Fanis Anastasiadis is a qualified Architect based in London and has been using Archicad, Cinerender and Twinmotion as his design and presentation tools of choice.
Fanis faced a challenging project he designed in Islington whilst working at Scenario Architecture, a studio focused on delivering high quality homes. The project had to take into account the small site squeezed between existing buildings in a conservation area.
Islington has a lot of restrictions, it proves very difficult to propose additions or new buildings that fall outside the norm.
Our client came to us to maximise the potential of a backyard located on a busy road, previously a pig slaughter house behind a butcher shop. Many attempts were made to create a new house there, however the plot was visible from the public highway and the conservation officers were cautious of anything that could alter the streetscape.
At some point a power station was built in front of the land, blocking the views. This created an unusual situation where the site became completely surrounded by walls with no potential for outlook. The challenge was to create a new house as spacious as possible in the now enclosed back yard.
“We always try to question the restrictions and propose something that would make sense while trying to maximise the potential of a site.”
The first thing I always do before starting to design is to ensure I have accurate information in regard to the existing site. For this project we took accurate dimensions ourselves, did a photographic survey and went on to built a 3D model. We then cross-referenced with the Google Maps model and confirmed all dimensions on a separate site visit. As the site was very small and easily accessible it was easy and cost effective to do it this way.
Another route we take for larger sites and more distant to our base of operations is to appoint a company that will follow through with a point cloud laserscan survey. Archicad’s capabilities to translate this into a model have evolved during the years and we can now get very accurate models.
Having the direct comparison between our 3D model and the Google Maps model and the actual photos gives clarity to the client and the planning officers, and allows us to have a very frank discussion about our design decisions without having to conceal anything.
Some think that showing as little as possible will raise fewer concerns. I believe we needed to show as much information as possible in a clear way so that the officers would confidently accept any innovative ideas that would take them out of their comfort zone.
At the time, Islington council would accept only drawings and some 3D sketches. Until then, officially they would not accept 3D models. With Archicad we had the opportunity to send them, unofficially, the BIMx model and attend a meeting with them with our laptops and the actual Archicad model to navigate through and address any concern they might have, even change some things on the spot to show flexibility.
“We worked with the officers in the same way we would with the clients.”
We treat the officers as another external consultant who contributes to the success of the project. BIMx has also helped us with on-site visits where we would explain in detail our proposals, navigating the 3D model and showing views of the proposal in direct comparison with the onsite existing conditions.
As the site was previously used as a pig slaughterhouse, converting to residential would not pose as a problem, however the lack of outlook and the difficulty getting light in would create obstacles when trying to maximise space. A 51m2 single room house could potentially be possible, however it would be too small for the client’s needs and would not make sense financially.
We tried to reverse engineer this by thinking how much we could get if would build the whole site and remove whatever was necessary to allow light and outlook, especially as we could not go higher than the surrounding walls due to conservation area restrictions.
This is when the capabilities of Archicad came into play, as this helped us quickly make decisions without spending too much valuable time trying to confirm compliance with regulations. The possibility for quick testing of different parameters within our main software helped us devise a strategy that can be applied to a lot of very restricted sites.
We created the following diagrammatic volumetric approach, testing the built vs unbuilt space ratio and the light penetration to the lower levels creating sunlight studies.
Many of us are designing with the help of 3D software, however there are still people that work through 2D sketches and traditional 2D drawings. Admittedly, there was an issue with the detailing of the published drawings in the early stages of 3D design software, and in turn, stopped many people from using anything other than the traditional 2D software.
“Once I started working with 3D software in Archicad 6.5, I never looked back.”
Having everything designed in 3D from the start allowed us to understand the space, the restrictions and the shortcomings, and thus optimise our design to incorporate solutions without having to rely on external consultants on every step, and just use them for the final confirmation for planning purposes.
Having all the information within the same model in Archicad allows us to visualise all the data in ways that previously could not be achieved. Instead of normal 2d plans, we combine 3D perspective cutouts making them look like a white model, with the 2d plans, using the 3D document function, or the internal cinerender engine. This makes the information accessible to the client and allows for a better understanding of the space. It also looks good for other presentation purposes (websites, awards, etc)
With constant light and sun studies from within the Archicad model, we optimised the skylights and added glazed flooring in strategic locations so that light would penetrate all the way to the lower ground level and meet the BRE criteria for different times of day and year.
Read more about the challenges Fanis faced in Interspace Project: Presentation.