THEY are called in to bring plans for some of the most ambitious property and public realm developments in the world to life – with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia reportedly approving multi-billion-dollar projects purely on the strength of their stunning visualisations.
In fewer than five years, Float has built a burgeoning international reputation for producing some of the best architectural visualisation work in the business.
The team at the multi-award winning studio has created hyper-realistic 3D visualisations for renowned international projects including the Qiddiya ‘desitnation city’ project and the new Murabba in Saudi Arabia, the Riyadh 2030 Strategy, and counts major international companies including AtkinsRéalis, Novotel, AECOM, and BrewDog amongst its growing list of clients.
The Scottish public will be familiar with the Glasgow-based studio’s work across a multitude of public realm projects, such as the £150 million Aberdeen Beach Masterplan; the £250m Ocean Terminal reimagining in Edinburgh; and the ambitious new Monklands Hospital plan in North Lanarkshire.
The studio’s agility has seen it also popular with property developers and agents including Igloo Regeneration, Summix, and CBRE, where it has developed visualisations for architectural projects across Scotland and the UK – including the high-profile Central Quay proposals in Glasgow, one of the country’s largest property developments, and the award-winning Merchants Square development in Belfast.
Float also has a significant presence in the drinks industry, from bespoke bottle design visualisation with the likes of Gordon and Macphail right up to plans for a new South American HQ for one of the world’s biggest beverage brands.
Founder Andy Pennington, a trained architect and self-taught architectural 3D visualisation artist, set up the business following 20 years working at the highest level including spells with visualisation studio Soluis, award-winning interior design studio Graven, and major multinational engineering firm AtkinsRéalis.
He set up the business in 2019 with a view to building a team of the best visualisation artists in the country to help put Scottish 3D visualisation on the global map.
Pennington’s first project with Float – in the same development in Bouregreg Basin that houses Zaha Hadid’s Grand Theatre De Rabat – was put before the King of Morocco for approval – an early indication of Float’s potential to make a global impact.
In the time since, Float has grown to a team of six, with a further growth planned later this year, and won the visualisation category at the Scottish Design Awards two years in a row in 2022 and 2023. High-profile hires include visualisation artist Jo Stewart, who was Float’s first team member, and client director Alastair Miller, one of the industry’s most respected figures.
Pennington said: “It sounds very high pressure, having your first piece of work judged by royalty, but the truth is we take the same approach regardless of whether it’s a head of state, local planning department, or a domestic architecture client. The pressure, deadlines, and expectations are the same, and we apply the same standards to every project.
“Those early days were certainly tough – particularly during the pandemic – but it was worth it to deliver work I was truly proud of.
“It’s now incredibly rewarding to work in a supportive environment surrounded by some of the best talent in the industry with the ability to compete with any visualisation studio anywhere.
“As the saying goes, a picture tells a thousand words, and the visualisations we create can genuinely make the difference between a project going ahead or not. Many of the decision makers are not architects and can’t immediately interpret what a plan will look like until we get involved.
“We have been told the crown prince (of Saudi Arabia) has decided on multi-billion-dollar projects just on the strength of our imagery – and it’s a fun story to tell – but it certainly adds to the importance of getting it right. That’s why standards have to be so high.”
New technology, including game engines and the addition of AI, have led to questions over the future of visualisation artists as the tech develops, but Pennington believes there will always be an integral role for visualisation artists.
He said: “AI can do impressive things already, and many including us are using it for some tasks. It’s important to be an early adopter so you can be ready for a time when the technology will be commonplace in the 3D visualisation workflow.
“You will never replace the value of human involvement in the process, but AI will be able to automate the lower-level tasks that consume valuable human time. It will leave more space for teams to to hone the artistry, fine-tune the quality, and importantly develop conceptual ideas and elevate projects to new heights.
“Those that positively embrace AI as a key component of their future will reap unquantifiable benefits from it, while those that don’t will sit on the shelf next to the conventions of yesteryear.”
Float has grown steadily year on year, doubling staffing levels during 2022/2023 alone. With turnover growth from 2022 to 2023 at 40%, that figure is forecast to double over the next 12 months.
For more information on Float, visit float.digital/.