A Scottish visualisation studio is enjoying booming business bringing the world’s most exciting projects to life – from multi-billion-dollar developments to drinks brands.

Float is producing "hyper-realistic" 3D visualisations for renowned international projects including the Qiddiya "destination city" project, the Paradise Farm concept and the new Murabba in Saudi Arabia, the Riyadh 2030 Strategy, and counting major international companies including AtkinsRéalis, Novotel, AECOM, and BrewDog among its growing list of clients.

Float said it has built a burgeoning international reputation for producing some of the best architectural visualisation work in the business in fewer than five years.

The Scottish public will be familiar with the Glasgow-based studio’s work with public realm projects such as the £150 million Aberdeen Beach Masterplan, Central Quay in Glasgow, the £250m Ocean Terminal reimagining in Edinburgh, and the new Monklands Hospital plan in North Lanarkshire.

The studio said its agility has also seen it 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.

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Float also has a significant presence in the drinks industry, from bespoke bottle design visualisation with the likes of Gordon and Macphail to plans for a new South American HQ for one of the world’s biggest beverage brands. 

The Herald: 'A picture tells a thousand words,' said Andy Pennington'A picture tells a thousand words,' said Andy Pennington (Image: Story Shop)

Founder Andy Pennington, a trained architect and self-taught architectural 3D visualisation artist, said he 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 created the venture 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".

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Mr 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 – said to be "an early indication of Float’s potential to make a global impact".

Float has since grown to a team of six, with a further growth planned later this year, and won the visualisation category at the Scottish Design Awards the last two years in a row.

High-profile hires include visualisation artist Jo Stewart, who was Float’s first team member, and client director Alastair Miller, described as one of the industry’s most respected figures.

The Herald: Paradise Farm conceptParadise Farm concept (Image: Float)

Mr 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."

The Herald: Central Quay, GlasgowCentral Quay, Glasgow (Image: Float)

He added: "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."

The Herald: Clockwise: Saudi Qiddya ‘destination city’, BrewDog rooftop in Las Vegas, Aberdeen Masterplan, and Dubai marketClockwise: Saudi Qiddya ‘destination city’, BrewDog rooftop in Las Vegas, Aberdeen Masterplan, and Dubai market (Image: Float)

While new technology, including game engines and the addition of AI, have led to questions over the future of visualisation artists as the tech develops, Mr Pennington believes there will always be an integral role for visualisation artists. 

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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 said it has grown steadily year on year, doubling staffing levels during 2022/2023 alone. With turnover growth from 2022 to 2023 at 40%, turnover is forecast to double over the next 12 months.