Image courtesy of HOK

HOK on architectural visualization: aggregate, iterate, communicate

Courtesy of HOK
Ken Pimentel
For HOK, a global leader in architecture with a reputation for breathtaking design, the pursuit of outstanding visual media never ends. Unreal Engine, with its opportunities for interactive design and superior visuals, has become a key part of HOK’s pipeline. 
Image courtesy of HOK
“We want to get a feel for the space. We want to understand how it moves, how people can work with it,” says Christopher Zoog, Design Technology Specialist at HOK. “Unreal has given us a tool to be able to do that quickly, easily, and much more dynamically than we have ever done before.”
With projects ranging from high-end residential towers to hospitals and airports, HOK uses a number of software packages for design, including Rhino, SketchUp, and Revit. However, “none of them really talk to each other, and none of them are really optimized for visualization,” says Zoog.

Unreal Engine provides HOK with an aggregator, where they can import CAD data from every package and use real-time scenes extensively for decision-making and client presentations. “By getting things in the engine pretty early in the design process, we see ourselves iterating more,” says Zoog.
Image courtesy of LG & HOK
Communicating design to clients is one of HOK’s top priorities, and Unreal Engine helps them achieve that goal. “They don't have to be literate in spreadsheets and technical drawings,” says Mateusz Gawad, Visualization Specialist at HOK, “but they most definitely will understand a beautiful image and how the space will feel in the future.”

Unreal advantages

One of the biggest concerns of design firms looking to use real-time rendering with Unreal Engine is its compatibility with CAD data. “Design data is messy,” says Zoog, adding that prior to using Datasmith, the CAD import toolset for Unreal Engine, they spent a lot of time cleaning up models in preparation for import.

Zoog credits Datasmith with resolving that concern. With Datasmith, an import process that used to take three days now takes about an hour. “It's become a crucial aspect of how we do our work,” he says.
Another draw for HOK was the ability to develop and deliver new types of experiences for their clients. “We're going into Unreal and real-time environments in general to be able to deliver any kind of content, new kinds of content, in ways that we couldn't have done before,” says Greg Schleusner, Director of Design Technology Innovation at HOK.

“Unreal allows us to develop once, and be able to deploy that on multiple platforms,” says Zoog. “Having Unreal as part of a workflow has made my job exciting again.”

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