Architecture Software Tutorials: Which Are The Best Out There?

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In contemporary architecture practice, proficiency in an ever-widening array of architecture software is becoming increasingly important. For almost every job in the field, it is no longer enough to bring a skilled mind and a pencil; different jobs may require different levels of expertise and different types of software, but one thing that seems universally accepted is that some level of involvement with software is now a requirement.

While software has opened a huge range of capabilities for architects, it also presents a challenge: universities have taken wildly different approaches to the teaching of software, with some offering classes and access to experts while others prefer to teach design theory and expect students to pick up software skills in their own time. New architecture graduates therefore already face a divide in skills – and that’s not to mention the many, many architects who went to school before AutoCAD was even an industry standard, and have spent the past decades keeping up with new tools.

The internet has therefore been a huge democratizing effect in this regard, offering , often for free, to anyone with a connection – as long as you know where to look. That’s why ArchDaily wants your help to create a directory of the internet’s best architecture tutorial websites. Find out how to help (and see our own short list to get you started) after the break.

Sefaira Incorporates Customizable Graphics Into Daylight Visualization Software

Sefaira, the market-leading daylighting visualization tool, has just announced a new feature for their software plugins for Autodesk Revit and Trimble Sketchup. In addition to the real-time visualizations announced last year, the new update adds customizable, exportable graphics which offer both a point in time analysis or an annual overview, and analysis tools which help designers easily identify overlit and underlit spaces and review heating or cooling requirements.

Top 10 Technical Apps for Architects

Arrette Scale: perspective. Image Courtesy of Arrette Scale

Building upon our Top 10 Apps for Architects, this collection brings together some of the best quality and most valued technical for designing, sketching, calculating and collaborating. Although the majority of those featured here are designed solely for the iOS platform, every time we collate lists such as these it’s clear that more and more high quality for the Android and Windows platforms are being developed. From condensed versions of large scale software packages that architects and designers use every day, to blank canvases to scratch ideas down onto, you might just find an app that could improve the way you work.

SketchUp Announces Mobile Viewer for iPad

Courtesy of SketchUp

SketchUp have recently unveiled the latest app in their suite, SketchUp Mobile Viewer for . Allowing “on the go” access to models, the app also features access to “the entire universe” of files in their 3D Warehouse. Users can use the same familiar features, such as Orbit, Pan and Zoom, to “present their own private 3D models to clients and partners.” With a price tag of $9.99 from Apple’s App Store, early reviews suggest that this is a good first step with some way yet to go. Being the first ever SketchUp tablet product (with a planned Android version in the works), it has been released in conjunction with SketchUp 2014 which incorporated BIM capabilities for the very first time.

SketchUp 2014 Incorporates BIM Capabilities

Courtesy of Trimble

Trimble Buildings Group have recently released SketchUp 2014, the latest version of its 3D modelling platform for architects, engineers, design and construction professionals. With “more than 30 million unique activations in the past year”, SketchUp is claimed to be the most widely used 3D modeling software in the world today. The latest incarnation of the simple tool features a new 3D Warehouse and some interesting integrations into the world of Building Information Modelling (BIM).

Affinity Plug-in for SketchUp

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When architects use Pro as a tool for making more-accurate bubble diagrams, they create “rooms” whose areas match the ones in the program, group each one, and arrange them three-dimensionally. This is useful until one of the rooms changes size, which can throw off the whole process.

That’s where the SketchUp interoperability in Trelligence Affinity comes in. Affinity is Windows made specifically for the architectural programming and schematic design phases. It includes neat tools for visualizing program information in different ways and using that information to guide your design. The new Affinity plug-in for SketchUp lets you easily connect your shoebox model to Affinity, creating a permanent connection between the model, the spreadsheet and all the underlying data about the building requirements.


ARmedia Augmented Reality Plugin 2.0 has been released

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Inglobe Technologies released last week the new version 2.0 of the ARmedia Augmented Reality Plugin for Google SketchUp and Autodesk 3ds Max, after presenting a preview of the at the Google 3D Basecamp 2010.

Thanks to AR-media™ Plugin v2.0 architecture, engineering, construction firms and professionals can now enjoy the potential of Augmented Reality technology by means of a plenty of new and useful features inside their preferred 3D modeling software.

ARmedia Plugin’s Augmented Reality allows AEC professionals to visualize and study their 3D creations directly in the physical space that surrounds them through a suitable visualization interface.

