Joshua Tree Residence by James Whitaker

There have been lots of articles written about my design for a house in Joshua Tree, and thousands of comments about it online. However, I realised that I haven't actually written anything about the design myself. So here's a little bit about it, direct from the horse's mouth.

Earlier this year two girls were over in LA visiting friends and while there they called in to see the producer of the last film they worked on, my client. Having some time to spare, they all went on a road trip together out to Joshua Tree to visit my client's site - about a 3 hour drive from west LA. While there one of the girls said, "you know what would look amazing here" before opening up her laptop and showing everyone one of my images of Hechingen Studio.

Back in 2010 a friend was looking to start an advertising agency in southern Germany and commissioned me to design them an office for their new startup. Sadly their startup stopped before it started and the office was never built, but since then I've been looking for the right client and site to take the concept forward. My client and their site in Joshua Tree are perfect.

The plan of the house has been designed to nestle into the rocks and topography of the site, with the containers orientated to frame views or to gain privacy from the land. For example, the kitchen is orientated to view an east-facing hillside bathed in morning sunlight, framed by a glancing view of a small hill in the foreground and a larger hill in the mid-distance. The ensuite bathrooms are generally orientated to have a rock-strewn hillside right outside, providing privacy to the occupants.

Joshua Tree Residence Site Plan with View Lines

In 3D the location of the containers that reach towards the sky vary between primarily being concerned with drawing light deeper into the plan, and sometimes being concerned with lowering the wall between one space and another. An example of this is using a sky-bound container to lower the wall between the kitchen and the living room, so that while they're separate spaces there's a sense of them being part of the same room.

The plan was carefully composed, so that when you first arrive at the house and all the doors are open, you can stand in the middle of the building and look down all of the spokes of the building. When the bedrooms are occupied large pivoted doors swing across to line through with the walls of the living room making a clean space.

In terms of the climate of the site, the temperature range isn't as great as you might expect. However, one little frustration for residents in Joshua Tree is that the wind can constantly fill your home with dust. The decked area is situated between the northernly containers to reduce this problem and gain some protection from the building and landscape, creating a comfortable, usable space.

You can see more of the project here.

Emulating the landscape of Joshua Tree by James Whitaker

Over the last few months, I have been designing a house for a private client in Joshua Tree, California. As the design developed I thought that it was something that would catch a little bit of attention in the press if I showed it in its best possible light (I never imagined it would go viral). I was already using the computer to make simple 3D maquettes and with the design locked off, it was fairly straightforward to build a detailed model of the house on the computer. The context was the real challenge. The client had provided me with a topographical site plan as a PDF, which I had been sketching over. He had also provided me with photographs of the site, but the photographs weren't quite sufficient for me to use to make some nice images of the scheme - I wanted to be able to surround the building with context, in 360 degrees, so that we could get the shadows and reflections across the building. To solve the context problem I devised this rather satisfying workflow which I thought warranted sharing.

First of all I opened the pdf in Adobe Illustrator and exported it as a DWG. I then opened the drawing in Autocad and scaled it to the right size, cleaned it up, and joined fragmented contours into continuous polylines (I later realised that this could have been done automatically in 3DS Max with SiNi plugins). This drawing was then imported into 3DS Max and each contour was raised to its correct height (this was tedious and I'm unaware of any shortcuts).

With the contours set out in 3D space I then used the Terrain Compound Object to create a surface from the contours. This generates a surface that is detailed but an ugly mesh to work with - it's all triangulated.

Joshua Tree Residence Terrain Mesh

At this point, I identified some areas around the building that where cliffs and rocks, rather than sand surfaces. I duplicated the terrain surface, drew a 2D polyline around the area that I wanted to be more detailed and cropped the landscape surface down.

Joshua Tree Residence Landscape Crop

I then took the cropped down landscape surface and retopologised it using SiNi Software's Sculpt plugin. This gave me a localised area of the landscape that was turned into a neat quad poly surface.

Next, I centred the surface's pivot point to the centre of the surface and then added a point helper to the scene and aligned it to the pivot point. This is to help align the detailed surface in the right place, later in the process.

Joshua Tree Residence Anchor Point

Now I did a quick UVW Unwrap on the surface.

Joshua Tree Residence unwrap UVW

I moved the surface to 0,0,0 in model space and exported it to Mudbox. (I found that if I didn't move it to 0,0,0 first I had difficulty viewing the mesh in Mudbox.) With the UVW mapped, nicely regular mesh in Mudbox I could work detail into it easily, before taking it back into 3DS Max and using the helper to locate it in the right place.

