Kilograph Turns Unbuilt Michael Graves Design into VR Watercolor Experience
Design company Kilograph has announced the release of “Imagined Landscapes,” a new virtual reality experience exploring the unbuilt work of architect Michael Graves. Based on Graves’ personal paintings, “Imagined Landscapes” offers the first chance to add VR watercolors to an architectural project, turning a conceptual resort into an interactive experience for visitors.
As the team explains, “Imagined Landscapes” puts viewers into 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, blending attractions like golf courses and beach clubs into Gran Canaria’s unique topography. While the renderings were picturesque, providing a perfect distillation of the hand-drafted style the office was famous for, the resort never got off the ground. Now the design can be experienced firsthand.
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.
“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.”
While the majority of “Imagined Landscapes” was built within Unreal Engine 4, the watercolor effect came from internal R&D. To get a natural look, 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 created 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.”