The Greenwich Peninsula development is one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe and has been in the works for over 16 years. Architect Terry Farrell’s original 2004 plans have been reworked and reconfigured, with some criticism levelled at a scheme that, in the process, has seen its affordable housing further separated off from the high-end real estate. The Guardian’s Dave Hill summarises the back-and-forth nature of the project, here.
As Hill reports, Hong Kong developers Knight Dragon bought full control of the site in late 2013 with the intention of increasing the number of dwellings to 15,500 – a fact that, Hill says, may actually result in more cheaper housing in the long run. While this fits with “the story of London being colonised by the elite glass towers of foreign speculators [it] does, however, also offer some prospect of the council extracting more from Knight Dragon in terms of affordable homes and where they are sited.” At present, after nearly two decades of confusion, presenting a refreshed and unified vision for the project is no doubt a pressing concern.
To this end, Liverpool-based studio Uniform have entirely dispensed with the familiar look and feel of property development, from its cheesy videos and sleek graphics, and have instead created a multi-platform, interactive and paper-like world which includes 360-degree imagery and film. It’s an engaging vision which, given the nature of much of the creative work in this sector, is highly inventive. The project is viewable in two distinct formats – online, via greenwichpeninsula.co.uk, and as a stand-alone application which the developers will use in their marketing suite and on-site cinema.
Entering the world from the greenwichpeninsula.co.uk site, you’re initially placed high above the complex. Using the mouse you can move over the whole area – note the boats and plane – and zoom in on any of the sections that take your fancy:
Then, decide on a specific area to take a closer look at – in this case, Meridian Quays:
Click on the cross and you can then see the particular area from ground level, which enables you to scroll around in a 360-degree view:
Alongside the character design details and the charmingly blocky objects, what’s particularly nice is that while some parts of the complex bask in full sun, others areas are shown in the shade.
Here’s Upper Riverside down on the ground, for example:
Created in 3DS Max and rendered with Vray, Uniform also worked with the Flatiron plug-in, which, they explain, enabled them to work with detailed texture and lighting and reduce scene sizes at the same time.
“Preparing our models for online use was a technical challenge for us as we’re used to throwing as much detail as possible at our photo-real CG images,” say Uniform. “We chose three.js for the online version, essentially a library for WebGL, as it currently gives the best results for 3D on the web, looked nice, and was easy to get up and running with it. A project of this scale however, really pushed both three.js and our developers!
“Working with small file sizes to keep the loading times down, adjusting to work low-poly, low-detail, and with smaller texture sizes taught us to be clever with the process. To keep the style and detail in the world, we pre-baked in lighting, but this had its own problems as animated cars looked strange passing through shadows of buildings. The solution was introduce a single light in three.js that only enabled animated objects to cast shadows.”
For the standalone application, which will be used in the development’s marketing suite and on-site cinema, Uniform developed the world using Unreal. “We’ve been spending a lot of time with R&D in Unreal and how it can aid the property marketing sector for a while now, as have others who are starting to test the waters with real time visualisation,” they explain. “Most examples however, have been with modest apartment internals, not huge scale sites such as Greenwich Peninsula.”
“There’s certainly a time and a place for VR, for that fully immersive experience, but by its very nature its a single person experience,” says Uniform creative director, Nick Bentley. “We wanted to create something interactive that could reach the widest possible audience.”
A short film, below, offers a few glimpses of the work in progress. The standalone version of the Greenwich Peninsula experience can be viewed at the development’s marketing suite. A physical model, designed by Tom Dixon, is also on display. Visit the site at greenwichpeninsula.co.uk. More of Uniform’s work is at uniform.net.