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Kilograph Turns Unrealized Michael Graves Designs into VR Watercolor Experiences

Kilograph melds Architecture’s past and future, letting users add VR paint to unbuilt resort.

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Today, Kilograph announces the release of “Imagined Landscapes,” an immersive new virtual reality experience that explores the unrealized work of architect Michael Graves.

“Imagined Landscapes” lets participants add VR watercolors to a conceptual resort designed by Graves, turning a project into an interactive wonderland for curious visitors.

Inside Michael Graves—Watercolor Experience

The viewer is placed inside the middle of Barranco de Veneguera, a sprawling resort designed for the Canary Islands in 1999. Michael Graves & Associates created an elaborate 3.5-mile design that mixed various attractions like golf courses and beach clubs into Gran Canaria’s unique topography. While the renderings generated for the project—done in the hand-crafted style the office was famous for—offered a compelling vision, the resort never got off the ground. Now anyone can experience this vision first hand.

After a short audio tutorial, users can start teleporting to different parts of the resort. Each new area is fully interactive, beginning as an outline ready for paint. As users look at the buildings, all they have to do is pinch their fingers together to activate a paintbrush. From there, a simple up-and-down motion is all it takes to paint in the marina, waterfront or town center, putting users right in the middle of a living watercolor.

An image from the Kilograph Michael Graves VR Experience project.

“Imagined Landscapes” is the latest experiment from Kilograph’s VR Lab, designed to explore new ideas around user interaction, technology and style. With the architecture industry leaning towards photorealism, Kilograph saw a chance to play with expectations, connecting past and present into an experience full of possibilities.

“Photorealism is great, but it’s not the only way,” says Keely Colcleugh, Kilograph co-founder and CEO. “Architecture is filled with works that speak to people on an impressionistic level. ‘Imagined Landscapes’ was our attempt to bring this idea into VR, turning an illustrated past into a novel way for someone to engage with a design.”

Watercolor Effect a Kilograph R&D Product

“Imagined Landscapes” was built within Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 but the watercolor effect was perfected thanks to internal research and development at Kilograph. To get the effect the team layered elements like displacement maps, world position information, and post-processing effects together, creating a visual that mirrored Graves’ colors and style. Gesture controls were then added by using Leap Motion to produce an experience tailored to our natural instincts around movement and painting.

“Our brains expect certain things as we navigate the world,” said Runze Zhang, VR designer at Kilograph. “The more you let people use their hands, the more connected they’ll feel to the world around them. ‘Imagined Landscapes’ was a masterclass in VR navigation. We look forward to helping our clients work these techniques into future designs.”

“Imagined Landscapes” is available now on Kilograph’s site. It will also receive a public premiere at Woodbury University’s WUHO Gallery on October 2, 2019. This event is open to the public.

About Kilograph

Kilograph is a creative collective of architects, 3D artists and technologists based in Los Angeles. Through experiments in narrative, movement and aesthetics, Kilograph is cracking the code on how to make viewers deeply engage with a design. Their digital experiences have helped people and companies like Gensler, Google, Netflix and Zaha Hadid Architects tell visual stories onscreen, online and out in the world. For more information, visit: http://kilograph.com.

Architosh Analysis & Commentary

For those who have forgotten how beautiful Michael Graves’ watercolors were you will immediately enjoy the imagery in the “Imagined Landscapes” video trailer visible here

The trailer begins quoting Graves by stating: “Architecture cannot divorce itself from drawing, not matter how impressive the technology gets. Drawings are a part of the thought process of architectural design. Drawings express the interaction of our mind, eyes, and hands. This last statement is absolutely crucial to the difference between those who draw to conceptualize architecture and those who use the computer.” 

The trailer provides an overview of the project, which was built using Unreal Engine 4. The experience is wrapped in a MichaelGraves.exe file. Hardware requirements include integration of VR headsets with Leap Motion. 

This is the first time I’ve heard of such a large-scale effort to bring an unbuilt project to life, particularly using a visual effect that keeps the viewer inside a conceptual medium first known as static only but now fully animated. 

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