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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

About the Author

Avatar image for Bart Veldhuizen
Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-) I also run the Blender Artists forum and I'm Head of Community at Sketchfab.


  1. Anthony, Ireland. on

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. @Tim

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

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

    wohoo got seventh post, lucky seven

  6. 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.

  7. 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).

  8. 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.

  9. 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 ;-) ;)

  10. EmailMeForMore on

    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. ;)

  11. @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?

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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 ;)

  15. @ 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 ;-)

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