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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Luxury Condominium Visualization Guide for Developers

Architectural Renderings and Animation

by Joseph E Trainor, DoHere Digital Technology Inc (www.DHrendering.com)

In the Canadian province where our architectural visualization firm is located, Ontario, land prices are soaring, land availability is diminishing and the provincial government has brought in legislation designed to preserve farmland and aquifers while boosting residential intensification along main transportation arteries. In light of these trends, many builders here are making the transition from developing single-family homes on large plots of land to a mix of product including detached homes, townhomes and condominiums. This means that some builders who previously utilized hand-drawn renderings are now seeking computerized, digital illustrations. Developers in the new environment need a visualization package that can help them get approvals during early stages and then move units fast at firm prices. By choosing a top-shelf rendering company, your project will be showcased to the public in its best possible light, and will be perceived as a solid investment.

Keep in mind there can be a range of options available, from freelancers all the way up to advertising agencies. One way to assess the quality of a company is to look at any windows / glass in their work. If it's all gray, the images evoke a prison feel. If there's a systematic pattern of lighting in the windows, it can look stiff and contrived. Higher end visualizers will have glass surfaces reflecting the world around the property, and the degree of transparent / translucent / opaque light flows depend on the time of day chosen.

Low Rise - With custom houses and duplexes, a perspective shot at dusk may be enough to get the job done. These show the home at a time someone would be arriving after work, with light emanating from within, looking all warm and inviting. For a new subdivision, each model usually gets a rendering for both A and B elevations. If a feature shot is desired, it can be either an aerial, or if it is a gated or branded community, then a shot of the stone wall and sign with flowers and landscaping.

Townhomes – Generally require one block perspective for each style offered, plus either an aerial overall view, or a “view from street” shot. A streetscape view can show community and family life, whereas an aerial shot shows the development in setting.

Mid-rise / High-rise Condos - Moving into condo development presents a set of new challenges. A typical condo package will be three exterior views (one aerial, two eye-level), two to five features / amenity shots (eg Lobby, Fitness, Party, Pool, Terrace), plus three to four suite interiors (Living, Kitchen / Dining, Master Bedroom, Bathroom). The price per rendering can depend on size, elevations and detailing, and a package of ten to twelve visualizations for a small to mid-size new condominium development will usually suffice, with an architectural animation added for larger condo towers / multi-tower projects.

Luxury Condominiums – At the higher end of the market, there is a greater emphasis on amenities and an exclusive lifestyle. The rendering package may not be much larger than for a regular condominium, however, to really showcase the property, indoor and outdoor animation may be required. These may be a “fly-around” exterior video and a “walk-thru / walk-through” interior animation, or one longer architectural video highlighting the building's quality features, inside and out. 

High quality architectural animations are most efficiently produced by the same company that is doing the interior and exterior renderings, as each of these can be spectacular key frames in the video, leading to much higher production values than your typical condo animation.


Process – At DoHere Digital Technology (www.DHrendering.com) we utilize 3 stages to produce high quality hyper-realistic (eg better than photo) imagery, whether animation or stills. For renderings, our client marks an approximate camera angle onto a Site Plan with a V (the point is camera location, the “V” is what the camera sees) and provides CAD files (we prefer AutoCAD 3D, 2010 or earlier). During Stage One, we produce several views of the model from close to the camera angle suggested. Our client chooses one of the views and then marks up the model image with changes, if any. Stage Two involves materials and finishes and basic lighting and landscaping. Stage Three is artwork and ambience, including people, cars, birds, clouds, lighting and shading. By working together with us during this 3-stage process, our clients provide input throughout and then receive the images they need for their businesses to succeed.

With architectural animations, we start with a Storyboard / Camera Path, then move to Key Test Frames, then to full production.

The way to producing stunning visuals starts with preparedness. First, have the design completed before you hire a company to visualize it. Changing the designs during production of a visual will increase timelines and costs. Second, feel free to ask questions and consult with your visualization partner, as the “back and forth” helps the renderers fully understand the project and the purpose of the imagery.

