Case Studies

Artlantis case study: Acorn Creek


Architects | Urban Designers: 
Dennis Moss Partnership

Graphic Designers | Visualization:
DMP Media

Name of project: 
Acorn Creek

Type of project: 
Residential Estate

Somerset West, Western Cape, South Africa

19.3 ha

375 Free-standing homes

Software used:
Sketchup Pro 2016 | Artlantis Studio 6 | Adobe Photoshop CC | Adobe Lightroom CC



Acorn Creek is a new residential estate situated within the rapidly expanding north-western node of Somerset West 40 kilometers from Cape Town, South Africa.  It borders the famous Stellenbosch Winelands and is a desirable location close to most local business centers, great shopping, top schools and pristine beaches.

The estate is currently in the design phase and will ultimately be developed over 7 phases. The marketing of the first 39 homes that comprise phase 1 has already begun. When completed, the estate will consist of 375 free-standing homes offering a multiplex of floor plans meticulously designed to optimize the property it is located on.


Design Concept

The design brief was to create a village estate with a contemporary country feel.  This was guided by its locality and the outdoor lifestyle that the South African population enjoys.  The urban design and spatial planning were also inspired by a sense of community with the aim to create an atmosphere that has spatial qualities that are synonymous with city living but with the tranquillity of a country setting.

Creating a sustainable, harmonious environment has always been the overarching objective and goal.  In the Acorn Creek urban design planning and development, specific steps are, therefore, taken to address climate change and provide sustainable solutions to the strains created by everyday living. Numerous design philosophies and principles were incorporated to help make Acorn Creek a qualitative environment to live in and successfully give it its genius loci.

Private open spaces and squares have been carefully designed and positioned so as to enhance the quality of the interface between the surrounding buildings and the public realm.


The Buildings

Each house is to be specifically designed in context of its surroundings - whether it be the heritage of the historic Cape Winelands or how it sits in conjunction to adjacent houses. Building form, materials and color have all been taken into consideration so as to ensure that the vernacular is consistent and streetscapes are not repetitive but cordial and easy on the eye. In most cases, houses will be designed north-facing to increase the comfort and energy efficiency of the home and energy-saving additions have been made with sustainability in mind.

Buildings have also been designed with key design theories and principles, namely lateral enclosure and edge continuity, axis and perspective and indoor/outdoor fusion as keystones to creating a harmonious environment.   Subtle variations in color and texture will be applied in some areas to help provide contrast, richness and a sense of scale and roof scapes will be primarily double-pitch 30% - 40% and limited flat and mono-pitch roofs to resonate with the historic Winelands.

Hard and soft landscaping have been applied with careful thought at Acorn Creek.  Elements such as floor scape material (traditional cobblestones), texture, colour (charcoal, grey and tan) and pattern, wall scales and artefacts (lighting and street furniture) and the relationship they create with the soft spaces of the natural environment are important design aspects.

The quality and style established by this relationship will contribute to creating its unique character and establishing a distinctive genius loci (spirit of place).


Overcoming challenges

As with most projects, there are design challenges that needed to be overcome.  On an urban design level, holistically integrating the two nodes separated by the water canal, the access /regress road at the main entrance and finding the correct balance between density and space are just a few.

From a marketing and sales point of view, one of the biggest challenges for DMP Media, the design studio responsible for creating the Acorn Creek visual material, was to create and deliver material within a quick turn-around time.  “As a small team of designers, time is the enemy and we seem to always be up against the clock. Work has to be turned around quickly because generally the next project is already coming through the door” says Bruce Moss who heads up the 3D department.  “Not to say we will ever compromise on quality, but with this in mind, our philosophy is not to compete with photo-realistic renders but to rather create atmospheric 3D visuals, that communicates a mood and the spirit of a place.”

The design process involves receiving 2D technical drawings supplied in .dxf or .dwg format and taking it into SketchUp to be built up.  Finished models are imported into Artlantis where materials, objects and lighting parameters are added.  The final step takes us to Adobe Photoshop CC and Adobe Lightroom CC, where the post-production work is done.

Being an in-house studio in close collaboration with the architectural team certainly has its benefits too.  “It helps us not only in our process of creating marketing and sales visuals but also assists the architects with their decision making in terms of colours, textures and detailing.  This free-flow of information ultimately helps to communicate the product to the client and end-sales.”

“What makes Artlantis so incredibly handy in all of this, and probably the biggest reason we like it so much, is the fact that as a tool it has been instrumental in helping us speed up our workflow. Editing is easy and any changes made are instantly updated and previewed in real-time so no time is wasted between model-building and post production” adds Bruce.

From collaborating with the architects during the concept design phase to communicating the designs to the client and ultimately creating pleasing visuals for marketing and sales purposes, Artlantis has become an integral part of DMP's design process.


About DMP Media

DMP Media is a small team of designers that specializes in highly creative, result-oriented visual solutions for the property development and architectural industries.  Located in the historic town of Stellenbosch, DMP Media is a subsidiary company of Dennis Moss Partnership (DMP) – a multi-disciplinary practice consisting of architects, urban designers, urban & regional planners, landscape architects & interior designers.

Established in 1994 to provide an in-house design service to DMP and the specific needs of its clients, DMP Media has steadily grown its services into providing 3D modelling, 3D illustrations, marketing, web, and new media solutions to suit customer needs. Conveniently located under the same roof as Dennis Moss Partnership, they work closely with the architects, urban designers and planners to ensure a seamless process from first pencil stroke to final product to provide high-quality visuals that are not only pleasing on the eye but architecturally accurate as well.

Editor's note:  For Southern African Design Professionals interested in Artlantis, please contact iRender.


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