Joshua Tree Residence Mudbox

The final step was just to adjust the original, main landscape surface so that the detailed surfaces sat over it well. I made a bunch of rocks in Mudbox and then used Forest Pack Pro to scatter these and vegetation over the landscape.

SiNi's plugin was really the kingpin in this process. If you do visualisation work and aren't familiar with SiNi I recommend that you check them out.

Intermodal Europe by James Whitaker

Joshua Tree Residence

On Wednesday I'm going to be talking about Hechingen Studio and Joshua Tree Residence at Intermodal Europe in Amsterdam.

Intermodal Europe is the world-leading exhibition and conference for companies associated with the container and intermodal industries...

If you're in Amsterdam over the next couple of days drop me a line and we can have a beer!

Family Tree by James Whitaker

This summer was my mum and dad's golden wedding anniversary. With the whole family gathered in Liverpool to celebrate I took advantage of the moment and photographed all their sons, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren. Here's a little selection.

Australian National Maritime Museum by James Whitaker

The Australian National Maritime Museum's latest exhibition - Container: The Box That Changed The World - has just opened and Hechingen Studio is part of the show.

The photograph above is by Andrew Frolows/Australian National Maritime Museum and the model was made for the exhibition by Make Models, Marrickville, New South Wales. I believe an image of the Joshua Tree Residence is being used as well.

If you're in Sydney the exhibition is open daily 9.30am - 5pm.

Joshua Tree Press Roundup by James Whitaker

Bored Panda Facebook Post

What a crazy couple of weeks! In September I contacted Dezeen about a house that I'm designing at the minute and it ended up being their most popular article for 10 days. It went viral. Forbes wrote about it. The Metro would like to see it on Airbnb. One reader of Bored Panda thought that it would increase his chance of being abducted by aliens. CNN featured it, as did Huffington Post Deutschland, The Sunday TimesDwell, Archdaily, Elle Decoration NetherlandsCurioctopus, Curbed, Inhabitat, Casa Claudia, Ignant, Hypebeast, Design Boom, Demilked, Konbini, The Awesome Daily, Inside Hook, Plain, World Architecture Community, Mind Body Green, New Atlas, Architectura Viva, Interesting Engineering... There are a whole load more articles out there to explore but even this shortened list is very flattering. I'm looking forward to the next stage now! 

Photography on a Postcard by James Whitaker

Space Explorer Jack by Whitaker Studio

Photography on a Postcard is opening tomorrow at The Printspace and this image from my series Space Baby is going to be part of the show. For £50 you can buy a lottery ticket which guarantees you one of the prints, you just don't know which one. It could be this photo of Jack or it could be a Wolfgang Tillmans image.

All proceeds are going to the Hepatitis C Trust’s campaign to eliminate hepatitis C from the UK by the year 2030.

You can get your lottery ticket here.

ToyDrop is on a mission by James Whitaker

IMG_2970.JPG

After months of hard work and careful planning, my sister-in-law launched her shop of wonderful toys earlier this week. 

Quoting her website verbatim, she says, 

“ToyDrop is on a mission and that mission is simple: to raise a generation of kind, happy, sociable kids who grow up appreciating their things and the world around them. It's why all our toys are chosen to transcend age, gender and trends to form a collection of heirloom pieces that create conscious consumers from the very start.”

Not a bad mission to have, I’m sure you’ll agree! 

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For all the discerning architects amongst you, this jigsaw puzzle looks great!  Perfect for a small child or an architects’ office secret Santa? I get the Bank of China building, Hong Kong, and the Gerkin, London, but after that I need a little help. Any suggestions?

Creating 2D Splines in 3DS Max by James Whitaker

I've just been doing some concept design work in 3DS Max. With the design finished I needed to extract a 2D drawing that I can clean up in Autocad and then pass on to the set builders. It's a little bit of workflow that is always helpful to do with architectural projects, say when you're working on a competition, but can be a bit of a pain.

Well, I'm quite pleased with this workflow in the end. I viewed my 3D model in elevation or plan and drew splines over it using the 2.5 snap. This is pretty quick to do but can leave you with lines floating all over the place in 3D space which are then a pain to work with in Autocad. Scribe by SiNi Software has a flatten spline button, and with a click of a button your splines are all flattened to the C-Plane. Ta da!

What Paul Daniels told me about halos by James Whitaker

Paul Daniels portrait by James Whitaker

Paul Daniels was a really lovely guy to photograph. He was warm and friendly, and incredibly generous with his time. I met him in his dressing room before a show and Debbie McGee was there, repairing his jacket. There was the obligatory magician's rabbit hoping around. It was everything I could have hoped for from a meeting with the celebrity TV magician of my childhood.