A strong visualization company can help you pre-sell your units to discerning buyers, and bring your projects to life! Please call today!

DoHere Digital Technology can be reached via www.DHrendering.com or 1.866.967.0868 x 369  / 1.905.513.1111 x 369

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

15th Century Chinese Architecture in Maritimes, Canada

Did China's Zheng He visit Cape Breton, Nova Scotia? 

by Joseph Trainor

When I first learned of the theory that the Chinese had visited North America (and set up a settlement on Cape Breton) almost a century before Columbus, I was a bit skeptical. The further I get into it, the more real it seems. This image below is of a model of one of Zheng He's ships, with Columbus' Santa Maria alongside as a comparison. That differential alone should make one believe it is possible that the Chinese lived in North America before Europeans did.

By the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in northern Nova Scotia, Canada, there is a peninsula on Cape Breton Island named Cape Dauphin. The cape is centred by Glooscap Mountain (aka Kelly's Mountain or Kluscap Mountain) and hosts the ruins of a settlement deemed by architect, author and amateur historian Paul Chiasson as a Chinese town from the early 1400s Ming Dynasty, which we will refer to as Fort Kluscap in this article. To learn more about Mr. Chiasson's work, visit his website www.IslandofSevenCities.com or read his book, Island of Seven Cities, where the Chinese settled when they discovered North America.

(graphic from IslandOfSevenCities.com)

If you are more interested in discovering how China was able to reach this region, read the work of Gavin Menzies, especially 1421, The year China discovered the world, and Who Discovered America; The untold history of the peopling of the Americas.

Though the most likely dating for establishment of Fort Kluscap is the 1420s or 1430s via Zheng He or one of his commanders, it is also quite conceivable that Kublai Khan's Yuan Dynasty fleet had reached Nova Scotia via the northern route that was later named the Northwest Passage. The Earth was a lot hotter before the mid-1500s, and that route could explain why the Mi'kMaq people claim the visitors said they were from the "far side of the North Pole" and also reveal how China was able to create a world map in 1418:

If the settlement pre-dates the voyages of Zheng He and Wen Zhou, then they still may have been the first Chinese to access it via the southern, Cape of Good Hope approach. A third potential route would be via circumnavigating South America and sailing north through the Caribbean.

In the late 1500s, pirate and royal lackie Martin Frobisher identified a boatload of "Chinese sailors" along the coast of Baffin island, and this was already a few decades into the Little Ice Age (circa 1550-1850), which meant the Summer window for navigation was getting smaller and smaller. He may have seen one of the final boats of the evacuation.

Putting aside your skepticism for a moment, if the walled town of Fort Kluscap was built by architects and designers, what does the shape look like to you? Viewed from the ridge above, standing on top of the mountain, looking downhill and south toward the water, is it a map of China? When one is standing on the mountain ridge above the settlement, the design would look a lot like a map of Yuan or Ming Dynasty:

Whether you look at maps of Ming Dynasty China, or modern China, the walls of the town would make a reasonable facsimile of their nation, and please remember this town was designed by the planet's premier mapmakers. If Fort Kluscap was designed to resemble a map of China, that could have two implications. One, it would be a quick way to communicate if under attack ("enemy forces massing north of Beijing") and also, if visible from sea level, could be a safety sign / symbol for Chinese sailors.

If we can surmise the northern route (through the Bering Strait, across the top of North America, then south ward along the coast of Baffin Island) was clear by the quality of the northern land mass depicted in the 1418 Ming Dynasty map, we know the planet had been fully explored by China's Yuan Dynasty long before the treasure fleets sailed under Zheng He and his commanders. Did Yuan Dynasty explorers / mapmakers found the settlement here because of the proximity to Sydney mines, or did Zheng He's fleets arrive here after sailing on Atlantic Ocean currents? Or did both occur?

