Image courtesy of Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid Architects turns to Twinmotion for early design studies

April 7, 2021
One of the world’s best-known architectural firms, Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) is also among the most innovative. The firm was established by the late legendary architect Zaha Hadid, known as the ‘Queen of the Curve’ for her iconic futuristic buildings of materials like steel, concrete, and glass, characterized by their impressive curves and geometric shapes.

ZHA has long incorporated VR visualization using Unreal Engine throughout its design process. Now, it has also started using fast real-time tool Twinmotion to quickly iterate on ideas and communicate them to stakeholders.
 

Fast real-time workflows for architectural designers

ZHA works on projects of all scales, all around the world. The firm has a reputation for innovative, experimental design, in keeping with the boundary-pushing ethos of its eponymous founder.

When you’re conceiving an idea that’s completely outside the box, the challenge lies in how to convey it in a way people can understand. The ability to effectively communicate the idea early on makes it easier for others to get the creative vision behind it.

ZHA regularly looks into new technologies that might help to improve its design process and better facilitate that communication. It invested in computers very early on, and has a strong tradition of R&D to uncover innovative ways of working. Today, these span everything from digital fabrication to AI.
Image courtesy of Zaha Hadid
That spirit of exploration led the firm to real-time archviz tool Twinmotion. Adopting the software has given ZHA a fast and easy way to showcase designs within the business and to clients—but convincing its architectural designers to embrace the new tool was never a forgone conclusion.
Image courtesy of Zaha Hadid
Designers are often more familiar with traditional tools like pen and paper than CG software, so ease of use is paramount if they’re to enthusiastically adopt new ways of working. 

“With new tools like Twinmotion, real-time becomes accessible and mainstream,” says Designer Marko Margeta. “The benefits of using Twinmotion for the designers are the simplicity of the interface, the playfulness with which you can articulate your scenes, and not having to worry about all the technical aspects that real-time usually brings, like light maps, PBR workflows, or other technical details.”
Image courtesy of Zaha Hadid
These advantages have quickly seen the tool become a firm favorite at the practice, with designers freed up to spend more time adding the finishing touches that take a project from good to great. “The designer can spend his seven hours a day on the design and then it's just one hour to easily present and communicate his idea to management—and later to the client.”

Those presentations to the client are now a lot smoother thanks to a Twinmotion feature that is currently in Early Access: Presenter Cloud. Presenter Cloud enables anyone to access a Twinmotion project on a web browser on any Windows or macOS desktop from any location without downloading or installing anything, and without the requirement for high-end hardware—ideal for sharing work for review with clients in remote locations, or during the current work-from-home climate. The feature is being rolled out progressively and is currently available exclusively for commercial licensees.
Image courtesy of Zaha Hadid
“One hurdle we had in the past was that we would often need to bring a PC with us to the client's presentation, just to be able to run the project in real time,” says Margeta. “And that's where Presenter Cloud helps us, because we don't need to worry about the PC any more.”

Now, the team can just upload their project online for rendering on the cloud, then stream it back and show it on the local machine. “This helps us not worry so much about hardware limitations,” explains Margeta. “Everything's happening online. The project manager can access the model, review it, and immediately give you the feedback anytime, from anywhere.”

Take it further with Unreal Engine

Since Quixel joined forces with Epic Games, a whole world of photorealistic 3D scanned materials, textures, and objects have been made available free of charge to Twinmotion and Unreal Engine users.

Designers can use this resource to dramatically enhance the photorealism of scenes created in Twinmotion. In the most recent Twinmotion release, Quixel Megascans 3D assets and surface categories have been integrated directly into the Twinmotion library, providing easy access to new high-quality assets and materials. Assets are stored on the cloud and downloaded locally when required, which means there’s no additional overhead on the application file size.
Image courtesy of Zaha Hadid
“We were always really interested in using Quixel models, and recently they added buildings and facades which allow us to build up nice urban environments,” says Margeta. “With the Quixel integration directly into Twinmotion, it's just drag, drop, and enjoy. These high-quality models make the immersiveness and the believability of the project much stronger.”

ZHA has also readily embraced the Twinmotion Importer for Unreal Engine, another feature that is currently in Beta. This highly requested functionality enables teams to start a project in Twinmotion and finish it in Unreal Engine. Anyone can easily work with Twinmotion to develop the basic idea and when they reach the limits of Twinmotion, pass that project over to Unreal Engine to take it further.

“Early design studies always work great with Twinmotion, but as soon as a project reaches a certain threshold of complexity where it may need to have more customized, streamlined data flow or more sophisticated presentation methods, that's where we switch from Twinmotion to Unreal with the Twinmotion Importer,” says Margeta.

The integration of Quixel and features that improve interoperability like the Twinmotion Importer and Direct Link plugins are part of Epic’s drive to create a more open, better-connected AEC pipeline. It’s not surprising that a forward-thinking company like Zaha Hadid Architects should be one of the first to recognize the potential of this joined-up approach for communication and productivity.

“With the new features in Twinmotion, it actually allows the full spectrum from super simple to really complex, even procedural workflows,” says Margeta. “We’re ready to take our project to the next level and tell the right story.”
Image courtesy of Zaha Hadid

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