Visions II

I’ve been preaching for a couple posts now that if we want to build a future we actually want, we need to go through the work of actually envisioning it. You can’t aim for a goal you can’t see, and if you can’t aim for it you’ll never get there.

So when I read that the theme for Andrew Price‘s latest Blender competition was “The Future”, I decided to follow my own advice and visualize an ecotechnic future.

aka 100+ hours[Can I go to sleep now?]

For those of you who don’t know, Blender is a free-as-in-beer, open source 3D modeling, rendering, and animation program. I’ve been dabbling for a year or so, but hadn’t really plunged in to it. This marks my first “real” finished CG still.

The Piece

My intention with this image is to show an integration between the so-called “natural” and “built environment”. In fact, my hope is to break down the false dichotomy between nature and man and demonstrate that the two are the same. Humanity is a part of the natural system. Lofty goals, those, but I am yet a Blender noob so how much of that got communicated remains to be seen.

Originally, I intended the site of this piece to be downtown Oakland (in fact, the very plaza where Occupy Oakland is camped outjust got evicted from for the second time right now) in a hundred or two hundred years. So the grasses, trees, etc are modeled after native California species and ecosystems (also – check out the California Condors!)

Fitting everything I wanted to show within the geometry of the existing space, in one single image frame, turned out to be non-feasible. I wound up ditching the plaza layout per se but keeping a couple of the existing historic buildings I’d already modeled in the background (Oakland natives will wonder at the Tribune building’s proximity to the Federal Building. I really have no explanation for that. They just wound up there. Deal.)

And if you are saying to yourself: “Say, those buildings look sorta like Earthships….” you would be totally correct. I actually interned at Earthship Biotecture for a summer a while ago so I have some hands-on experience with them. They’re doing fantastic work – I believe they’re at their Haiti project right now – I encourage you to check them out.

Huge thanks go to Kristin Haselbach, my good friend who is a professional Landscape Architect. Without her guidance and expert criticism, the layout and overall design of the scene would have little bearing on what works and looks good in the real world. All design silliness and divergence from ecological reality can be blamed on me, due to trying to fit everything into one frame or just running out of time. She blogs on garden design with a focus on natives here.

This turned out to be a much, much bigger time investment than I thought it’d be, mostly due to me having to learn a lot of fundamental skills in Blender (I mean, I didn’t even know how to UV map before this). This scene took me something like 120 hours to build.

It being my first piece I can’t bear to look at it without wanting to change everything and fix everything that looks like crap, so I’ll just launch it out there and think about something else for a while.

So now I’m looking forward to taking a break from Blender, maybe sleeping a little, and getting a big chunk of work done on the lathe project for the end of this week. (hi Pat!)

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