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Blender used for hospital design

The Finnish architects K2S recently won a big architecture competition for the design of a new hospital. The main visualisations were done in Blender. Abel Groenewolt tells about the adoption of Blender in his office.

Abel wrote:

The architects office where I work (K2S Architects, Helsinki) has just won a big architecture competition for the design of a hospital and as Blender has been an important tool in the design process, I thought I'd share some of my experiences.

Nowadays, it is rare to see a building project being presented without any 3d renderings. Some companies use one and the same model for generating both technical drawings and perspectives, but in many places the technical drawings are still being made in 2d. Although sometimes firms hire a visualisation company to create the presentation perspectives after the design is ready, many firms create the 3d models themselves and hence need software for this purpose.

After graduating as an architect, I started working at K2S Architects, where a combination of SketchUp and Maxwell Render was being used for creating perspectives. In my spare time, I decided to learn using Blender as I'm a bit of a free software enthusiast and my 3ds Max student license wasn't valid any more.

About a year and a half ago, at the office we wanted to use a curvy roof design in an entry for an architecture competition. After some failed attempts to create a model of the roof in SketchUp and AutoCAD, I was asked if Blender would be capable of the task. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was perfectly capable of creating the desired shape using subdivision surfaces.

Although the idea of using a free piece of software that nobody had heard of before did initially not meet with much enthusiasm in the office, over the past year Blender turned out to be of use in a number of our projects. During the same time, the program has improved significantly: for our use the most notably improvements have been improved snap functionality and .dxf import. Currently, we use it regularly next to SketchUp and in combination with Maxwell Render.

An interesting development in our office is that 3d modeling is getting a more and more integrated role in the design process. Combined with unbiased rendering, Blender helps us in exploring and evaluating different design directions throughout the design process, starting at the conceptual phase.

Of course pencils, sketching paper and cardboard models remain vital tools, let alone that Blender could replace CAD software. But as an additional tool, the program has definitely proven its value in our office.

Abel Groenewolt


  • Anthony, Ireland.

    The hospital looks great, really original design. Interesting to hear what features of Blender you found useful.

  • Uriy

    I apologize for my English.
    I myself Blender recently begun to explore, so pleased that the growing popularity of Blender

  • Rob Cozzens

    Wow! That is a fantastic looking hospital. And it's really cool that you're able to use Blender at your job. I'm trying to get Blender involved more and more at my job...I use it a lot for modeling, but so far nothing else.

  • Tim, LA

    The hospital doesn't look either like CG nor realistic.
    I wonder why they won the contest; not because of the the rendering!
    Their project "SIPOO UPPER SECONDARY SCHOOL" looks good; and if it's rendered I think not with Blender.
    Because thats looking nearly perfect!
    Blenders render engine is in most cases a bad thing!

  • bulb


    A real architectural competition is NEVER won because of the renderings, but because of the quality of the project.

  • Anon

    Can you wait for Blender 2.5 ?
    I hope it exceeds all expectations.

  • stupiduser

    blender beat AutoCAD in architecture,
    that is the best news i ever heard in 2009 =)

    wohoo got seventh post, lucky seven


    Great work on the design of this hospital.

    @Tim, LA

    Blender rendering engine is fast and gives marvelous renderings with the use of a good lighting setup and good materials.

    Of course, Indigo gives a more realistic result, but at the price of the low speed linked to the unbiaised technology.

    The only problem that I have encountered with Blender internal is a bug that occurs sometimes with very heavy scenes (I mean 10 millions faces, thousands of animated particles...): some blocks (rendering by parts) are sometime brighter than others. I have reported this problem since 2.44 if I remember well. I hope that it will be solved in 2.50 !

    Beside the lack of caustics, Blender internal gives wonderful images, as we can see through all the galleries here and there.

  • bautz

    I use blender for architectural projects too, but, it's sad to say, I can't post any image...
    Nice project and very beautiful renderings (Tim LA, the rendering for an architectural competition (like every other representation of the project) doesn't have to look real, but have to explain a project).

  • banor

    didn't read it all, but: cool! :D Congratulations, K2S!

  • [email protected]

    Congratulations for winning the competition K2S architects! Some of them have been my teachers in Helsinki University of Technology and I know they're nice guys :) Good choice of software!

    I've used Blender in my landscape architecture studies since 2004 in addition to making games with it as a hobby. It's just so versatile program and what's best, it's open source.

  • rubicon

    Congratulations. It's typical architects: trees, (cars) and (Cardboard)-People. You can not expect to win anything without these items placed several times, don't you ;-) ;)

  • EmailMeForMore

    Great project! Very well done! Congratulations to the team.

    But... Blender still miss a feature: the Unblifled Areas Tool Improvement (U.A.T.I)... Nowadays its impossible to work without UATI.

    I will keep an eye in Blender development until it has U.A.T.I support.

    Then i will use Blender for sure! AND i will implement Blender inside my office. ;)

  • Terence

    @Tim - As mentioned above, architectural proposals win based on the design of the building, not how well you can render it. Also, if you read the post, they use it in conjunction with the Maxwell Renderer, so this is not a Blender Render anyway. Finally, if it looks, neither like CG nor realistic, then what does it look like?

  • Reavenk

    Yea, love the flow and look of the building, and yea, the image was weird to look at for me too. Its kind of has the look of late 1990's movies that aim for CG realism but some things are just off - especially the cement material.

  • EmailMeForMore

    @Reavenk: you proved something:

    you don't know what Architecture is.


  • BigBoy

    I think it's gr8. Blender "CAN" man. I've used blender for architectural walkthroughs and stills in South Africa, and I just love the software, especially because it's Open Source. Congrats bud!

  • whocares

    That doesn't even look like a hospital.

  • ysvry

    congrats, i agree that the snaps is a great addition for precise modeling. and dont forget to bug the developers with features that are still missing in blender ;)

  • thirdsense

    @ Tim: These are typical architectural renderings - and you win competition with these (and a good design of cause!). So please - don't comment in that negative way on anything you don't know about.

    it would have been nicer to say something nice like:

    hey abel - congrats!! you did a good job. good design, good renderings and good to here you won the battle in your office. i know that it's a hard job to convince people that something that doesn't cost anything, can still be a great software for most jobs they need to have been done. we architects are a strange species ;-)

  • Anthony

    Yeah it may not look ultra realistic. But I could Imagine the hospital as if it was already built.

    Great Job! and Congratulations.

  • Jacek Brzezowski

    Good work, Abe! Good to see your stuff here (and I admit - I like it very much)!

  • Olaf

    Anyone know how they export from Blender to Maxwell?

  • Abel

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Olaf: the export was done using Blender's .obj export

  • ken

    Good work, can i see how you modelled this sing blender ? a quick video guide would be most informational.

  • Eugenio Jayo

    There is lots of varying views on design and style that it is impossible to please everybody sadly...

  • farnaz

    Excellent!!!!I really enjoy it.

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