Hi everyone, this blog explains how the scene was created with information about the project itself. This is not the only way to develop a complex scene, but, for this project, it is a choice that worked for us. This is not a comprehensive tutorial on materiality and model strategy, but more about sharing the processes we took for the objectives we had. We hope you enjoy this read, it would be fantastic to hear from anyone that would be interested in us creating a more comprehensive tutorial of a project we have done showing the nitty gritty details that include all light, material, terrain & render settings within a scene. – Feel free to comment in the box located at the bottom.

The D3 Silo…

Developing an old concrete silo into a luxury office complex was the challenge presented and accomplished. Initial sketch proposal and design concept given Archilime was to clad exterior with insulation, paint it as a feature wall, wrap a glass corridor around the circumference and preserve its heritage while creating a unique, contemporary office space. To reflect the locality, zinc cladding was selected to conceal services for parts of the walls. The grand finale to give visitors office envy… A glass walled top floor, maximizing the beautiful, panoramic view across the valley. By collaborating with Archilime and their creative contribution, we took a client’s conceptual vision to a real “first come first serve” deluxe office space reality.” – D3 Architects


Exterior Architectural Visualisation

Project Description

Preserving an original tin silo was the principal goal, making it the key component of the design while not shying away from the existing site.

The silo, externally insulated in this plan, is rendered white to form the principle feature wall. Respecting the original structure, D3 Architects creates a circumference corridor of glass with solid panels to offer obscurity where needed for circulation, toilet facilities and breakout space for the offices. This, while protecting the silo from the elements, enables occupants to benefit from the marvelous views and fantastic, scenic countryside within a valley .



D3 Architects initial sketch proposal


Architect, Simon Longworth-Riggs at D3 Architects in Cornwall provided the above sketch. The model was built using SketchUp 15 and the clay renders were made using Vray 2.0. SketchUp is the most time efficient modeller we use currently and is a fantastic tool for sharing ideas with clients quickly and efficiently. SKP15 features 64-bit compatibility so it really does goes the extra mile compared to its past versions when managing huge file sizes and large plates of geometry of millions of faces; representative of most of our exterior projects.

From various sketches provided, the modelling phase was validated and confirmed before any materiality was chosen and selected. Carefully assessing the primary objectives of the project, we began producing several clay renders for the client to critique and discuss: Two Architectural visualisations of the exterior site with another set of interior shots focusing on the top floor’s executive office overlooking of a Cornish valley and its breath-taking views . Lacking in-depth CAD plans and elevations of the site or silo, the communication between D3 Architects and Archilime had to be excellent. And, it was!

With plenty of room for error on a project this size, every decision needed to be drafted and confirmed when moulding the terrain to suit the rough CAD site plan. Collaboration on design aspects were of the terrain, banking to the gabion walls, landscaping and silo cladding; originally to be timber, but finalized by featuring zinc cladding to suit the surrounding industrial buildings.

Originally, there was going to be a footbridge from a rear carpark at the higher level of the site. – This was later omitted and the carpark was dropped to the ground floor, leaving the original entrance point at the top end of the silo. To move the entrance and leave the footbridge would have been excessive, so it was removed entirely.

D3 Silo capture04

Screenshot 01 using Sketchup 15


Architectural Visualisation D3 Silo
Screenshot 02 using Sketchup 15



Environmental Light setup

For environmental exterior lighting, we opted for a single dome light with a cloudy sun HDRI (High Dynamic Range Image) sourced from PG Skies. It is hard to find HDRI’s that are to the same quality as these. With one good HDRI, we can create many scene styles by altering gamma, physical camera and sky orientation.

Our initial objective in development was to provide clean, clear, presentable clay draft renders. The best way we could do that was with a daylight set up as shown. Due to the higher ground level  in the model we found our views exposing the black horizon line on this non 360° HDRI so we added a Vray-plane, essentially an infinite ground level that is calculated through the render engine. The black under fill was soon gone giving us a clean clay render to produce for the client. – You can see the lower section of the HDRI in the first clay draft scene that was developed and then the V-ray plane that was placed in the latter two shots.

