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Designing Sci-fi Tower/pillar- I need ideas!

Hi again guys,

starting a new project, I need help getting good ideas and references for futuristic/ sci-fi for towers or pillars.

At the moment I sketched some silhouettes, let me know which is the most interesting, and from there I will detail the drawing more then do a Highpoly bake onto a low poly.



  • PixelMasher
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    PixelMasher veteran polycounter
    I like 8 and 12, they seem the most functional as a support pillar. the other ones seem a little too random or lacking purpose. that circle in the bottom of 8 would look great housing a spinning fan.
  • Pope Adam
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    Pope Adam polycounter lvl 11
    i could see number three as like a user console or soemthing with that sharp thing jutting out of the top left side of it being the profile of a LCD screen or something that you'd have to look up at.
  • [HP]
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    [HP] polycounter lvl 13
    I like 1, 2, 8 and 12.

    remember that a pillar is suppose to be holding something in place, so they must at least look robust, their not only for beautification, a bit of sense into the environments, even sci-fi environments, are always welcome.
  • Mazvix
    I like 8 myself. Here is more-

  • Valandar
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    Valandar polycounter lvl 17
    16 looks definitely functional, assuming that the wall is to the right, and the 'handle' thing near the top of the right hand side and the cage near the bottom are moved to the sides of the pillar instead of the "back"... 15 looks good as some sort of free-standing transmitter relay, if a lot thinner, sort of like a sci-fi version of a telephone pole. 17 is similar, and in fact both could co-exist: 15 as a "telephone pole", 17 (slightly shorter) as a "street light" or something. 14 could also work as a power or comms relay type pole, but it looks more like a sci-fi version of a transformer. Where there would be several of 15 and 17 going down the street, there's only be one 14 every couple of street corners...

    Just my opinions on the new ones, of course.
  • Mazvix
    Thanks for the intriquite and detailed description Valandar :)

    I am still waiting on what others think, maybe if they got reference, I am going to see Star trek friday for reference, but that leaves me 1 day to waste...So I might just stick with 8, since the majority favors and thinks its most functional.

    I am always open for more suggestions!
  • Mcejn
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    Mcejn polycounter lvl 12
    I think that 1, 6, 8 and 16 are definitely your strongest. 1 and 6 are probably my favorite just because they would seem much more interesting to look at in 3d.

    It's obvious why people are picking the ones they are, you have to remember since these are pillars, something has to be able to lie right on top of them and be structurally sound. For me, if you just flattened out the top of 6 or made it make sense, and removed the bars on the right side of it, it'd be just as good as the others mentioned.

    Hope this helps instead of confusing you on your decision!
  • samgriffiths
    2,3,8,12 I think the silhouette has a more mechanical feel.
  • Mazvix
    Thanks for your replies Mcejn and Sam.

    I decided to downsize them to 6 8 and 12, I will start sketching detailed versions of them and keep posting, hopefully that will keep everybody on their toes and not let this thread die :P

    I appreciate everybody's hard effort as always, thanks again!
  • Mazvix
    Just finished design number 6

  • Mazvix
  • Mazvix
    Number 8, my latest one. Let me know what is the best out of all of them and I will then move on to a more detailed version for 3D.

  • Turbosmooth Operator
    #12 seems to have the best balance of the three. It's less bulky and has a generally sleeker look.
  • Valandar
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    Valandar polycounter lvl 17
    #8 really has a nice 'industrial' feel to it.
  • Mazvix
    Thanks for your responses.

    For number 8 I am thinking of modifying it more for space, like set it up in a way where Astronauts grab different kinds of planet rocks and they use this machine to scan how much of every mineral it has, e.g. 54% Iron and so on. Going to make that inner piece a tube for the insertion of the moon rocks, and model a couple of different ones then zbrush it.

    And after the design is done to its finest detail, I will move onto the highpoly, I cannot wait :D
  • Mazvix
    I am done. Time to model.

  • glib
    That... looks a lot more like a ladder than stairs.
  • Kevin Johnstone
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    Kevin Johnstone polycounter lvl 16
    I have not read the rest of the thread.

    I think you are moving too quickly to the little details and spending the time in that area of the design that you ought to be spending on the big details, the main forms, how they link and interact with each other.

    I find the best way to approach something like a Tower or large pillars is to first look at the real world version, find cool ref of impossing big support structures in movies or industrial steel mill photos or whatever.

    Then I find I am approaching the design chiefly in terms of its practicality, I invariably learn a little about how the weight and form of these things are supported by bracing mechanisms, I begin to understand about the underlying strengthening powers of T or H beams that tend to be at the root of most large pillar or tower structures.

    This lets us reimagine the necessary elements of the beast first, it is easier then to reinvent those elements a little in a scifi style as our choices are then informed by the real world and the mechanics of such structures and it allows our finished designs then, to sell themselves more as what they are.

    Starting with outlines and siloheutte's for pieces like this do not always prove as helpful as they are for characters, we know how a person works, we subconsciously understand not draw really elaborate loops around the armpits or crotch because it would obstruct movement.

