Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Hololens

World-famous architect sees his buildings recreated using HoloLens

World-famous architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha has expressed his delight after Microsoft and Trimble helped to recreate some of his most well-known buildings using HoloLens.

The 88-year-old Brazilian said it was “fantastic” that he could see his creations using Microsoft’s mixed-reality headset, which places computer-generated holograms in the real world.

Mendes da Rocha’s designs were recreated using Trimble’s SketchUp, before being uploaded to SketchUp Viewer for HoloLens, the first commercial app for HoloLens available via the Microsoft Store.

What is HoloLens?

Mendes da Rocha tried HoloLens after being awarded the 2017 Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) at a ceremony in London recently. The event coincided with the launch of a year-long partnership between Microsoft and RIBA, which aims to provide organisations within the architectural, engineering and construction industries with advice on how to leverage the latest technologies to digitally transform their operations.

Paulo Mendes da Rocha

Paulo Mendes da Rocha with his Royal Gold Medal from RIBA

HoloLens enables architects to visualise buildings, change the design and ensure the structure is safe through holograms. They can also expand the hologram to such a scale that the architect can walk inside to check internal parts of the structure, flagging potential issues using hand gestures or their voice.

“Bringing Mendes da Rocha projects to life demonstrates the value of mixed reality for architects,” said Aviad Almagor, Director of the Mixed Reality Program at Trimble. “Microsoft HoloLens transforms the way architects interact, and communicate their designs. Using this technology to explore complex projects shortens design cycles and improve communication.”

Rather than place users in a fully computer-generated world, as virtual reality does, HoloLens allows users to place 3D digital models in the room alongside them. As the Windows-10-based product does not have wires or external cameras, or require a phone or PC connection, users can walk around the objects they create and interact with them using gestures, gaze and voice.

It has been used by NASA to recreate Mars in its offices, allowing scientists to virtually conduct operations on the Red Planet. Audi, meanwhile, is using HoloLens to communicate with customers and help with engineering; while Saab has called it “transformational”.

The award collected by Mendes da Rocha, which is personally approved by the Queen, recognises a lifetime’s work and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence “either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture”. Past recipients include Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, Frank Lloyd Wright and Zaha Hadid.

Described by RIBA President Jane Duncan as a “true living legend”, Mendes da Rocha has used his creations to transform Sao Paolo, in his home country of Brazil. He completed his first building, the Athletic Club of Sao Paulo, in 1957 and since then has been hailed for his work on Saint Peter Chapel, the Brazilian Sculpture Museum MuBE, Patriach Plaza, the Pinacoteca do Estado gallery and the FIESP Cultural Center. Outside of Sao Paulo, his notable buildings include the Serra Dourada football stadium in Goias, Lady of the Conception Chapel in Recife and Cais das Artes arts centre in Vitoria.