A Mission Like No Other: Designing Spaceport America
Viewport Studio is a team of architects and designers based in London and Singapore. With a series of award-winning designs under their belt, a major project they took on in 2019 was designing the interior of Spaceport America.
Gautier Pelegrin, Director of Viewport Studio, shared how the Enscape and Rhino design workflow played a significant role in this dream project.
Designing something that had never been designed before
Spaceport America is based in New Mexico, United States, and is the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport. Home to some of the biggest names in the commercial space industry, it is situated on 18,000 acres. It has a rocket-friendly environment of 6,000 square miles of restricted airspace and a 12,000-foot by 200-foot runway.
The project involved designing the interior of the ground floor and its restaurant and the first floor of the spaceship control room and office.
"We were tasked with designing something that had never been designed before," explained Gautier. "We drew a lot of inspiration for the project from the spaceport's surroundings of the New Mexico desert. It's a stark and beautiful place that's rich in color and texture, so that influenced many design ideas."
Discovering new ways of collaborating with real-time rendering
Viewport Studio needed cutting-edge technology that would allow them to materialize their vision. Using Enscape for the project offered them exactly what they needed. It provided new ways of designing and effortless integration into their workflows.
The real-time rendering plugin became the studio's tool of choice for conceptualizing their ideas and visualizing their designs due to its speed and quality. Using video and walkthroughs was useful when explaining to the client why their initial requests did not work and proposing alternative solutions.
"We mocked up the barista coffee station in the middle of the space to be the center of attention for daily function. However, after reviewing it with the client and the Head of Service, we realized the staff would have difficulty reaching the customer on the other side of the table. So, we amended its dimension," revealed Gautier.
"We used an exported walkthrough on-site, and it made the client understand the importance of the position of the machines around the barista station. The station had to be free of machines so it could be used for evening events and assume a different role in the space."
Renderings also made collaborating with external teams a more effortless experience. It helped Gautier and his team work with a local botanist to see what kind of plants could be in the space. "We created renderings to test where light would hit the planters, which helped to determine whether having certain plants was feasible in certain areas."
Delivering an unparalleled customer experience
Using Enscape gave Viewport Studio the chance to deliver their project with an enhanced customer experience. Functions such as live visualizations and virtual reality gave them the option to offer things they couldn't propose before.
"The future astronauts weren't the only people we had to consider when designing the space. We knew we had to consider their families and friends who would see them off as well," explained Gautier.
This type of thinking created the 'Astrowalk,' a walkway designed for the astronauts and pilots to walk down towards their spacecraft. An opportunity for a memorable send-off before they begin their journey. This walkway features a mirrored ceiling made of interactive LED screens. Enscape's virtual reality feature helped Gautier and his team to determine if the families and friends could see the mirrored walkway from where they would be seated.
Conducting live sessions and using virtual reality resulted in better presentations and enabled design amendments to be made on the fly. Decisions were made quicker, and rendering took half the time it would've had without Enscape, which reduced the hours spent on the project.
"Enscape supported us in testing, experiencing, and presenting our concepts to the client with speed in producing media that we never experienced before. The virtual reality function quickly became a staple in all our meetings. It helped to reduce testing iterations by at least 20 percent," revealed Gautier. "It also allowed us to check the simple ergonomics of the bespoke furniture we designed, and we were confident with what we gave to the manufacturers."