How to Sell a Skyscraper Vision

Thursday, July 9th, 2015
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Sky-high apartment buildings are facing fierce competition as the vertical realm prepares for an injection of residential skyscrapers.

According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat database, there are currently 1,052 buildings over 150 metres under construction or topped out around the world. Of the 10 tallest, 50 per cent will have be a complete residential building or residential/mixed use.

Australia will soon house 23 of these buildings, and eight of Australia’s 10 tallest buildings will be residential or residential/mixed use buildings.

This boom is supported by heavy predictions of urbanisation. According to the World Health Organisation, the global urban population is expected to grow approximately 1.84 per cent per year between 2015 and 2020.

There is a diverse array of unconventional skyscraper shapes being explored, though many of these are more similar than they are different. If a project is just another tall, inner city, fairly sustainable building, it may just struggle to stand out.

You see, buildings in iconic locations sell themselves. Those on the waterfront, featuring innovative sustainability measures or offering views at spectacular heights generally entice buyers without much effort.

In contrast, an architect may have a project that completely breaks design boundaries who wants to ensure his or her vision is accurately communicated.

Architects and developers can write all they want about “breathtaking views, the lush gardens or the ultimate sky-high lifestyle” but is anyone actually reading it? Or worse – actually buying it?

There are better ways for architects to demonstrate their vision to clients.

One of the strongest marketing methods today for residential projects is film.

Forget a quick fly through, however – viewers are now seeking to get a “feel” of the building, and to be immersed in exactly what it would be like to move through its spaces.

Carlos Cristerna, visualisation director at Neoscape, a creative agency based in the US, said there is a very simple reason film is a necessary tool in real estate – particularly in the busy vertical residential market.

“In one word, subjectivity,” he said.

“It is very difficult for everyone to visualise the same thing. While we can be descriptive about a certain object or scene, every person will imagine and interpret something in a different way, no matter how detailed we make our description.

“I believe this applies to all aspects in life. As human beings we need to look at something that describes or represents the ‘idea’ to be able to avoid confusion and be on the same page. In other words, we are not capable of ‘seeing’ the same thing unless it is the same thing.”

Cristerna also believes that while an architect may be able to understand a 2D drawing, the client might struggle to see the design objectives and envision the complete look of the project.

Drawings also remove the opportunity to go deeper and really engage a client, while music and digital movement can evoke a feeling about the project.

“There is a need for narrative,” he said. “Many clients are realising that we need to experience things in a more meaningful way, so we need to rely on telling stores to capture people’s attention and imagination.”

Film meets architects’ needs now, but it will need to evolve as clients’ expectations grow. So what’s the next stage in film rendering?

“Real-time technology is gaining momentum,” said Cristerna. “Real-time is an interactive, dynamic and customised exploration of a 3D space. One way to use real-time is similar to a video game. This real-time technology can show a virtually curated building or place where the user has the control to “walk” through the space, viewing different angles, vantage points and more.

“It opens many other possibilities that all of the above can’t achieve – especially instant satisfaction. And who does not like that?”

Neoscape was behind the film of Sky Habitat, a nearly-completed 32-storey residential project in Singapore by iconic architect Moshe Safdie.

The building itself is no ordinary sky high residence. It features three bridges that connect the two 132-metre towers – the bottom two bridges are landscaped circulation paths and the upper bridge has a swimming pool.

In this case, Safdie needed the video to pitch the project to Capitaland in Singapore, and the film made a number of claims, including:

  1. For everyone a garden
  2. The village on the hillside
  3. Let’s change the paradigm of urban living

While Neoscape has worked with Safdie for a long time, the firm opted for an inspirational film.

“It is simple in its narrative and based on beautiful visuals and emotional music, focusing on the qualities of the architecture and visually trying to show how it would feel to live in an unconventional high-rise’ residential building, one that allows for both freedom and community living,” Cristerna said.

Cristerna noted that the film had various uses:

  1. To represent the project for the client
  2. To unveil at the groundbreaking ceremony
  3. To help Safdie explain the project to the audience at the ceremony
  4. To play in the sales centre

He feels the film achieved its purpose: to pique interest and explain the project in depth.

So what exactly are architects seeking from film developers?

“Creativity and differentiation,” said Cristerna. “They want their sales pitch to come through in less than two minutes of animation, and they want their message heard loud and clear.”

Cristerna notes that many clients are selling similar products but believes there are differences to be found and delivered.

“Think of it like automobiles – they are all the same in terms of utility but they are not the same in many ways,” he said. “This applies to real estate too. We have to capture the imagination of viewers and differentiate them so that clients can have an advantage over their competition.”

The importance of film in selling skyscraper visions was underscored at the recent Inman’s Real Estate Connect Conference in New York.

“Consumers are ready to consume video,” John Passerini, VP Interactive Marketing for Sotheby’s International Realty was quoted as saying by Animoto. “That’s the way they want to experience properties.”

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