now, yet I see architects and landscape architects still doing this, and I wonder why?  Landscape design is all about creating ‘sense of place’ which is a tall order to convey from hand drawn static images.  With high quality photorealism, such as was possible with this super-fast IRender SU engine, and thus this unique engine’s ability to create multiple images so rapidly, each with dynamic day and night variations, you can really work at speed.  The resolution I rendered each image to would have taken much longer with IRender nXt.  With IRender SU, I churned out one very high quality image every 24 hours, and intrinsic to that one image are all the variations of lighting, day and night, you can possibly create.

Add the moody artistic tweaking from David with Photoshop, compile it all into a video, and in a virtually short period of time you are a whole world closer to transferring sense of place to the clients than ever before.  With this tripartite combination you can actually take clients into a scheme like this.  In an initial client facing meeting I once had a prospective client ask if he could go and see one of the gardens in my portfolio (these were rendered with IRender nXt).  I said, maybe, when it gets built – his face was a picture and he did a double take on the images looking rather confused! 

Here is a link to the video for this project

The full gallery of images and the conceptual philosophy can be reviewed on my site via this link

Thanks, Graham!  This is a very impressive project and we’re obviously excited to have received such glowing feedback from you about IRender SU.

If you are interested in IRender SU email Render Plus Support Email to request access.  30-day free trial access from early November 2021 via our Download page.

Graham Slocombe Reference Materials
A sense of place
Landscaping’s positive impact on our health
Graham Slocombe's bibliography  

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