Earlier this month, Graphisoft held its Building Together Design event in which it unveiled its 2023 product lineup as well as profiled several of its design customers from around the world who presented an overview of how they were using Archicad, BIMx, and BIMcloud in their projects. This article captures the presentations of three of these firms: Reflex Architects from Sweden, Tektonn Architects from China, and The Up Studio from the US. Part 2 of this article, which will be published next week, will profile Brenac & Gonzalez & Associés from France, JKMM Architects from Finland, and Earthworld Architects & Interiors from South Africa.
Reflex Architects is a Swedish architecture and interior design firm with offices in Stockholm and Gothenburg. It was established in 1999 and works on national as well as international projects. It is a long-time user of Archicad, and at the Building Design event, it described how it used Archicad's design and collaboration workflows for its Kineum project. Kineum is one of the newest high-rise landmarks located in Gothenburg, and it includes commercial and retail spaces along with a hotel, restaurants, a roof terrace, and a swimming pool. What makes it distinctive are its slanted, diamond-shaped glass roof and fishnet-patterned floor-to-ceiling glass façade, which make for some stunning interiors (Figure 1). The project was completed in 2022.
Reflex Architects attributes the successful execution of this large and complex project — it took close to 10 years and involved over 3000 people — to its use of Archicad. The tool had the intuitiveness that was needed to support early massing studies at the conceptual design phase, allowing the design team to quickly create, analyze, visualize, and test multiple alternatives (Figure 2). The use of BIMx allowed the designs to be explored by the client and the tenants of the building, enabling them to provide the feedback essential to finalizing the design. At the detailed design stage, Archicad allowed the extensive list of very specific client requirements to be incorporated into the project using properties and parameters, and its comprehensive IFC capabilities enabled the BIM model to be shared with the engineering consultants and the contractor for multi-disciplinary collaboration as well as exported to analytic software. For internal collaboration, Archicad’s Teamwork functionality allowed the design team members to share models and work seamlessly irrespective of location — which became especially critical during the pandemic.
Archicad was especially critical in the design of Kineum’s fishnet façade, which is the key feature of the building — it is symbolic of fishing nets and cranes of the old port city of Gothenburg — and the most challenging part of the project. Sustainability was a key criterion, and the façade had to be engineered to maximize the daylighting in the building and minimize its thermal dispersions. It was modeled using Archicad’s Curtain Wall tools and used highly customized profiles to create the complex three-dimensional panels that make up the façade (Figure 3). The design involved numerous technical calculations and analysis that Archicad enabled, as well as the testing of the balance between the opaque and transparent parts which was crucial to get right. The final building was able to be certified as BREEAM Excellent, which is one of the highest levels of sustainability certification in the UK and Europe.
In a presentation from a different part of the world, Tektonn Architects, a recently established architectural firm located in Chengdu, China, shared how it had used Archicad in conjunction with a rendering application, D5 Render, for the design of the Tianfu Roadshow Art Center project, which it won in 2020 through an international competition. Located on the shores of Xinglong Lake in southern Chengdu, the complex and undulating shape of the building (Figure 4) belies the notion that using a BIM application for design hinders creativity. It is an altogether spectacular piece of architecture that blends into the lakeside park and has a large column-free interior looking directly onto the water. The construction of the project was fast-tracked and took 11 months. It was completed in 2022.
The complex geometry of the project made its structural requirements very challenging, along with the coordination between the different disciplines. Archicad’s BIM approach was a great help. It allowed the model to be designed and visualized in 3D as well as 2D, supported work in multiple languages, and enabled better collaboration across different locations (Figure 5). The model provided the design team with a clear understanding of the building dimensions and the suitability and proportion of the spaces. It allowed professionals from other disciplines to have a more intuitive understanding of the design and the issues at hand, and also allowed the architectural team to effectively integrate models from other disciplines — which were received in different formats — in the design intent.
Archicad was especially critical in designing the façade of the building, which was made of GRC (glassfibre reinforced concrete) louvres that had to be properly sized and positioned to create its freeform shape (Figure 6). Archicad also allowed the design process to continue during construction with numerous detailed decisions, which was needed given the shortened construction time.
Also integral to the success of the project was the live integration of Archicad with a visualization application, D5 Render, which allowed the design team to see the impact of their design decisions in real time as well as allow the design to be clearly understood by the client and other collaborators (Figure 7). D5 Render is a real-time renderer based on ray tracing technology that was released in January 2020 by a Chinese developer, Dimension 5. Despite being so new, it has full-fledged rendering capabilities for creating professional-quality visualizations. In addition to Archicad, it includes live integration with several AEC applications such as SketchUp, SketchUp, 3ds Max, Revit, Rhino, Blender, and Cinema 4D.
The Up Studio is an architecture and interior design firm located in New York City, and it is currently focused on family homes throughout the US (Figure 8). Archicad is the main application used by the firm, and it replaced five different applications that were being used earlier. Archicad’s organized approach fits in very well with the systematic way in which the firm thinks about the design process (see https://www.theupstudio.com/architectureprocess/), which benefits the design team by providing them with more control over what can be a very chaotic process. The firm’s systematic approach also benefits the clients by preventing them from becoming too overwhelmed with information and with all the different decisions they need to make about their home.
The Up Studio finds it very powerful to be able to — right from day one of a project — work within a single program, all the way from the initial massing studies to the final visualizations (Figure 9). Doing everything in one ecosystem allows the design language to be uninterrupted, the system to be more predictable. The cost implication of any change requested by the client can be determined in almost real time. There is no need to keep switching between 2D and 3D — a transition that used to always lead to errors and omissions — which the firm was forced to do prior to adopting Archicad. Any task that is repetitive across projects is built into the Archicad template, which saves the design team a lot of time and allows them to hit the ground running with a new project rather than being overwhelmed by it.
Once the concept has been solidified for a project and the schematics are strong, the design is shared with the clients through the BIMx app, which allows them to walk around and experience their future home and provide feedback on it to the design team (Figure 10). The clients have the assurance that only when they are happy with the virtual home will it be built in the physical world, so they are guaranteed to get what they approved.
In addition to the internal benefits of adopting Archicad, the Up Studio has been excited to find that many of the consultants it is working with — the structural and MEP engineers — are embracing the single model approach and collaborating with the design team within the same model rather than relying on data exchange through IFC. They have been granted access to the Archicad model and can provide direct feedback on the architectural design as it impacts their respective disciplines (Figure 11). Issues can be resolved in real time rather than later in the design process or at the construction site, where they can be more difficult and expensive to fix.
In conclusion, the ability to do more with Archicad and with greater efficiency is allowing the Up Studio to spend more time on design, to take on more complex residential projects, and to branch into other project types like hospitality.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, providing an overview of the presentations by Brenac & Gonzalez & Associés from France, JKMM Architects from Finland, and Earthworld Architects & Interiors from South Africa.
Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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