This 1953 aerial clearly shows the outline of the Chinese fort, revealed after a 1952 fire burned away the forest cover. Within the baby-shaped Fort Kluscap, there may be evidence of an earlier settlement, a smaller construction still visible (green markup). 

The layout design looks similar to that of the Ming Dynasty Tombs. Have a look at these wonderful graphics:

The Xiaoling Tomb (Nanjing), above, has a design that evokes the overall feel of Fort Kluscap.

Now, look back up at the Cape Dauphin aerial. See the circle at the top right? If the original settlement (green markup) was built off the southwest edge of the circle, the landscape architecture would be almost identical to that of a major Thirteen Ming Dynasty Tombs entrance, which are all based on four quite similar designs. It may also indicate that the upper part of "the baby's" head would include tombs or at minimum be burial grounds for the exalted.

Note the Yongling Tomb above, relative to the green marked-up area further up in the Cape Dauphin aerial image. Now look at the graphic below and see that the first two designs, Xiaoling and Changling, both point north, as does the far right design, Dingling. Note that the third design is Yongling, and it points northeast, the same direction as the Fort Kluscap ruins. 

That inner gate on the inner wall serves as the "eye" or centerpiece of the design (dark red line below), and really accentuates the shape of a newborn baby or toddler, perhaps signifying to the skies the nature of sentient beings on our planet: A second inner wall is visible below the gate wall and to the left of the town site, extending north approximately where our "baby's" mouth (and/or neckline) would be:

Note the red marking at top indicates the main gate and an interior wall, while the dotted line below may be another interior wall. The above aerial photo from 1953 was taken a year after the 1952 fire which destroyed the tree cover and revealed the walls of the town. Those inclined to discredit the idea there was anything here claim that this is a firebreak built after the 1952 fire. I challenge anyone promoting this theory to google "how to build a forest firebreak" or visit wikipedia. It's all about creating a wide enough gap that flames won't jump, so a stone wall is never even considered for such an application.

With the walls in place, how would it have been viewed from the water? Could you see the town as an outline of a sleeping baby with the top of his head to the east (dawn, rising Sun) and his face to the south, both pointing to open water? Would the inner gate have been visible from afar, or only from above? It would depend on the topographical elevations, and the tree cover, and the height of the walls. If the fortified town was not intended to be hidden, the intricate design could have easily been portrayed by ensuring the southern walls were a bit shorter or on lower elevations than the northern and side walls. Is it an aerial design intended for stellar observers, or was it a nautical, "welcome home" symbol for sailors weary after long journeys? The view from sea level would tell the story of whether the town was stealthily situated or expressively designed, or both.

If viewing from a lower height makes the "baby" appear elongated and more like the shape of a grown man, then the Glooscap legend may have its roots in Fort Kluscap's unique design.

If you look at Cape Dauphin through Google satellite view today, you can see the site has become overgrown again, like in 1931. Outlines of the settlement can still be seen, if you know where to look.

Mi'kmaq First Nations legend of Glooscap Mountain

"Glooscap lay on his back, with arms outstretched and his head toward the rising sun, for 490 days and nights"

 - Mi'kmaq creation story

Is it possible the Mi'kmaq legend is connected to the hillside town? There has to be a reason why it is sacred ground, and known as Kluscap Mountain or Glooscap Mountain to the aboriginal Mi'kmaq people who live in the area. Biblical personas have turned out to be based on actual humans (www.domainofman.com), so why not New World legends? Did the magnificent giant Zheng He, commander of the largest fleet in the history of the world, personally visit or even live on Glooscap Mountain? 

Stay tuned, LOTS more to come!

Joseph Trainor works for DoHere Digital (www.DHrendering.com) and is a freelance writer, amateur hockey historian and student of standardbred horse breeding. Joe is also a perspiring songwriter and lover of inspiring architecture. His fist novel, Ari Loves Salome, was published in 2012.

