Can Holograms Replace Traditional Architectural Model Making?

Holographic, spatial models would like to replace hand-crafted, architectural scale-mockups

Zebra's Revit Plugin looks straightforward and easy to use

Zebra’s Revit Plugin looks straightforward and easy to use

Zebra Imaging, makers of holographic prints that turn digital files into 3D visualizations, has introduced a Revit plugin-in to make printing holograms as easy as plotting D-size plots.  

Holograms have been a part of the mainstream imagination for decades. Their depiction in movies and TV have conveyed a future of technological progress for generations. Because of that mythology, the fact that quality   holograms are now available in a number of formats must mean we’re living in the future. Right?

Putting that question aside, the fact that holograms are here and their proliferation begs another  question. Aside from being maybe the perfect medium for watching sports, what more are holograms good for?

Well according to Zebra Imaging CEO Chuck Scullion, holograms have the ability to change the way we present and perceive all types of spatial data, especially in architecture.

“Holograms are new to the architecture market, but their ability to depict depth and detail in eye-catching ways are exactly what clients want to see,” said, Zebra Imaging’s President and CEO. “Immersing clients into a design will now be as simple as preparing a file for printing. The focus belongs on the design, not the process.”

Okay. So holograms might be future of architectural renderings. But how do take a Revit file and turn it into a hologram. Again, according to Zebra it’s pretty straight forward.

How's a Zebra hologram work?

How’s a Zebra hologram work?

With Zebra’s new plugin Revit users can simply export their files from a Revit-native format to the .OBJ format required to print a holographic model. Any object contained within a 3D view (and its associated materials) can be rendered into a Zebra compatible file and shipped to Zebra’s document center where it will be printed (Zebra’s prints are proprietary 2D transparencies that “project” a hologram when backlit) and shipped out globally.

Once a Zebra hologram has been received all a client needs is a proper light setup and the print. Place the print on under a light, flick on switch and viola, a hologram appears before your eyes.

While Zebra’s plan is to ultimately do away with the painstaking work of erecting scale models of buildings, it’s hard to imagine that designers and clients won’t want to preserve the tradition of scale-model making. Aside from the fact that scale models work seamlessly with our intuition of space, they also represent a form of art-object, or engineering artifact that makes the monolithic ideas of architects and engineers permanent, even if they’re never built. For that reason, and that reason alone, I think clients and architects will always preserve the work of model making.

A Frank Gehry architectural model

A Frank Gehry architectural model

While I still think model making will be a large part of the future of architecture (and some engineering disciplines) for ages, holograms are sure to take a front row seat when it comes delivering every day, easy to use representations of large constructions.

Only the largest companies may be able to afford for the astronomical fees demanded by today’s top architects (let alone the exorbitant engineering contracts required to transform their ideas into physics-straining reality). 

Maybe today’s avant-garde architects and engineers are ready to embrace holograms and use the ethereal nature of their presentation to a design’s advantage.