Monday, April 20, 2015

Facades - Designing Facades with a Minimal Number of Objects

I've been working to fill in some of the geometry placeholders for skyscrapers in Elkins Beach and would like to share a technique I've been using to quickly place believable facades.  I do it because I'm lazy and would like to get these buildings done ASAP, but it may also be useful for conserving cell space.

Designing facades with a minimal number of objects generally follows this pattern:
  • Find an orthogonal object with some depth to it. If you want your facade to have windows, make sure it also has some empty space in the middle.  Door frames, windows frames, primitives, and some furniture sets are good candidates.  
  • Scale this piece so that it is very wide and very tall, but also very thin.  
  • Layer other pieces into or onto your largest piece to give the image of building forms: Beams, posts, frames, etc.
For an example, we can start with a building I completed yesterday in Elkins Beach.  I started by selecting some objects I would like to play with.

For my main building frame piece, I selected Unit04.rwx as it is a cube with some depth.  For some thinner detailing that could make a believable 'wall' and window ceil, I chose wframe01.rwx.  For further detailing, I chose p1rec0100g.rwx for some simple beams in my facade. 

With these objects selected, we can begin scaling them to be very wide, very tall, and very thin, and then attempt to assemble them into a believable facade.  I scaled the Unit04.rwx to match a 10x10 meter space and scaled the wframe01.rwx to fit within that space.  Once I had this scale set, we can begin to see the facade take form:

Done! With these final objects:

# Object         Purpose           Action
2 unit04.rwx     large frames      create scale 5 5 1

2 wframe01.rwx   detail frames     create scale 4.39 3.53 4

3 p1rec0100g.rwx horizontal beams  create scale 0.5 1.85 1

All it needs is some texturing and a window panel... and we can slap it onto a building! I chose a texture theme of topgrey for the panel and ctable2 for the window frames.  There is a building near SW City Town Square Park that features these textures and I really like the colors that come out of it.

Here's an example of it in action.  Not counting windows and other detailing, this is only 7 objects for a 20x10 meter frame! 

 And the completed tower:

Designing facades with a minimal number of objects is all about experimentation.  Some things may work well, others won't. I've found that as long as the object sets I'm attempting to use have some depth, I can usually exploit them by means of scale or shear to look like believable buildings.

For example, I'm not a huge fan of the tan-colored building next to this skyscraper. The tan building uses quite a few flat pieces, which robs it of depth in some critical areas and really makes it look unsatisfying.  In this project I'm going for completion, so I don't mind these imperfections in some filler buildings -- the more important thing is the process and the learning gained for some of the more prominent buildings in the area I would like to work on.

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