Saturday, August 31, 2013

Interview – The Orangery: Point Cloud to Revit to Gaming Engine

A virtual experience to encourage greater public participation in the arts.


The building may be 18th century but the inspiration for The Orangery’s latest project is firmly rooted in the 21st century.

While The Orangery was built more than 200 years ago as a place to cultivate oranges, lemons and other exotic plants, it has been a stunning arts and conference space since 1996 when it was bought by the charity Public Arts (known as Beam).

The Grade II listed facility is currently running a three-year programme to develop the work of Wakefield artists and encourage greater public participation in the arts, with a particular focus on The Orangery. Its latest project aims to allow online visitors to take a virtual tour of the grounds, giving them the best possible experience without actually being there.

The online model was developed in Revit, a building information modelling software that allows users to design a building and its components in 3D. However, building models from scratch in the software is one thing, transferring information for existing assets is a different matter. Architects DLA needed to capture 3D digital images of the grounds and buildings for the software, and contacted Opus to help.  

The solution was to create ‘point clouds’, digital images that are captured using a laser scanner which fires out millions of laser points. The laser points measure the distance from the scanner to the surface they hit. The combination of all the measurements builds up an image of the scanned surface – almost like a 3D connect-the-dots picture.

Opus’ subsidiary Tower Surveys spent two days on site using a tripod-mounted laser scanner to build a complete picture of The Orangery. The point cloud was then given to DLA to transfer into Revit, allowing them to build a 3D model of The Orangery’s buildings and grounds.

British artist Richard Woods, known for his sculptures and innovative work with surfaces, designed a sculpture which was scanned and reproduced in Revit so that it could be accurately represented in the virtual tour.

Opus’ project coordinator Glenn Jowett, says the industry is increasingly turning to point clouds to bridge the information gap between new and existing building models.

“A lot more companies are now doing laser scans, and some are building Revit from point clouds,” Glenn says. “The innovative aspect was putting the information into a gaming engine where users are able to walk around the buildings.”

A gaming engine is the software that drives first-person experience computer games. Using the technology for The Orangery means users can experience exactly what they would see if they were actually walking around the grounds and buildings of The Orangery. Using mouse and keyboard, they can walk through Richard Woods’ maze sculpture, into the complex’s conference rooms and exhibition spaces, and even fly high above it all for a bird’s eye view.

Glenn says that projects like this one could point the way to the future. “Although, I would say that future was unimaginable to the Dowager Viscountess of Galway when she had the original Orangery built more than 200 years ago. This is an exciting development in technology, but most importantly our clients have been able to bring their vision to virtual life. It’s fantastic to be part of that vision.”

The impressive end result can be seen at

Original interview can be seen here

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