CHESTER HQ: THE ROLE OF VISUALISATION

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There seems to be continued debate everywhere about CGI images. If you like what you get from us you might like to share this story with your colleagues.

In 2005 we were asked by FPD Savills to look at Chester HQ, on the old Police Headquarters site. Unluckily for us Liberty appointed a marketing company in Chester, who then commissioned a local company to visualise it. The work that they did was good! However the planners weren’t convinced and they said it looked ‘too real’, and the planning application was submitted with watercolour images instead of the computer modeled images. The application failed.

We handled the next VIA for Chester HQ and produced all the montages, but the modelling was supplied to us by this other company, and to be truthful it did look ‘plastic’ in some views. Anyway that was a bit of a downer for us, but as we handn’t done the modeling we didn’t feel it was our fault. On seeing the revised application with sketches, the council still kicked it out! About 3 weeks later, we were asked by Liberty to try to work some magic on the scheme.

This was a major risk for the client because the council had explicitly requested a cardboard model and more watercolours. We collectively agreed that both of those things would not represent the development fairly, and would probably put an end to the application permanently. We decided to produce a virtual model of everything from The Heritage Centre to Grosvenor Bridge, and took in Castle Square, Nicholas Street, Nuns Road, Castle Street, parts of the racecourse and some of the river. It was a substantial job, but we used a very robust methodology, we took accurate surveys, satellite data, and hundreds of photographs to texture map the main routes. We finally produced an 8 minute dvd exploring the site, and journeying through the main streets. We presented again to council with what we considered to be a risk, but a calculated one. Our dvd ran for 2 hours on a continuous loop while the scheme was discussed and finally the council overwhelmingly approved demolition of the former Police HQ (there has been lobbying to preserve it), and also overwhelmingly accepted the new scheme.

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The Council said that (despite their earlier reservations) ‘the dvd was instrumental in the success of the application.’ This is from a council that had previously rejected CGI and specifically requested sketches and cardboard! Happy client, very happy!

PRESS RELEASES:

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PLANNERS have given the go-ahead to Liberty Properties’ plans for a £50m office and housing development on the site of the ugly and unloved former Cheshire Constabulary headquarters in Chester. Chester city council’s planning board has approved Liberty’s plans for the mixed-use development in the Roodee area of the city. The leisure, office and residential development will consist of a large office complex, a luxury hotel complete with restaurants, and a range of apartments and penthouses. At the heart of the development is a large central piazza which will provide the area with a much-needed public space. The planning board’s approval follows a two-year consultation exercise which saw Liberty Properties working closely with Chester city council and English Heritage on the proposals. The scheme will be called HQ, in honour of ite previous incumbents.

Development director of Liberty Properties, Paul Norman, said: “HQ represents a massive investment for Chester and its mix of use will benefit the whole community. We believe HQ has the potential to become a building and space that is synonymous with the city, projecting a positive image to visitors and becoming a real focal point for people who live, shop and work in the city. “We also believe it will act as the all-important catalyst to encourage further new development activity over the next few years.” The demolition of the police HQ is likely to be welcomed by Cestrians who have long regarded the site as an eyesore. Liberty Properties has a current development programme valued in excess of £150m, and has considerable experience of developing within Chester, having already developed over 150,000sq ft of commercial accommodation and 50,000sq ft of retail floor space in the city.

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Chester City Council has given the go-ahead on planning for a 23,225 m2 (250,000 ft2) mixed-use scheme within its historic City walls.

The application was approved by council members following the production of a state-of-the-art DVD that enabled committee members to virtually travel around the proposed site and main streets affected by the development. South Manchester based, interactive virtual environment company, Virtual Planit was commissioned to produce the DVD by Liberty Properties following two years of lobbying, to demonstrate the impact of the scheme.

Virtual Planit were brought on board to survey the surrounding area of the proposed development, to produce a digital model of the southern half of the city, and incorporate the new model of the HQ development. The company mapped over 300 photographs onto the new city model and made a detailed on-site survey using satellite data. The result was the production of a photo-realistic model of the area. The final 8 minute DVD was played continuously to the Council as the development was discussed at the planning meeting. The approval of Liberty’s plans for the mixed-use development on the site of the former Cheshire Constabulary headquarters in the Roodee area of the city follows a two-year consultation exercise which saw Liberty Properties working closely with Chester City Council and English Heritage on the proposals. The scheme will be called HQ, in honour of its previous occupants.

Chris Bamford, director at Virtual Planit comments: “With this rare and pioneering technique that combines ‘visual impact’ and ‘animation’, we demonstrated the wider implications on the City’s urban fabric, whilst at the same time provided a ground based impression. This is impossible to achieve with traditional, and even photomontage methodologies. Virtual modelling is forever going through change, but I believe that planners will increasingly seek animation to help justify sensitive schemes in the future.”

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Chester’s £80m HQ development nears completion

Nov 6 2008 by Allison Dickinson, Chester Chronicle

CHESTER will soon see its reputation as a business and leisure destination enhanced as the £80 million HQ scheme nears completion. Progress on the former Cheshire Police headquarters, known as HQ Chester, is continuing apace. Liberty Properties and Pochin Construction say they are making good headway on construction of the 23,225 sq m (250,000 sq ft) project, with the construction of the steel frame now well underway and a completion date set for summer 2009. Jonathan Pochin, managing director of Pochin Construction, said: “Work is progressing well; the twin concrete basement is almost up to ground level, creating an underground car park over two levels. This will be a stunning addition to Chester’s business, leisure and hospitality offering when it completes next summer.” Included in the project is a four-star luxury hotel, 5,574 sq m (60,000 sq ft) of office space, a number of restaurants and 35 residential apartments with views overlooking the famous Roodee racecourse. The scheme’s striking design has been created to complement Chester’s historic architecture and incorporates both glass and natural stone cladding with standing seam zinc roofs.

Paul Norman of Liberty Properties added: “This is a landmark regeneration project and, with the steel frame now being erected, we’re looking forward to seeing the scheme come to fruition.”

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