How KPF is Transforming Architectural Visualization with Varjo’s Virtual Reality
KPF’s industry-leading teams are setting new standards in architectural visualization and collaboration with Varjo’s virtual reality, Twinmotion and Varjo Reality Cloud.
Benefits of VR/XR for architectural visualization:
- Offering clients and design teams a lifelike experience of the full-scale design
- Accelerated design decision-making process resulting in cost savings and saving anywhere from 5-50 % of time spent concepting
- Ability to reduce the need for physical prototypes, saving resources and cutting down waste
- Early decision-making helping to avoid unnecessary changes in the construction stage and saving time, labor, and materials
From Skyline Dominance to Pioneering Technology
Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) is one of the world’s most prestigious architecture firms, known for designing six of the world's twelve tallest skyscrapers. With offices in New York, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Seoul, and Singapore, their team of over 700 professionals typically engages with extremely large-scale and complex projects that are spearheading design innovation across the globe.
For KPF, driving large-scale, industry-leading projects has cultivated a culture that continuously strives for innovation and adoption of new advanced technologies. As a result, KPF’s teams in New York and London have been at the forefront of exploring various virtual reality solutions to optimize architectural workflows since the early days of the technology. They initially perceived VR primarily as a spatial analysis tool, but the perspective evolved into more use cases as the technology’s capabilities and visual accuracy matured.
Designers and architects are always on a quest for highest resolution, aiming to replicate the real world as precisely as possible to showcase a project’s final outcome. As the teams at KPF delved deeper into adopting immersive technologies, the limitations of earlier generation headsets became increasingly more evident.
In particular, older devices struggled with delivering the high-resolution output that KPF’s intricate projects demanded, and often stumbled when it came to compatibility with the firm’s preferred software tools. They needed a next-generation solution that could rise to the standards and bridge the gap between ideation and visualization with uncompromised fidelity.
A New Dimension in Design and Perception
The team found their match with the Varjo Aero, Varjo’s leading-edge VR headset which stood out due to its high-resolution capabilities and superior performance over competitors. With Varjo Aero’s high-precision visual fidelity, KPF can now go beyond just spatial analysis in virtual reality: they can scrutinize even the finest of details and are able to see what equates to a one-to-one representation of the real world. This level of realism holds the potential to transform both project workflows and client interactions.
“The Varjo headset significantly altered our designers’ perspective on what VR could offer,” says Andy Christoforou, Applied Research Project Innovation Manager at KPF New York. “The second we tried it, we kind of fell in love with it because it checks off all the things we needed in a headset.”
Although 3D architectural renderings have been used for many years, they’ve traditionally been confined to the two-dimensional limits of monitors or screens. VR-based visualization transcends this limitation by placing users directly into the architectural scene, offering a true sense of dimensions and reducing the need to grasp complex technical measurements. “The ability for architects to transport and immerse themselves within a virtual building model offers a unique perspective and better sensory feedback compared to viewing it on a screen or physical model,” explains Jonathan Dreyfus, Computational Practice Specialist at KPF London.
“As VR/XR technology becomes more hyper-realistic, I believe the industry will shift to use it more and more alongside traditional media. After all, why restrict yourself to a single image when you can experience a fully immersive and interactive environment?” notes Jonathan Dreyfus.
Better Feedback and Decision-Making
KPF’s London team set up a dedicated VR space for immersive client presentations. The studio is equipped with base stations and devices always ready to show clients high-immersion visualizations and help them experience projects firsthand before construction begins. This setup provides users with spatial understanding that helps with decision-making and forming feedback, elevating their understanding beyond just traditional drawings or physical mock-ups.
“Clients who try it generally express satisfaction with the experience. They’re able to pick up on details such as floor-to-ceiling height and views through windows that they might not have noticed in plans or other visuals,” Jonathan Dreyfus tells.
Through immersive visualization, clients can test design iterations, choose the best option, and save anywhere from 5% to 50% of concept time for the design teams. If the client is somewhat uncertain after reviewing conventional visuals, taking them into a VR experience can effectively dispel their doubts and expedite the decision-making process. “In some cases, a 30-minute VR session can save weeks of modeling, drafting, and presentations and translate to substantial savings,” Jonathan Dreyfus notes.
Seamless Transition to Advanced Visualization
For KPF, one of the main benefits of adopting Varjo’s virtual reality is its compatibility with various software tools like Twinmotion, Enscape, Unreal Engine, NVIDIA Omniverse, and VR plugins like Arkio and Prospect. What particularly stands out for the team is Varjo’s proactive approach in updates and support for these critical applications. “From the Varjo team, we receive instant help on upcoming updates or anything we encounter. Typically, we receive responses within minutes that either provide a solution or suggest a workaround,” says Andy Christoforou. “This level of support is one of the reasons we want to stick with Varjo. We wouldn’t want to switch to a different headset that doesn’t support all the tools we use.”
The newly released support for Varjo’s VR and XR devices in Twinmotion now offers an invaluable bridge between VR and one of the industry’s leading real-time visualization tools. Twinmotion brings many powerful features that help with depicting and narrating KPF’s projects, many of which are exclusive to the platform. It also provides an efficient gateway to projects built with Unreal Engine, enabling the teams to create even more advanced interactive experiences.
This integration has been instrumental for KPF and has streamlined existing workflows: with just a few clicks, designers can now breathe life into their architectural designs by activating Twinmotion, selecting the VR mode, and immersing themselves in their 3D models directly through their Varjo headsets.
“For us it was critical to be able to directly plug the Varjo headsets into Twinmotion in a fuss-free way. The fact that we can simply hit play and the software connects directly to the headset has been a huge time-saver,” says Jonathan Dreyfus.
Redefining VR for Professional Use with Varjo Reality Cloud
- Additional controls to central management of design iterations
- Easier design sharing between teams, colleagues and clients
- Reduced local hardware requirements for visualizing complex 3D models
KPF was the first architecture firm to experiment with Varjo Reality Cloud, Varjo’s cloud streaming service for immersive content. With Varjo Reality Cloud, KPF’s teams can upload VR/XR visualizations to the cloud, allowing colleagues and clients to then browse and stream design iterations to VR headsets or other devices regardless of time or place.
KPF’s teams were profoundly impressed with Varjo Reality Cloud and feel that its streaming quality and low latency have the potential to rival local computing. “Reality Cloud is one of my favorite aspects of Varjo’s offering. I find it to be an incredibly impressive solution, almost akin to the “Holy Grail” of VR, something that hasn’t been realized until now,” Andy Christoforou praises.
Given the shift to hybrid work, many of KPF’s designers often rely on laptops and have limited access to high-performance computers. Varjo Reality Cloud is able to bridge this gap, eliminating the need for advanced hardware setups and giving greater version control for teams to manage sharing of their latest design iterations. “The ability to easily upload large scenes to the Reality Cloud and then hop in without any concern about hardware management resolves a significant pain point for the team,” Andy Christoforou explains.
“Varjo Reality Cloud is almost akin to the "Holy Grail" of VR, something that hasn't been realized until now.”
Andy Christoforou - Applied Research Project Innovation Manager at KPF New York
Learn more about other pioneering use cases for VR/XR:
Lockheed Martin and Varjo Demonstrate Next-Gen Immersive Cloud Streaming Technology for Training
May 17, 2023
Cutting-edge Architectural Visualization Comes to Varjo Headsets with Twinmotion Support
Apr 4, 2023