    So those assumptions that are sort of 'for free' with characters tend not to be with environmental pieces, they tend to require you learn the rules of the construction a little first and then you can run wild with it.

    Hope that helps.
  • Mazvix
    Hi glib, I meant a ladder not stairs, execuse my english.

    Kevin, I really appreciate the time that you spent trying to teach me something. You truly are my number 1 inspiration to practice highpoly models, which is why I started this thread.

    I am not going to be satisfied with failures, but I want to be a success in the future and I will take what you told me to heart, because I simply want to be a better artist and a better human being, thank you so much.

    I will rework it tomorrow, hopefully by monday the design will be completed and I can give myself a begginning of the week kind of start.
  • Mazvix
    Hey guys,

    I reworked the base. It isn't done yet, I need to add the supporting pillars from the bottom and will add the computer at the front where it has a hooked support to those top horizontal pipes. Tell me what you think, this is my first highpoly :)

  • Turbosmooth Operator
    Looks more steampunk-ish than what you're aiming for. It's hard to understand the concept and how it would functionally work as a pillar, as at the moment it has more of a futuristic outdoor grill feel to it.

    Can you better outline exactly what kind of pillar or tower this will be? Your descriptions have been a little vague so it's hard to critique the direction.
  • Mazvix
    It is nor a pillar or a tower anymore, if you scroll down I changed it to a scientific machine that processes planet rocks to check the percentage of minerals that it has.

    If this works out more to be steam punk, then ill keep it that way but have the same functionality as a machine behind it. And I know ur saying it looks steam because of the bolts.

    I am open to more crits.
  • Mazvix
    The piece that you are seeing is the bottom, the top will be laying ontop of it with a pipe in the middle for support and 4 in a square shape. the curved pipes go under the Tower shaped structure and then inside a bit.

    Futuristic machine with a steam punk look to it is not a bad idea, it will all come down to the design of the top which I am still working out.

    The tube is where the person puts in the rocks and it gets sucked to the top then goes down for processing.
  • acapulco
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    acapulco polycounter lvl 9
    I think you've got some wrong approach to find a cool looking pillar/techmachine/what the ever...
    This thread is like 'yeah, gonna make some cool stuff' and that is definitely not a good concept as it seems you have none. You should first think of the world it stands in. Don't think of the pillar, think of the building the pillar stands in. Think of the style of the city the building stands in. What epoche for example, what time is it settled? Is it used, is it new. Has it got a lot of detail, is it simple?! Ask yourself questions, do not try to find some weird things in some shapes. When you've got your concept laid down before you, then you can start to do shapeconcepts, but you will definitly see more things in your shapes than now.

    My 2 cents on your concept!
  • Mazvix
    Hey acapulco,
    thanks for your critiques, you are right I just needed to think a bit deeper into how this machine will work. Scifi or futuristic is something I am trying to expose myself to, I am exploring and learning and I think I am starting to get what good design is. I kept asking myself what it meant and did ask for concepts but it seems no body had anything to offer.

    Here is few quick sketches for what I am trying to accomplish what I am after now is NOT a pillar or a tower anymore, it developed into what I mentioned.

    Here is what I sketched so far, i will take it into more detail for normal map details later, as for now I am happy with it.


    So the red dot represents the enterance to the tube where the astronaut or the space cadet will put the planet rocks inside. It will then go up to be grinded with sharp spinning blades on the inside. The information will show up on a screen on the top, those blades are opperated by the 2 poles in the middle and they spin 360 all the way around. After the rocks are processed they go into the waste deposit to collect the remains, and then pushed outside the space ship into space.

    That is the top part, which will lay ontop of the 3D model I showed, I took out the poles and added a keyboard hooked onto the rails around the bottom piece.

    I will post a detailed version of that design later, thanks again. ( this is futuristic, but not that far into the future, even in terms of technology, no time warp yet ;) )
  • Mazvix
    Hi again,

    I am finished with this piece, it was my first highpoly. I am not sure if you guys think this is worth spending time on baking the normals to the lowpoly and getting it textured. If not I will move on, thanks for your time and interest.

  • Mcejn
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    Mcejn polycounter lvl 12
    Really nice man. I can almost see this thing being textured in a TF2 style because of it's ridiculous design, I like it. Almost like this:


    Anyways, I can't really comment on whether or not you should spend the extra time and bake/texture it.
  • renderhjs
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    renderhjs sublime tool
    I really like the design - keep them comming
  • Mazvix
    Renderhjs: Thanks man.
    Mcejn: Thank you :)

    I still do not have an answer if I should finish it, I would assume if you like it it is worth it? Keep 'em coming!
  • renderhjs
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    renderhjs sublime tool
    maybe something that interacts with it so that the composition in the end is more active. For example a monkey (nature / machine contrast) - or simply a robot like these:

    given that you already have plenty of experience with UV and texturing I'd definitely create some textures- not essentially rusty as everyone seems to do that here- but perhaps with interesting materials of that time. Like:

    buttons and beads btw. are a great material resource of that time:

    edit, oh another nice resource link is
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