Yale Center for British Art

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

This one has been a long time coming. I’ve always been fascinated by Louis Kahn and eager to do one of his buildings in 3D. But so have many CG artists, starting with the legendary Alex Roman, and it’s been a struggle to find a motive that wasn’t already overused.

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

Recently, however, I read about the renovation of Kahn’s Yale Center for British Art, his last building, which reopened in May this year. I decided to go for it, and here’s the result. I went for the building’s post-renovation look, though I’m not sure if I’ve been completely consistent given that a lot of my reference material couldn’t be precisely dated.

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

On the technical side, this was built in 3ds Max and rendered in Corona, which I find performs well in confined spaces with a lot of indirect light. I took advantage of the denoiser added in 1.4 to speed up the rendering and increase the final resolution. Most images rendered in just a couple of hours on a single machine. The whole project took about three months, on-and-off.

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

The paintings are mostly actual pieces from the Center’s collection, but the sculptures aren’t. They’re a mix of self-modeled, self-scanned pieces and free assets-including quite a few from the Lincoln collection repository, which thankfully includes a lot of British art.

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

For this project, I modeled only the interior, but I wanted to have a bit of an exterior environment to appear through the windows. My first attempt to build an accurate environment consisted in feeding screenshots from Google Earth into Photoscan and rebuild the 3D model (what you could call the poor man’s Google Earth asset ripping). This wasn’t particularly successful, yielding a blobby, poorly textured model. So instead, I grabbed shots from Streetview manually and mapped them onto cards outside the building.

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

The concrete textures marked the first time I used Photoscan to build textures instead of scanned models. I basically shot many pictures of a large concrete wall and fed them into Photoscan, which rebuilt the entire wall and extracted one, super-high-res texture for it. Then came some patient cleaning-up work in Photoshop.

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

I used a Corona fog, which I found to work very well and didn’t slow down the rendering too much, to add some atmosphere to the shots. These atmospherics were fine-tuned in post using a separate element. For post, I used mainly ArionFX and a few tweaks in PS.

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

I wanted to use a movie aspect ratio for the shots, for a more cinematic look, which made it hard to shoot vertical compositions, hence there being only one in the series.

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

One word about the characters you can see in some of the shots. I started using assets from Axyz Design, which I’ve always found to work well when seen from a distance. However, towards the end of the project, I was contacted by the good folks at Humanalloy and asked if I wanted to try their brand new 3D people. It was too late for me to populate the whole scene with these (the sitting lady in the big hall is a Humanalloy character), but if you haven’t yet tried their free sample, make sure you do. Not only are these 3D people plausible even in close-up shots, but the Humanalloy team has actually managed to solve the vexing issue of hair.

One limitation is that the characters are only available shaded for V-Ray right now and converting them for Corona was complicated and lengthy since Corona doesn’t like the blending of SSS and non-SSS materials.

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

I think this is all there is to say about this for now. Below a few more images. Hope you like them and let me know if you have questions. As always, it may take a while, but I try to answer all questions (As I wrote before, I cannot answer questions left on Facebook since I don’t have an account).

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art

    • Aidin Afarin
    • August 10, 2016

    Outstanding work.
    Will appreciate if you can explain how you get this sharp line effect like ambient occlusion in the corners and where the geometries meet (like walls to the ceiling and column to beams.
    Thanks in advance.

  1. Hi Aidin. On the concrete, this is all painted in the textures. On the wood, there’s an AO map broken with noise to stress the corners.

    • joaopedrosilva
    • August 10, 2016

    So if I understand correctly, for all the concrete surfaces you use a single concrete material, mapped accordingly?

    • John_Do
    • August 10, 2016

    Really interesting points of view in this set, which beautifully highlight the materials, great work !

    I wonder if you will share with us the concrete texture ? It seems really accurate and of very good quality ( against money of course )

    • Strob
    • August 11, 2016

    Amazing work! This is a very interesting achitect. You make me want to do some architecture project too.

    ArionFx glows and bloom are more realistic than V-Ray and some other comp plugins but I think less than Fstorm. Have you tested Fstorm?

  2. I haven’t tried FStorm, but I’m reading a lot about it so will have to try. What does it bring to the table that Octane doesn’t?

  3. @joaopedrosilva, @john_Do, from memory there are three or four different concrete mats: walls, pillars and trusses, ceiling…

    • Strob
    • August 11, 2016

    You can see this thread about Octane versus Fstrom. Seems to be faster, has better conversion tools and probably better lighting. For my part I just started testing it recently but not enough to compare myself but when i watch the fstorm facebook thread I know there are a few things in fstorm that just make the final result more realistic, maybe it’s just the bloom and glare and lut testing system that is so well done and fast to adjust. something in the way the glass shaders work or the way it reflect light. All the most realistic 3D renders I have ever seen are on this facebook page and made by a plethora of different artists. I think you should create a facebook account just to take a look 😉 LOL! https://www.facebook.com/groups/FStormGroup/

    • Strob
    • August 11, 2016
  4. Amazing work Bertrand. I am very curious regarding your post-production workflow. Do you try to have 90% done in 3D and the other 10% in post? Do you follow a list of things to check, like bloom, CA, glow, etc? Did you use a HDRI map for lighting (apart the obvious interior lights)? Sorry so many questions :\

    • Flight
    • August 15, 2016

    Very nice work Bertrand, thanks for sharing it with us! Could you give us some info about the concrete material in the last vertical photo showing the skylight ceiling? It’s actually the column element passing by the wood trims. It looks amazing. I would also like to ask you the classic question as every newbie likes to know if there is a lot of prost processing involved in these. Does the output image looks very diferent in terms of colour and light? I was amazed to learn from your small appartmen 70m2 that Corona’s output is so good except the contrast maybe that needs some tweeking. I might guess that most of your work is focused on the materials and textures regarding Corona’s workflow. Thanks!

  5. @Flight: The concrete pillar you mention uses one of a handful of pillar textures I made from photos. Nothing much more to it. The frayed edges come entirely from the texture.

    There is some post-processing, yes: curves and glows mainly and a very little CA. For this, I use ArionFX. But there is no 2D painting going on. And yes, most of my work probably goes into the texturing and shading (though this one was actually quite long to model).

    @Ciro: The above should answer your question. But yes, I used an HDRI sky to light the interior in addition to the various electric lights inside (which are IES lights).

    • Pierre
    • September 12, 2016

    Hello Bertrand, congratulation for this awesome project !
    A small question did you use any Allegorithmic Substance software to achieve this result ?

  6. Hey Pierre, No, I didn’t. To my great shame, I don’t own a license of Substance, though it certainly looks like a fantastic tool. Especially the latest installment.

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