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3-D walk-through

Constructing virtual buildings

3-D rendering tool

Student Kendra Carpenter produced this computer rendering of Steven Hall’s Little Tesseract House.

We all need a reality check now and then. With new technology in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, architectural studies students are getting virtual reality checks on their designs using 3-D software and big screens.

Back in the day, students and professionals alike laboriously produced two-dimensional drawings of buildings by hand, and only experts could read them fluently. Now the new generation of drawing software allows students to produce their own plans in 3-D, says Bimal Balakrishnan, assistant professor of architectural studies. Viewing designs on a computer monitor is helpful, but bigger is better.

In the college’s newly renovated room outfitted with an 18-by-6-foot rear-projection screen, an audience of 20 can sit comfortably, don 3-D glasses and participate in a virtual walk-through of a room or building. 

“When students are creating designs, they have to deal with a lot of abstractions,” Balakrishnan says. “This technology enhances understanding of their own designs by putting them inside the project.” With this sort of experience, it’s much easier to spot, say, a lobby that is too small. And the technology makes it easy to communicate designs to clients.

Although many colleges have 3-D labs, most are restricted to research, Balakrishnan says. “You might see this sort of 3-D technology at an elaborate car show, but the architectural industry hasn’t caught up to it yet. We want to send out our graduating students ready to use it.”

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