Design Viz

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From a Finnish ski village that encourages its guests to ski directly from its pitched rooftop to the slopes, to a luxury villa complex in China, Design Viz goes international.

Levi ski resort, Finland

This exciting new ski resort is to be built in Levi, Finland, transforming what would otherwise be another hotel complex into a snowy piste that forms part of the landscape.

“Instead of creating design solutions that aim at dealing with snow by shovelling or moving it, we want to create a village that utilises the full potential of snow,” explains Hanna Johansson, project leader at Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) responsible for the design.

The pitched rooftop mimics a ski slope or skiable manmade mountain that guests will be encouraged to use to get to the slopes straight from the hotel doors on its top floors. “When it is caught on the faade the window frames become a living part of the landscape, adapting to changes in the weather. The light granite faade enhances the intimate relation with the nature.”

The four buildings arc around a central square to create a new bustling village plaza at the heart of the resort, which is sheltered from the wind and yet open to the surrounding landscape.

The plaza allows ice skating and music events and is connected to a bowl like yard created by the lower interior heights of the new buildings, complete with cafs and bars. The intimate atmosphere of the spaces created here contrasts the open views from the summit and makes great use of the site’s proximity to the slopes.

The project was the winning entry in a competition to transform the 47,000m ski resort and recreational space in Lapland.


BIG’s team of architects and visual designers built the model of the proposal in 3D using Rhino after several conceptual sketching stages.

The final renderings were then elaborated using Photoshop, to create the snow-topped soft curves of the undulating roofs of the four buildings and the unique character of a ski slope skyline that becomes an inhabited mountaintop.

It is yet another project by BIG that shows how much fun modern functional architecture can be.

The waterfall effect

A blend of Thunderbirds’ secret headquarters and desirable luxury villa complex, this undisclosed project for a Chinese client, perched atop a beautiful waterfall, is by architects Woods Bagot.

With three separate sites, each with unique qualities and nuances to be developed, ten images in total were needed within a frantic seven-day completion time.

The rough sketches were transformed into enough geometry for each view using Rhino, chosen as it allowed the team easy collaboration on the geometry. The final imagery was the sole responsibility of team leader Tarran Kundi so that all the images share a common style and aesthetic precedent. Rhino also enabled the rest of the team to service the office’s needs on other projects, which is crucial when working in a large practice.

The rough geometry file was exported to 3ds Max, embellishing the geometry, texture and adding lighting to each scene.

“Setup was quick for straightforwardrough texturing, some V-Ray displacement, some HDRI, and a large resolution render,” explained Mr Kundi. “In each case I did not pay extreme detail to specific shader or optimisation settings within V-Ray as the scene setup was quite rudimentary already and I knew using standard GI settings each of the ten would render out overnight on our render farm.”

The necessary render passes were saved as they would be crucial to the next stage of matte painting in Photoshop. The desired effect was not photorealism but capturing the essence and energy of the project and its juxtaposition within the outstanding natural beauty of its surroundings. Each image has hundreds of layers, many of which were modified stock imagery, composited together much like a collage.

“The time spent initially working closely with the designers was invaluable. This collaborative stage was essential in understanding the creative vision and intent,” said Mr Kundi.

“I think this is a key benefit of working in house as opposed to an external firm when working on projects with such tight deadlines.”


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