ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves and the builders of the new SunTrust Park brought the project to life during the venture’s nascent stages through virtual reality.
Populous created SunTrust Park in virtual reality in order for both the company’s designers and the Braves brass to see the park, first-hand, in three dimensions before its actual construction, enabling both parties to alter the blueprint as they saw fit.
Not every Braves executive, including current senior vice president and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, was particularly committed to the technology’s efficacy.
“We almost had Hank Aaron put the VR goggles on — he was in one of the meetings with (the VR goggles) — but he was like, ‘Yeah I don’t know about that,’” said Zach Allee, a senior associate at Populous, the firm hired to design SunTrust Park. “We tried to have a couple of the older guys try them on, but they were like, ‘Oh it makes me dizzy.’”
But others in the Braves front office were more willing. Braves Vice Chairman John Schuerholz was fascinated by the goggles’ capabilities. At one point during a walkthrough of the computer-generated SunTrust Park, Schuerholz met a railing in the park’s top deck and tried to jump off.
“It’s funny, at one point John Schuerholz was using the goggles, and he reached a ledge and asked, ‘Could I jump off?’” Allee told recalled. “I said, ‘You could try.’ (Then he said) ‘woo!’”
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Virtual reality is a stalwart in the design process of a building, allowing architects and clients alike the chance to experience a building’s dimensions, depth and detail in a manner that traditional rendering or physical-scale models are unable to provide.
“The construction company that we work with now has an in-house group that implements the building plan into VR,” Allee said. “Basically, our construction company sees it as a marketing tool to help show clients, but also to get inside and help find errors and make sure that ownership buys into the design before it’s there — so that they don’t just walk into the actual building and say ‘Oh I didn’t know it was going to be like this.’”