As we walked down the street to where I wanted to take the portrait Paul started to explain to me the origin of the halo. He explained that back in the day sculptors started to add disks above the heads of their famous subjects to prevent their face from becoming awash with bird poo. With time this purpose was forgotten and the discs were simply associated with important people, and then in turn saints.

Now, a lot of my knowledge comes from stories like this. Often the stories are told to me in the pub where alcohol may have been consumed. Despite the world wide web being on my phone, in my pocket, I don't fact check these things. Wikipedia is not consulted. Had I referred to Google I would have found countless articles about the origins of the halo, almost none of which refer to bird excrement. But then why let facts stand in the way of a good story?

Siclone Tutorial by James Whitaker

This is a little tutorial for SiClone, a neat 3DS Max plugin that I’ve been using recently by SiNi Software - https://www.sinisoftware.com/

If you have any questions or queries please ask away in the comments section below and I'll try my best to help, and if you enjoy the tutorial please sign up to our newsletter so we can keep in touch - http://eepurl.com/cf3NM5

When I Grow Up by James Whitaker

Racing Car Driver

I want to be...

Did you ever daydream when you were little? Over the last couple of months I've been whittling away on these images for Getty, exploring the day dreaming of a toddler (our Jack). Working on them between commissions has meant progress has been quite slow and there are more images to produce for the series, but I thought I'd share the progress so far.  

Steam Train Driver
Pilot

WVWG Summer Exhibition by James Whitaker

Toddler with bucket and spade

Around the corner from where we live there's a little shop that runs a gallery of local artists' work in their window - Walthamstow Village Window Gallery. On Friday their summer exhibition is opening and Toddler with bucket and spade is going to be part of it. It's running until 3 September so there's plenty of time to see it while picking up your sourdough loaf from the shop opposite.

I am selling limited edition prints of Toddler with bucket and spade here.

Space Baby at 3DS Max London User Group by James Whitaker

Toddler in space

On Wednesday evening I'm presenting my work and, in particular the making of Space Baby, at the 3DS Max London Users Group. I'll be showing some of my workflow and how I created Jack's space suit with Marvellous Designer.

For more information go to - https://www.meetup.com/3DSLondon/

Come along and say hello over a pint.

If you've not been before you should, there's always interesting stuff being shown (this week being a perfect example) and beer - a winning combination!

Manor Avenue by James Whitaker

I've been looking forward to sharing these photographs ever since I took them. David Eland, a good friend from university has just finished this magnificent job, renovating a 5 storey town house in south London. The largest element of the design was to lower the basement by 1m to create a cavernous lower ground floor that houses kitchen and dining.

I think this is possibly the first house that I've photographed with an original Damien Hirst in it. The Hirst piece hangs above an exquisite steel and oak staircase fabricated by R E Cooke. It turns out that their main business is making specialist buckets for diggers, but they make a pretty awesome staircase.

Photograph of Kitchen by James Whitaker

The kitchen was crafted by Sebastian Cox and you can find out more about David's work on his website Ozkurt & Eland.

Photograph of Living Room by James Whitaker
Photograph of Living Room by James Whitaker
Photograph of lower ground floor by Architectural Photographer James Whitaker
A cavernous living room photographed by architectural photographer James Whitaker

Light Fields by James Whitaker

Geeky, I know. Extremely!!

I was chatting to someone last night about light fields and it reminded me just how mind blowing they are. Essentially a light field camera captures 4D light information rather than 2D like a traditional camera - rather than recording a flat image it records the light levels in a volume allowing you to do all manor of clever things in post-production.

For anyone interested in exploring the frontier but is short for time check out this video,

For anyone hungry for more intel this podcast from the CG Garage Podcast delves in deep(ish).

Inner Working by James Whitaker

This visualisation is of a proposed 8 storey office building, with retail and coffee shop at ground floor. You can compare the final image with the computer model below to see what we did in 3D. I prefer to create as much of the image as possible in the 3D model and keep photoshop work to a minimum. Partly that's just how I like to work, but it has the giant benefit that it increases our ability to adopt client changes as late into the process as possible, and minimise the impact of that one final tweak to the design.

Folding House by James Whitaker

I recently photographed this rather nice extension by Thomas & Spiers Architects in south west London. I believe the budget for the construction was relatively modest, yet they've crafted a really lovely space with a calm quality of light in it. I would happily move in!

For more information about the architects visit their website here.

5054 by James Whitaker

5054 Magazine

I've recently discovered 5054 magazine and it's well worth a look. I recommend it. Patrick Myles is in charge of art direction (previously at Blueprint and RIBA Journal) and he's done an excellent job of it. This is not your average motoring magazine.

You can see more on 5054's website and read about it in an interview with Patrick on Creative Review's website.