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technical: computing

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Graphisoft's new Budapest headquarters used a 'virtual building' to aid the designers, and to tempt in other it occupiers What you see is what you get BY RICHARD SPoHRER

Graphisoft, the developer of Archicad, relocated its headquarters in July this year to the new Graphisoft Park on the banks of the Danube just north of central Budapest. As well as Graphisoft, Hungary's first high-technology park will anchor dozens of tenant software companies including Microsoft Hungary, and will seed the development of local software companies and support.

The concept of Graphisoft Park is unique in Budapest, as are the methods used to design and lease the buildings. From the earliest schematic designs though construction, drawings and marketing materials, a three-dimensional 'virtual building' computer model was developed and maintained by the architects using Archicad. Using this virtual building, the architects could communicate with their clients, explore design details, improve productivity, and deliver the animations, renderings and virtual reality scenes needed for leasing.

The entire company was caught up in the design process and Archicad's visualisation tools were invaluable for getting people involved. When Graphisoft r&d had the opportunity to test its concepts of creating and managing the virtual building on its own new corporate headquarters, it jumped at the chance. 'There was really no question about it,' said Graphisoft ceo Peter Hornung, who manages the entire project. 'We were convinced that the effort to develop and maintain a 3D model of our buildings would offer immediate payback, and it has.'

The company was rapidly outgrowing its facilities in Budapest and needed to find a long-term solution to house its r&d staff, and worldwide sales, marketing and administrative employees. Today, Graphisoft employs more than 140 people in Budapest spread over five small buildings east of downtown.

As software companies mature they often have a wish to make their achievements concrete, which can result in self-indulgent buildings which offer little to those outside the company. Graphisoft had the wish to put down roots, a move driven by company founder and ceo Gabour Bojar. His vision has driven the company since its beginnings in the early 1980s from the basement of his home in a Budapest suburb.

Discussing the future of the company and design technology, Bojar was keen to present his vision of the future. 'One of the things we learned when we came out from the communist period was the importance of marketing. During Soviet rule, resources were totally geared up to production. The concept of marketing was totally alien to us. At first this proved a problem in communicating our product to the outside world. Hungary just didn't have the marketing professionals found elsewhere. As we began to expand, and design technology became more commonplace, I began thinking of how the same was true of the construction industry. Buildings often have several occupiers so need to be marketed. Our vision has always been about the virtual building, and this is the way Archicad has always worked. By using the concept of the virtual building, designers are already providing the information needed to market a project in their design data.

'When we were putting together the plans for our buildings here, part of the process was to visualise the projects as we went along. With Archicad this does not have to take place as a separate operation. We found out the benefits of this when we were dealing with Microsoft. It saw the animations and vr movies of the building it was looking at before it was built and asked for a number of changes. These were carried out and as the data was the same for the design and the visualisation we could show its people the alterations in 3D, using vr and walk-throughs, in no time at all. I'm sure this helped it decide to move in.

'What we'd like to do now is provide tools for designers to produce much more professional client presentations without the need to go to a multimedia authoring package.'

Graphisoft has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Increasing third-party support and the recent provision of smart objects via the internet based on the gdl parametric description language can only help its cause. For more information contact Graphisoft on 0171 700 9930 or look up www. graphisoft.com.

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