Daren Strange is the designer behind East Tower Design, a Shapeways Shop that boasts some beautifully designed architectural models and cityscapes from around the world. We’ve asked him about his work below, which lends some incredible insight into his design process and what it might mean for architecture.
Speaking of being illuminated about Daren’s work, we love that you can take a lamp (or even just your phone flashlight) to light his city models from below (check out his photos of it here).
Which cities have been among the most popular for customers?
I have sold more Houston and Los Angeles models. The scale of the cities was very important. I try to print the smallest buildings I can without them failing to resolve. I have tried to test most of the materials at Shapeways, determining the limits of the machines and allowing me to minimize the amount of material required. Chicago is one of the models I scaled where it really requires the space of two models to print well, and I have not submitted for sale.
How do you decide which monuments to design?
I am developing a model of New York that covers the size of 12 of the printed cities, but I am only done with three out of the twelve parts. I also have several more cities ready to be printed. If I sell 100 of the city models I will take requests, and develop more choices.
You’ve designed a few stand-alone buildings and structures. How did you decide to do that?
The choices I have made with my architectural projects is directly related to my ability to remove as much solidity as I can, in other words, skeletonize the building. If you reference my model of the John Hancock building in Chicago, and my model of the Bank of China building in Hong Kong, you can see they are perfect candidates, since they are iconic in form with either the actual structural steel in the case of the John Hancock, or configuration with the Bank of China. Currently the John Hancock building received a 67% print success which means I have to update the file for sale. I see this as a setback, but it also means that I am on the literal cutting edge of the tolerances for your machines. As a designer, that gives me an advantage.
Concerning my model of the Burj al Arab in Dubai, it is unique in its ability to remove the entire habitable space and still have a model that is easy to understand and recognize, especially with a helicopter pad with a scale helicopter. I keep this model in the corner of my office and the sun hits it directly during the day. It is absolutely stunning, and represents the future of printing for architects and owners.
What’s next for your modeling and designing?
I am experimenting with projecting real-time information onto the models, such as current weather, or traffic. The idea of having a 3D printed solid model with animated information is fascinating to me.
I am also developing a paper box with led lights to place the city models on top of.
What inspires you to design?
As to my inspiration, I love architecture. It is the ultimate in sculptured reality, and it has to provide the Vitruvian principles of firmness, commodity, and delight. The complexity of a city and all of its buildings, rivers and geography is comforting. In the same way the complexity required to produce a building is also comforting. If you have seen a working model file from the Autocad Revit software you know what I am talking about.
I am removing myself from the traditional process of architecture and hopefully inserting a useful addition for communication between architects, themselves and their clients. My endgame is consulting business where I deliver 3D printed models to architects for internal use after which they can sell them to the client, or donate them to schools. My focus in development is being able to convert a 3D file for delivery (scale 3D printed model) well within the schedule of each phase of an architectural project.
Architects use varying pieces of software to produce construction documents. Currently, the process to just “print out a building” is fraught with failure and expectations unfulfilled. The size and material demand for scale 3D printed models are prohibitive in nature, although they do not compare to traditional methods of architectural interns using exacto knives to produce paper models. I have consulted on several architectural projects, where the architects wanted a 3D printed model and ultimately the cost of production (including my fee) is the limiting factor. If I can lower the cost of the 3D print by removing irrelevant information and by skeletonizing or even hollowing an entire building I can bring the cost into play for useful models that architects will happily pay for.
We’re excited to see all that Daren will achieve with 3D architectural models. In the meantime, check out his incredible shop here, and let us know in the comments what buildings or cities you’d like to hold in your hand.