Valerio Dewalt Train used Unity Reflect to reimagine the Denver skyline

In just four weeks, Valerio Dewalt Train created a 1:1 scale on-site augmented reality (AR) application to showcase a 36-story skyline-altering tower before it was built. 

Founded in 1994, Valerio Dewalt Train is a 50+ person national architectural and design practice with offices in Chicago, Palo Alto, and San Francisco. The company works with a wide range of industries: institutional, educational, corporate, retail, entertainment, hospitality, and developers. That list consists of clients such as Google, Adobe, University of California, University of Chicago, and Northwestern Mutual. The company has received several awards, including being named in the Top 50 Design Firms by Architect Magazine.

Valerio Dewalt Train was tasked with designing the 36-story, 390-foot-tall Bell Tower and Bell Park Office Building in Denver, Colorado. The location and size of the tower are important to the city of Denver. To visualize how the tower will look in the Denver skyline, Valerio Dewalt Train needed to justify the design to the City and County of Denver.

Valerio Dewalt Train used Unity Reflect to reimagine the Denver skyline - bell tower

Photo credit: DenverInFill

To showcase the tower, Valerio Dewalt Train focused on using real-time 3D to geolocate the building on-site. To accomplish that, they turned to Unity Reflect to develop a 1:1 scale on-site application in augmented reality (AR). With an agile development process, Valerio Dewalt Train was able to build a prototype in less than four weeks.

Building a prototype

The idea to geolocate the tower on site was based on necessity because of its accessibility. With the construction site across the bay on an embankment, Valerio Dewalt needed to be able to see the tower from a distance at any vantage point. Creating an application in AR would help them understand the size and feel of the space at scale. 

“As a designer, iterations of a building can feel very different from one version to the next. With a 1:1 scale AR application, you can do a site walk with the client in between every iteration and get real-time feedback,” says Adam Farooq, marketing director and lead XR developer at Valerio Dewalt Train. “Cutting down on design iterations and doing QA/QC helps us save a lot of money in rework.

There were three main objectives for the project:

Develop a live real-time application for AR Decrease design and construction time by having designs geolocated on site Accelerate communication with team and stakeholders

“We chose Unity Reflect because it integrates with the software we already use like Revit, Navisworks, Rhino, and SketchUp, maintains a live connection to the original models, and allows our clients and collaborators to see changes in real-time in AR and VR,” says Farooq.

The rest of the Valerio Dewalt Train product team included Stephen Droll, principal; Ian Curtis, architectural designer and XR developer; Stephen Shatswell, architectural designer; Jacob Goble, graphic and UX designer; and Francisco Lopez de Arenosa, communications manager.

Customization and geolocation

There are different ways to create the ability to view buildings in full scale, make changes anywhere, and see it instantly on-site. One is an image-based tracking method, something SHoP Architects implemented for 9 DeKalb. Another way is to extend the real-time application through a singleton pattern class in Mapbox. This connects the real-time application to bring the building into a

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