Portsmouth company offers design from another dimension
PORTSMOUTH - In the 10 years since Stefan Vittori founded Tangram 3DS in Portsmouth, the industry has come a long way.
Many similar businesses and architectural firms have closed their doors, unable to weather the economic storm that stalled development and all the auxiliary needs associated with it for a period of about three years.
But Vittori's reputation for quality work, eye for detail and ability to build long-term relationships with developers as close as downtown Portsmouth and as far as Dubai is paying off as development returns.
Tangram 3DS provides photo-realistic 3D visualization and animation for customers, primarily architects and developers.
Vittori first became interested in 3D technology and how it could be used in architecture in the early 1990s in his home country of Austria. Computer-aided design (CAD) machines were just coming on the market, and Vittori immediately started familiarizing himself with the technology, which put him ahead of the curve when all architectural firms switched from hand drawings to CAD.
He came to the United States in 1999 and brought his skills with him, working first for GSA Inc. and Brand Partners before going out on his own in 2003 in a small space above Breaking New Grounds coffee shop.
He got immediate work from area architects and developers, including well-known names such as Steve McHenry and Lisa DeStefano.
"Right away, we could see there was a need for what we do," Vittori said.
His first project was 18 Congress Street with Steve Kelm of Somma Studios and McHenry. Vittori was tasked with visualizing what the transformation of Market Square would look like with the demolition of the Eagle Photo building and the creation of the brick multi-use buildings that exist today.
"It was very important for the city of Portsmouth and the Historic District Commission in giving approval for the building. They wanted to see before and after shots, which helped in the design process and helped with the marketing," Vittori said.
McHenry had budgeted an actual architectural model into the design contract, but realized the old-fashioned models became dust collectors pretty quickly.
"So I was looking for someone that could create a three-dimensional digital model we could use and could do double duty as a marketing tool and help in the design process," McHenry said.
The models allow easy review of a design from any angle and can be easily changed.
"I was familiar with digital 3-D modeling, but the level of specification Tangram brought to the table . and the level of detail they were able to apply to the images was far greater than what we normally would do in our CAD drawings," McHenry said.
In particular, the color, reflections, shadows, landscaping features and people in the design allowed people to trust that what they saw is what would be built, McHenry said.
The projects have just kept coming since. Tangram 3DS has been involved with the Portwalk project, the new Portsmouth Public Library, the Hilton Harbor Hotel and the soon to be developed Parkside project on Wright Avenue at the Portsmouth approach to the Memorial Bridge.
They have also been involved in huge multi-building projects in Dubai and Boston and were recently selected for the highly competitive NorthPoint Project in Cambridge, which involves 20 parcels, parks and paths.
The company grew to about 12 employees and moved to Kittery, but then the recession hit, and the company was forced to downsize and business slowed.
They used the time to develop their portfolio and to branch out. Vittori started Solus 4 LLC, an architectural firm and launched Tangram IDS, focused on interactive design solutions.
In 2009, they expanded into the maritime market with a focus on super yachts.
He said the company's overall goals are quality and getting faster with what they do.
"The competition now is much stronger than it was before. The tools are more user-friendly and more readily available," Vittori said.
Like many architectural firms today, some level of 3-D visualization is built into what McHenry's staff does on a daily basis, but he said he relies on Tangram for larger and more complicated projects, including the Master Plan 2040 for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
Many firms are now using "Revit," which McHenry described as a new generation of CAD drawings called building information modeling that allows architects to render a drawing that can easily become three-dimensional.
"But Revit still doesn't give you the level of artistic visualization that companies like Tangram provide," McHenry said.
McHenry said today people live in a digital video game world and think it takes just the push of a few buttons on a computer to take a walk-through of a building.
"And you can, but it is time-consuming and expensive," McHenry said.
Since 2012, things have been looking brighter for Tangram 3DS as more people come to expect such renderings and as development picks up, Vittori said, and with next year slated to be busier than ever he is looking to hire two additional staff in Kittery.
Vittori said the biggest challenge as the company grows again is finding the right staff because of the myriad skills required, including visualization, an architectural background, computer animation, Web design and multimedia design.
A portfolio of Tangram 3DS's work can be viewed at their website, www.tangram3ds.com.