Responding to the relatively new NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 with avoidance of impact from development, this rural farm-stay project rich with aboriginal heritage and protected woodlands on site has sought to create a unique eco-tourist facility to celebrate and share the wild beauty of natural Australia.
This degree of synchronicity between the environment and the design inspired the usage of Augmented Reality in the design process to validate the proposal. The experiment would test how accurately we could locate or place our buildings among the many site constraints – and specifically in this case, perched high above the river flood plain and amongst tree canopies, work carefully towards negligible environmental impact from the design.
The project proposition is for a collection of Treehouse Pods to be positioned carefully in the natural environment, out from the escarpment and high within the tree canopies, providing a unique offer of immersion to the guest. Providing a range of Treehouses tuned to each indigenous season, the accommodation offer caters to people seeking a private getaway amongst the beauty of nature. Each pod is situated to respond to the site topography and provide minimal disruption to the existing canopy, whilst being co-located in clusters via a boardwalk system. The pod sizes are typically 18 - 24m2 in area, providing a luxuriously rustic experience, with main dining and amenities located in a separate, communal lodge.
The power of Augmented Reality as a design tool revealed itself through the exploration of placing the Treehouse Pods directly into their real-world context. Utilising a mix of technologies, Managing Director Rodney Paesler and Architecture Graduate Henry Brown were able to arrive on site, open an app and immediately see, explore and understand the scope and scale of the proposal. The Arvix interface allowed us to place individual buildings, then move, rotate and adjust heights to fine tune their precise placement within the tree branches. And using the Auggd
interface, we were able to place the communal lodge building in its proposed location accurately off site markers, then walk around and through the building design for a real world experience within the actual woodland, between trees, under their canopy and in the clearing to adjust its overall placement and outlook.
Given the inherent and purposeful relationship between the Treehouse Pods and the surrounding environment, avoiding impact by respectfully integrating into the existing environment yet retaining the design ambitions of the experience was key. This tool allowed the team to ask and answer questions early in the design process and provided the opportunity to demonstrate a methodology for environmental impact avoidance. Questions such as: Exactly where are the buildings placed between the surveyed trees? How high were the Treehouses in the tree canopies? above below or within the main foliage? Can they be better placed to avoid tree branches and avoid tree removal? Can the footings be placed to avoid damage to the ground, tree roots and rock forms? Can client, planner and ecologist see this on site as an absolute validation for avoiding impact? Can all this be tested, evaluated and solved.
Augmented Reality provided us with a powerful experience for seeing the desktop design within the real-world at full scale, in understanding the full nature of the design before it is built and allowing for changes to be made during the design process to achieve an overall better result.