Marc Piechocki is the owner, director and chief designer at his landscape design firm, I-Echo. His small but fast-growing company is the embodiment of his 15 years of experience in designing outdoor spaces, his passion for horticulture and his ability to exploit technology for creative endeavours. He has 10 to 15 projects on the go at any one time and the popularity of his company keeps bringing in new business.
How are things at I-Echo?
Well, you could say business is blooming! We started up early last year and already we’ve completed around 30 design projects and have 15 ongoing.. We are still a small team but we have three offices in London and South East England and we’re growing fast. Our London office is in Pall Mall, close to Piccadilly. You can’t get much more central than that.
We focus on garden design but in many of the projects to date, we’ve collaborated with architects and interior designers and have even started to move in a small way into those fields ourselves. In fact Lumion has been the key enabler in allowing us to design the way we want to.
Our business is really an amalgamation of the experience and skills built over the past 15 years but I only started designing using computers in 2011, using SketchUp & Lumion which I learned to use simultaneously as part of an integrated workflow.
How did you start to use Lumion?
I’ve been designing gardens since 2001. I used to draw everything by hand. I didn’t like using CAD programs because they felt too rigid and restrictive. I found them to be a hindrance to the creative process. In my previous job, I was encouraged to give the 3D techniques a go and tasked to learn about SketchUp and Lumion. This was in 2011, when Lumion was gaining prominence as a useful visualization tool. It’s quite ironic as I was probably the person in the team who was least interested in 3D design at the time.
I was very sceptical back then and was not convinced by all the buzz around 3D design. I felt that it wasn’t realistic enough and I didn’t fully appreciate the other potential advantages of designing in 3D. But after 2 weeks of using SketchUp alongside Lumion, I began to see the merits. I started to sketch in SketchUp, rather than on paper and soon the penny dropped and the new workflow became my primary way of setting out design ideas. Now, I design everything in 3D from beginning to end.”
How does Lumion fit into your business?
A successful business starts with having good designers. No software can make a good designer but the right software can communicate good design ideas. In that way Lumion is absolutely integral to our service offering. It changes both the process of design, as well as the way designs are communicated to our customers.
How does Lumion affect your design process?
When I design in Lumion I can immerse myself in the site walking around the building and garden. Even though I’m sat in the design studio, I walk up the road towards the house, through the gate and I explore the garden making design decisions as I go. I model the areas around the house good or bad, so that I can ‘stand’ at certain locations and check whether I can see, for example, an unattractive structure nearby and if so, I will add a tree, shrub or feature; something which will transform the view. I can also open up views and borrow neighbouring aesthetics. I use the sun study feature for example and look at how the shadows move across the site.
The ability to almost literally be in the garden and experience a day and night on site during the design process is extremely powerful. It massively changes the way gardens can be designed and we absolutely tap into that potential.
I also try to make things look real and recognisable, so if there’s a parking meter outside the house, I’ll include that. Or if there are trees in important locations, I will make detailed notes about them and their locations when I do my site visits. I then get these looking as realistic as possible in Lumion.
“Lumion itself is changing the way the landscape and gardens are being designed. Every single client I’ve had has been wowed by the Lumion film of their house.”
How did you get yourself set up to use Lumion?
It is easy to learn the basics of Lumion although you need to make sure you’ve got the right hardware. Of course this means investing in both the software and the hardware, which is significant, especially for a small company. It also means getting clear for yourself what your workflow is going to be and getting yourself set up for that.
Our workflow is based around SketchUp for modelling, Google Earth for helping to create the context in the neighbourhood of the project and of course Lumion for visualization. It’s one integrated workflow.
How does Lumion help collaboration?
It helps absolutely. In our projects, we tend to work with interior designers and architects and they often use their modelling work in Revit, ArchiCAD or other software. Lumion handles all the file types, so anything can be visualized and as a result the whole house and garden project can be visually integrated within Lumion.
The LS5 file format in Lumion Pro is also important in this respect because Lumion projects can be exchanged easily between the collaborators in a project.
Is Lumion developing in the right way?
Lumion itself is changing the way that landscape and gardens are being designed. It literally adds another dimension to the design process. Lumion has developed a lot since the early releases and continues to make big steps forward with each release.
The upgrade investment is obviously a cost that needs to be considered but I have to say that I get really excited when the new releases come out and I always upgrade. The very recent addition of the web-sharing MyLumion.com is another very useful innovation.
What’s in store for the future of I-Echo?
Everything is going well. We’re going from strength to strength and we’re very busy. What sets us apart is our ability to deliver a turnkey project which has been well-communicated and understood by our clients, project and site managers in every phase. I see us developing more ties with Architects and Interior Designers and am open to developing collaborations so that we can deliver a wider service.