About

Stoa Virtual was founded by Architect Eric Winter in 2016 in order to bring the principles of game design to the AEC and BPM industries. As a practicing architect, Eric specialized in prototypical design, mostly in the hospitality sector. As BIM software began to transform the AEC industry in the late 2000′ he decided to try working in software, and joined SmartBIM, LLC, helping to develop BIM applications and modeling services to BPM’s.

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One of the first models we created using VIMtrek– a massing study for a hospital project designed by PBK Architects out of Houston, Texas.

Late in 2010 SmartBIM began to develop a software application that allowed modelers to export BIM models directly into a gaming engine, one based on the Unity platform. Eric began working full-time with this software, VIMtrek, in 2011, learning about the concepts underpinning this process. Having extensive experience as both an architect and BIM user, he naturally began to experiment with designing and modeling buildings in the BIM to gaming pipeline. This led to an extensive study of Unity itself, including some of the scripting.

Eric completed his first concept-to-design development rendering in 2012, using AutoDesk Revit exporting to VIMtrek. The client was a building product manufacturer who wanted a building modeled specifically to showcase his products. The result was a highrise, mixed-use development for a major HVAC manufacturer who wanted to show how his split-systems would look in high-end apartments and cafes.

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Interior view of apartment in the mixed use building Eric modeled on behalf of VIMtrek, LLC for Mitsubishi HVAC

 

After this project, Eric began to expand his methods to include custom Unity builds of projects. It also implanted in his head one of the concepts Stoa now pursues: using gaming engines to showcase both building designs, and manufacturer’s products. Four years of studying, learning, and developing an ever expanding set of custom services, and Eric decided to found Stoa Virtual in order to focus on providing high-end, interactive experiences for our clients, and their clients and customers.

As architects are of course spatial thinkers, when trying to work out a concept to guide this venture, we looked to building types. That brought us to the Stoa. The Stoa was a type of meeting place in ancient Greece. In some ways it was basically a market, but it offered far more than retail. It provided a gathering place for different groups, including philosophers (the Stoics are named so because they met on the steps of the Stoa Poikile). It was thus as much a marketplace for ideas and ideals as it was for goods.

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The Stoa Poikile, Athens, Greece (circa 400 BC)

Further, stoas tended to be long and very open, their architecture elegant and well detailed, but never so ornate or imposing as a temple. They were typically oriented broadly to an open market space known as an agora (basically a square). People came and went to and from the stoa from a multitude of directions, unimpeded by walls or deep spaces. People interacted freely in them, shared and traded whatever they wished.

That’s what inspires and animates this venture to develop custom experiences for its customers in design, construction, and manufacturing: the desire to develop for the building industry an open, virtual meeting and market space; to give people the freedom to define their own spaces, and to define how their visitors can experience them on their own.

What we do 

What don’t we do? We can build models from CAD drawings, hand drawn sketches, or design them ourselves. We can model building products, including

 

furnishings, finishes, and fixtures-whatever someone might want

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Eric Winter, Architect

to put in a building. And once we’ve built models, we can greatly extend our service by developing custom gaming engine models around products or building designs. Gaming engine models (or renderings–the terms are somewhat interchangeable for AEC and BPM projects) can be highly versatile and functional. We can create environments with moving people, automobiles, and other entourage; or allow users to changing finishes, lighting levels, time of day, etc. There really are endless options. We can also output models into desktop executables, or into VR headsets. We’re also working on WebGL, with an eye on being one of the first companies to use it once it is able to fully and reliably support architectural models.