Ari Loves Salome by Joseph Trainor, at Amazon.com

Further research:



Thursday, March 21, 2013

Green community in Waterloo turning heads

Victoria Common project highlights urbanism in Kitchener-Waterloo

Development features townhomes, condos and parks around a central piazza.

By:  Freelance Real Estate writer, Toronto Star

In the not-so-distant past, Kitchener was known as a blue-collar town, home to large factories that produced goods such as meat and shoes.
Now, it’s a city of “dreamers and doers,” as a glossy brochure from the economic development department tells it.
The city has successfully weathered a post-industrial transition to become a centre for innovation, home to tech companies such as BlackBerry, Google and Desire2Learn. It’s also a hotbed for start-up companies and the site of insurance, manufacturing and finance business clusters.
Along with that business transition, residential innovation is also taking place in the city, including a new project on a formerly derelict industrial site at St. Leger and Louisa Sts., surrounded by a residential neighbourhood.
Victoria Common by Queensgate Developments and Losani Homes will rise on a site that formerly housed a tannery and a panel veneer factory, and then sat vacant for two decades. The property had to be extensively remediated, with 90,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil removed and replaced.

Although the New Urbanism-style development of townhouses, condominiums, parks and piazza is in Kitchener, it is about the same distance from uptown Waterloo as it is from downtown Kitchener, in the heart of the Technology Triangle.
And although the province’s Greenbelt legislation has been spurring redevelopment of brownfields in the GTA, “it’s especially forward thinking for a municipality like Waterloo Region,” says Tim Ingold, sales manager for Victoria Common.
When it’s complete, there will be 220 townhouses and 640 condominiums on the 16-acre site. The condo buildings, built by Queensgate, will range from four to 12 storeys. Losani will build the townhouses. The project will take about a decade to build out.
Victoria Common is intended as a pedestrian-friendly community, with downtown, shopping, cultural amenities, parks and transit all within walking distance.
At the heart of the development will be the Piazza, an urban park that will feature a clock tower, concert podium, benches, café-style seating and a splash pad that will convert to a skating rink in winter.
It’s the largest master-planned community in Waterloo Region. Phase I sales opened in November with the Claridge, a four-storey condo with 77 suites.
It will be one of the most advanced green communities in Canada, with one of the largest geothermal systems in Ontario providing heating and cooling for the entire community. The vertical geo-exchange system will bore holes deep into the ground, and then pump water and glycol through tubes to draw heat in the winter and discharge heat in the summer.
Rooftop solar panels will feed the community’s electrical system, while reflective membranes on other roof areas will reduce heat gain. Natural gas generators will be used for backup when electricity from the grid is at peak rates, and exhaust heat will be recovered and fed back into the geothermal system.
Architecture Unfolded has designed the Claridge to reflect aspects of the city’s industrial past in its red brick façade and dark-paned windows.
“I think that’s a smart design for this neighbourhood,” says Ingold. “It looks like a conversion and it’s on former industrial lands.”
The condo will also raise the bar for features and finishes: the model suite and common areas are designed by Bryon Patton, the man behind many of the GTA’s most elegant condo interiors, and all units will have 9-foot ceilings.
The lobby will have the feel of an urban boutique hotel with a contemporary gas fireplace, and amenities include a party room and an exercise room with a view of the outdoor gardens.
“Our (Kitchener-Waterloo) condo market is still in its infancy and it’s really the land of opportunity right now,” notes Ingold. “A lot of these features are new to this market.”
He suggests Victoria Common will appeal to anyone from first-time buyers working in the tech sector to older parents with children attending post-secondary education in the area (the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College are all nearby).
It will also be attractive to investors, since the vacancy rate for rental units in Kitchener-Waterloo is less than 2 per cent.
