Design-Build Team Projects
The Studio at The Bellevue Collection
a unique take on selling large-scale office and residential space
Our Story Begins Way Back in the 1970’s in New York City. As it was then and as it is today, there is always a challenge in pre-selling space in mixed use, large-scale developments. Whether we’re talking about buildings, office space, retail or residential units, people have a hard time visualizing what things will look like prior to them being built.
Back in 1970’s NYC, there was a waterfront property that no one had successfully been able to develop until an ingenious salesman came up with a unique idea. The developer’s sales office would create large-scale models of the entire development, with illustration posters and graphics to show potential clients what the commercial or residential space looked like completed. Potential buyers would be able to visualize exactly what their space would look like, including their view depending on which floor they might be occupying. At the end of the day, the developer was able to secure commitments from clients at a much higher percentage prior to construction – something other previous attempts were unable to achieve.
Pre-selling space has always been challenging and generally building space is leased, rented or sold after they are built. This puts more upfront costs on the developer and dictates the terms that the banks offer the developer for financing the project.
For this large-scale 1970’s-era development, securing upfront commitments allowed the developer to get much better terms from the bank and made a huge difference in the success of the project.
We bring up this story because it was relayed to us by the principal of the Freeman Development Company, who in turn brought each of our companies into their expansion project. The setting of this mega-development project takes place in Bellevue, Washington and it was the vision of Mr. Freeman that guided our work together, a collaboration that truly defines where technology meets design.
Cecil H . Schmidt III As the client’s brand agency we already knew the client intimately and have a close working relationship with the owner and his VP of Marketing, Jennifer Leavitt. The Freeman Development Company tasked us with creating a space where sales and staff could present visualizations to a wide range of potential buyers and community stakeholders – office space, retail, restaurants, residential – and yet remain high design and high touch without information clutter.
After establishing the client’s requirements and working in-house developing clear concept touchstones, we began working on the storytelling for each product category, while the Environmental Design team began pre-visualizing the space using 2D and 3D CAD tools.
After much distillation, we began to see that if we visualized the physical space as a living magazine, we could begin to program core brand elements physically and use technology to add the non-linear storytelling provided by the magazine idea. We further distilled the concept to develop completely non-proprietary tools to drive the technology and add a plasticity and intuitiveness for the users.
At this point we were introduced to the client’s technology vendor Definitive. Their deep understanding of custom audiophile and videophile installation and equipment was critical to the success of The Studio.
Tony Welch I have known the Freeman family for decades. In fact, I met Mr. Freeman when I worked at Nordstrom’s and assisted him in the Men’s Department. When I moved on to a career in consumer technology, the Freemans became clients of mine for their residential technology needs, and eventually for commercial projects as well.
Definitive has been working with KDC for years and we were invited into the project to coordinate and collaborate with The Voyager Group.
CHS III The client had previously contracted for large architectural models of their existing properties and new buildings in the proposed expansion, including an entire Bellevue central business district. These models were not designed to light from within, with no plans for external lighting. I felt this was a wasted opportunity. Together with Thom Meredith, Voyager Interactive Design Director, we devised a multi-projector plan to fully wrap the main project model in a video image. This led to the model being central to the storytelling as it gave us a gathering point for both people and the story. Now, you may have seen projection mapping before, but this was groundbreaking as it involved coordinating three projector videos onto all five exposed sides of every building and the street.
We added a single down facing projector to the CBD model to show traffic flow, product type, and parking throughout the CBD.
The Voyager team had broken down all the stories, and I began to design animations to be projected onto the models. This led to the realization that we needed another “window” out of the model to show supporting media and information and to enlarge the user’s perceived world in the storytelling space.
TW In the early stages of collaborating with the Voyager team we needed to verify that the wraparound projection was possible with a proof of concept. We decided to mockup the large architectural model in our Bellevue Design Center using a preliminary scaled model. The Definitive design team with our engineering and installation technicians used rigging to mount the projectors, and the Voyager team created content to verify placement of the projectors so we could pixel map the buildings and verify geometry and focus down to one pixel. This was a huge success and confirmed the concept. It significantly reduced the final onsite installation time to commission this part of the project.
The large video wall started out with a conversation about projection technologies that we were very familiar with, such as front and rear projection. To create the large views from each floor of the building and other video content for the KDC sales team, it became apparent that more common technology would be disruptive since during presentations people would naturally walk around the large model and block the projector image. During a meeting with Cecil we explored other video display technologies that would provide high resolution, excellent color accuracy, high contrast and 24/7 operation. Ultimately, we decided on a video wall solution by Planar using 24 Clarity Matrix LED displays with ultra-narrow bezels with an industry-leading video processing, installation system with remote power supplies.
CHS III We designed the 24 monitor curved video wall adjacent to the central round model table. This allowed us to sync the animations on the models to the media on the video wall. This was driven by tablets with a custom-designed graphical user interface to allow fully non-linear access to all the stories so that as conversations and sales were being discussed, one could drive that particular conversation wherever required.
This video wall was designed to mimic the breadth and size of the actual glass walls in the building, allowing for unprecedented views from the actual floor and cardinal direction that was required by the story. (i.e., You’d like the 31st floor? Here’s the view West from your future office.) We shot every floor and direction using an Inspire 1 drone using the built-in altimeter and referencing the building blueprints to shoot from standing eye-line on every floor.
TW Definitive has a long history and experience with performance audio. We then added another layer to The Studio. There are three audio zones. The Wisdom Audio main speakers and subwoofers are hidden behind custom acoustically transparent panels on each side of the main video wall. The other two audio zones are in-ceiling speakers. Everything is coordinated by a Crestron system with another custom Voyager-designed graphical user interface which we implemented.
CHS III Having Definitive’s experience of custom systems design allowed us to create a fully immersive, non-linear storytelling environment that is incredibly flexible. Any media can be played on any monitor, video wall, or speaker system, or all of them simultaneously, and almost instantly move that program to another area or into a conference room. Users carrying their preferred tablet, laptop, or phone can log into the system and wirelessly run any personal program by mirroring to the selected output. The system works seamlessly with Microsoft Windows or Apple OS. Media can be uploaded and updated from offsite allowing for a continuous refresh.
The central task of The Studio was to create a high touch/ emotion, high tech environment to appeal to the Bellevue, WA community. Its job was to facilitate the pre-lease of both residential and commercial products. To that extent it has been a great success.
The entire 31 story office tower was leased before construction was completed and the four-star hotel operated by The W Hotel chain also leased before opening. Kemper Freeman, owner of KDC has said that he saved four times the amount spent on The Studio on saved interest payments alone.
CHS III Technological integration is key to the overarching design concept. As a designer, having the ability to bury or expose the technology gives me another note in the particular feeling I am trying to evoke from the guest.
The requirement of this project to tell so many different stories to so many different people challenged my ability to keep the physical and media design clean and cohesive. That was achieved fully in using projection mapping and video walls with smart and flexible control systems. Having a systems integrator like Definitive gave me even more options. By including sound and lighting to the intuitive controls, they expanded the storytelling experience and gave me powerful tools to realize the client’s vision.
I am also fortunate to work with an incredible group of creatives at The Voyager Group. We produced all the media, photos, narratives, movies, and animations. Their supportive and collaborative insight made my physical design so much richer and deeper in feeling.
TW Working with The Voyager Group and Cecil was a great experience. Being able to deploy technology to realize the design goals and fulfill client expectations is what it’s all about when you’re a part of a design-build group.