Rendering a historical building is a different challenge than rendering one that has yet to be built. For his architectural rendering of Blessed Sacrament, Jason Harlan of WDM used the original blueprints from 1951 for reference.
Schindler went on-site and measured the church to confirm whether the building’s “as-built” measurements actually matched the blueprint specifications.
“In 160-foot brick wall, there was only an eighth of an inch of variation,” Schindler smiles. He credits the craftsmen back then for the quality of their work. “Everything is built to exact detail.”
By using the measurements on the prints, Harlan reconstructed it piece-by-piece digitally just as a carpenter would have to build it physically. He starts a base for the building in Revit software. In recreating Blessed Sacrament, Harlan also had to account for the way buildings were constructed 70 years ago, for instance, the walls are solid brick — red brick on the exterior and blonde inside, instead of a brick façade over wooden framework.
The windows on the church are “very intricate,” notes Harlan. Each has mullions of stone extrusions layered over a steel frame that hold twelve panes. Even the exterior stonework around the windows is unique. “This was before mass fabrication,” he says.
Once the window assemblies were built, Harlan took photographs of the actual stained glass windows at Blessed Sacrament and imported the photos into Revit, fitting each image like a film over the digital glass of a window assembly. He takes photos of the altar and other furnishings to accurately capture the details of the space for his renderings.
Beautiful Craft Metal Lancaster series fixtures replace the former cove lighting in the sanctuary, creating a brighter space to accentuate the decorative ceiling. Eight, three-tiered pendant lights are paired to illuminate the center section and eight single pendants hang along the sides of the room. The energy-efficient lighting is well-placed to illuminate art, if it is installed in the ceiling at a later date.
Coordinating fixtures are found in the entry with coved lighting and recessed cans where needed for an overall brighter environment.
Sometimes manufacturers can provide digital 3D builds of their products like the Festival Trumpet assembly from Berghaus Organ Builders. However, not all manufacturers have that capability. If they do not, Harlan has to build those pieces of the model from scratch.
For instance, when these specialized lights were chosen for this project, Harlan called Craft Metal to inquire about getting digital 3D files of the fixtures, but the best they could provide was a flat, line drawing on a cut sheet with the overall dimensions of 42 inches wide by 54 inches tall (see image on left). From that, Harlan recreated each detail down to the stylized cross cut-outs in the metal to have a fully three-dimensional fixture.
Harlan is meticulous in his renderings, working to represent even seemingly insignificant details like metal caps over expansion joints. “The better the project is modeled,” he says, “the more accurate the drawings we can generate for construction.”
Once the model of the church was built in Revit, Harlan imported it into Lumion to give the visuals more dimension. In Lumion, layers of realistic shadows, light play over reflective surfaces, time of day, plants, people and exterior environments are added, depending on what the architect or client wishes to see.
For Blessed Sacrament, Harlan initially produced renderings of two ceiling options: a warm, wooden beamwork ceiling and an alternate with decorative panels painted white. The visuals showed that the wooden ceiling seemed too heavy and rustic, closing down the lofty space, and the white-painted panel work was too stark.
“We wanted people to walk into the church and think the ceiling had been there from the beginning,” stated Schindler. “We didn’t want details or decoration of the ceiling to seem out of place.”