With its blend of history and high-tech, a rich cultural scene, a revitalized downtown, healthy job market and affordability, Kitchener is poised to enjoy robust growth. The region of 510,000 people is expected to expand to 750,000 by 2029.
“Kitchener has the sophistication of Toronto, but a smaller footprint,” says Ingold.
Prices are much lower than in Toronto, with the Claridge condos about $100,000 less than comparable units in the big city.
VIA and GO terminals are just a few blocks away from Victoria Common, and a nearby future transit hub will include VIA, GO, Greyhound and Grand River Transit stations. Work is expected to begin in 2014 and be completed in 2017, says Ingold.
Also accessible are two malls, several parks and the Grand River Hospital. Three blocks away is a cluster of cultural amenities, including Circle in the Square arts centre, a public library and art gallery.
The downtown revitalization began almost a decade ago, starting with the modern version of its popular farmers’ market, which features goods from local farmers, artists and crafters.
Four years ago, the city started reconstructing King St., its main thoroughfare, by adding new lighting, widening sidewalks and lowering curbs to make it more pedestrian-friendly and better suited to outdoor events and festivals.
For all the progress, though, remnants of the past serve as a reminder of Kitchener’s proud industrial past. One symbol is the Kaufman Lofts, a former factory converted to residential lofts that paved the way for Kitchener’s condo market.
“The owner of the Kaufman shoe factory decided to convert it to condo lofts,” explains Rod Regier, executive director of the city’s economic development department. “It took a leap of faith, despite a study that said there was no market here for residential condos. It sold out immediately.”
Some Victoria Common residents will likely work nearby at the Tannery, a building that represents the repurposing of the 1850s Lang tannery.
It has become a dazzling, 340,000-square-foot space for tech firms such as Google, Desire2Learn, and the Communitech hub, which is home to IT, digital media, biomedical and other companies. A daycare centre, fitness centre, music school, pharmacy and restaurants are also located there.
Roland Rom Colthoff of Toronto’s RAW Design took on the task of re-fashioning the haphazard maze of old tannery buildings into a cohesive, vibrant space, with high ceilings, exposed beams and natural light.
“There’s nothing like this in North America,” says Regier. “All these start-ups have a cool space to land. With our concept of Start-Up City, we want start-ups to feel this is the best place to grow their companies.”
He’s also hoping people will see downtown Kitchener as the best place to live and work, and points out there is 5 million square feet of “grossly underutilized land” close to the Tannery that would be ideal for mixed-used development.
Based on interest in the Tannery, Regier suggests “if this rate of leasing continues, we’d be looking at 10 more of these complexes.”
Although Kitchener-Waterloo offers the opportunity to live, work and play in the same area, Regier points the city is also “exactly the same distance from Union Station as Barrie, but people don’t seem to realize that.”
Many Toronto workers see the northern city as a viable commuting option but few have considered Kitchener-Waterloo, he says.
Development: Victoria Common Phase 1, the Claridge
Builder: Queensgate Homes
Location: Louisa and St. Leger Sts., Kitchener
Description: Four-storey, 77-suite condominium that is the first building in a New Urbanism project that will include 220 townhouses and five condo buildings on 6.4 hectare (16-acre) site.
Suite sizes: One- and two-bedroom plans, with or without dens, from 490 to 915 square feet. Some units can be combined to create larger residences.
Features: Nine-foot ceilings, 6-inch squared baseboards, laminate flooring, kitchens with granite countertops, undermount sinks, Euro-style cabinetry, glass mosaic backsplash and stainless steel Energy Star appliances.
Prices: From $187,900 to $284,900. For a limited time, kitchen island with granite breakfast bar, under-mount valance kitchen lighting, potlights in washrooms and mirrored sliding closet doors are included with purchase.
Building amenities: Stylish modern lobby, party room with gas fireplace and outdoor barbecues, equipped fitness studio, bicycle storage area, security cameras in parking garage.
Sales centre: 310 Louisa St., Kitchener. Hours: noon to 5 p.m. weekends, 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, or anytime by appointment. Call 519-585-0500 or go tovictoriacommon.com.

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