D3 Silo Scene 02
Higher lever view: Clay draft scene 01, Sketchup 15 & Vray 2.0


D3 Silo Scene 07
Higher lever view: Clay draft scene 02, Sketchup 15 & Vray 2.0


D3 Silo Scene 10
Ground level view: Clay draft scene 03, Sketchup 15 & Vray 2.0
 REV_02 D3 Silo Scene 14
Ariel view: Clay draft scene 04, Sketchup 15 & Vray 2.0

Scene Detail Setup

After various applications importing X-frog tree models, finding high quality textures from various sites and creating all your custom maps using Pix-Plant, we were then ready to finalise the scene and send over some shots of what we had.

In the two screenshots above we optimised SketchUp’s management ability by creating Vray-Proxies. Vray-Proxies are an absolute must when dealing with such demanding scenes like this. It not only aids us in smooth navigation within the model space itself but increases our VFB (Vray Frame Buffer) load time. We can then add further optimisation by editing chosen proxy groups and replacing the tree models with 2D images of any representation we choose, or in this case singular line geometry that is grouped and copied into the component; the method we have gone for in this project. To do this, simply open the group and then the component, deleting all model based proxy data, replacing it with a rendered 2D image of that proxy. It’s a simple task that not many CG artists learn from the start and it is definitely an important aspect when modelling and rendering on such a large scale. This will then help Vray to compute all the relevant data when loading up the VFB, the Vray Frame Buffer. In the clay drafts below the HDRI has now changed to a clear whispy blue sky with slightly more contrast to really get the most from the clay renders.

D3 Silo_REV_07_clay-Scene 18

Ariel view, stage 02: Clay draft scene 04, Sketchup 15 & Vray 2.0

D3 Silo_REV_07_clay-Scene 7

Higher ground view, stage 02: Clay draft scene 05, Sketchup 15 & Vray 2.0

D3 Silo_REV_07_clay-Scene 9

Middle ground view, stage 02: Clay draft scene 06, Sketchup 15 & Vray 2.0

Exterior Architectural Visualisation


The top floor will be built above the silo as the main feature floor with uninterrupted views and the largest floor plan. Typical office floor area per floor is 80m2 with the top floor being about 100m2. The building will then be crowned with a green roof with local vernacular species growing to help with wildlife and biodiversity. The roof will also include a central light well to fill the centre of the top floor with beaming natural light. The images represented here show the cladding panels to the corridors and lift as zinc panels to reflect the industrial heritage of its local environment.


The images produced are first attempts of the design process to show how the building could appear along with how the landscaping around the silo can be improved drastically. The office images below also help to give a feel for what could be a fantastic working environment and an enjoyable place to be.


That’s it for the D3 silo exterior breakdown for now… Continue to scroll down and you will find our final interior visualisations below. You can also find the project in its entirety here.


 D3 Silo Interiors

054 - 15 D3 Silo Interior, scene 06
Interior visualisation, scene 01: Work space onlooking side of valley.
Exterior Architectural Visualisation
Interior visualisation, scene 02: breakout space & Conference room onlooking front of valley.


Interior Architectural Visualisation
Interior visualisation, scene 03: Round table, skylight and conference.
Interior Architectural Visualisation
Interior visualisation, scene 04: Breakout space, conference & work space with valley.

Interior Architectural Visualisation

Interior visualisation, scene 05: Work space, conference & Breakout space.


Thank you all for the support, we hope this has been of some help to you and will trigger further questions regarding this project. Hopefully we can try and spend some time going through an interior scene set up with you for June’s Archilime Newsletter. please do not email us regarding this project, why not comment in the box below and we will be sure to answer you as quick as we can!


From the team at Archilime!