The new version of the software enhances and completely replaces the former ones by adding new and useful features that allow users to design complex and astonishing Augmented Reality scenes, and to manage a variety of parameters that are crucial in the workflow of every AR project.

For more information, including a trial version of the software, click here.

IES partners with Google SketchUp

With all the software options available, often times we jump between programs as some are suited better to certain aspects of design.  Google may be your software of choice for early design stages, as its ease of use does not limit schematic ideas from sprouting.  Yet, now, with a new partnership between the Integrated Environmental Solutions () and SketchUp, expect to use the program more frequently.

The partnership is a great balance between SketchUp’s strength for early stage design work and IES’ strength in performance analysis and simulations.  Now, users can analyze design iterations across a wide range of areas, such as energy, carbon, solar and daylight from very early in the design process, which will lead to achieving low-energy sustainable building design plus the ability to assess the economics of low/zero carbon technology and renewable energy use.

We look forward to using this new creation and we hope you do, too!

Design your own Building Competition by Hasbro

monopoly_citystreets copyHasbro, the makers of the game, have officially announced a competition that gives -lovers the chance to design a building that will be included in the new interactive game Monopoly City Streets.

To enter this competition, you need to design a 3D building using Google SketchUp and upload it to the Google 3D Warehouse. The deadline to submit entries is Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 11:59pm, EST. Visit the Monopoly City Streets blog for the Official Rules, prizes, and more information.

For more information on how it works, click here.

Google SketchUp 7.1 now available

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This morning Google announced Google 7.1. This new version will be a  free upgrade for existing Pro users, and has emphasis on three important aspects of this easy-to-use (yet powerful and extensible) : performance, an improved version of LayOut (2.1) and collaboration.

As for performance, the engine has been improved and you will notice that orbiting, zooming and drawing can be quicker and smoother in 7.1, for both PC and Mac editions.

LayOut 2.1, the SU componente that enables you to create presentation boards and design documents straight from your model, has now the ability to apply dimensions to scaled SU models and vector graphics. Based on my personal experience, LayOut is very good to deliver quick construction documents and has helped me a lot working with furniture manufacturers. The new dimension tool is something I was waiting for.

LayOut 2.1 also includes snap to the model, an improveed Freehand tool, lists (bullet or numbered, very useful) in the text area, improved grids and improved copy/paste, making it easier to work with other design softwares. You can see more on the video and images below.

Design It: Shelter Competition, remembering the Frank Lloyd Wright spirit

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This year we not only celebrate the 142nd birthday of Frank Lloyd Wright, but also the 50 years of the Guggenheim, one of his master pieces (completed the year he passed away). These dates are not only commemorated with Lego Kits and exhibitions, but also with a very interesting competition held by the and Google Sketchup.

The interesting part of the Design It: Shelter Competition is that it invites people from around the world to do pretty much what Wright made his apprentices at Taliesin: If you wanted to study to be an architect with Wright, you had to design and build a shelter in the desert outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Then you had to live and study in it, as it have been for the past 7 decades (you can see more of this at the Learn by Doing exhibition).

So, the competition invites people to design a small structure where someone might sleep and work. Your shelter should be created for a specific site anywhere in the world and geo-located in Google Earth. It also should conform to size constraints and must not include running water, gas or electricity. Then it must be submitted to Google 3D Warehouse, as described on the video (more details on how to enter here).

You can submit your shelter until August 23. After that, Taliesin students will pick 10 shelters for the People´s Choice Prize, and a jury will pick a shelter for the Juried Prize. You can read more about the prize and the jury here.

I like that this competition is not aimed to architects only, but to anyone who has a good idea for a shelter. As Frank Lloyd Wright, you don´t need formal architectural training, just a good idea and a pen. Or in this case, a 3d modeling tool easy and powerful as a pen.

Bonus: Architecture for Humanity decided to “hack” the competition, by adding a social component to it: The Purpose Prize. Instead of designing your shelter anywhere, do it for a specific community that can use your design to improve their living standard. So after submitting your entry to Google 3D Warehouse, submit it to the Open Architecture Network following these guidelines and you will be running for the Purpose Prize (US$500 + 10th Anniversary AFH Moleskine Folio). But the most important, you will be helping a community with your design skills, even if you don´t get awarded.

AD Interviews: John Bacus, Google Sketchup

During the AIA Convention 2009 we had the chance to talk to different AEC software companies, to learn how they are helping architects. We decided to keep the conversation on the same interview format we have been using, so you can hear it straight from the developers.

Our first interview was with John Bacus, Product Manager for . We focused our interview on how is helping architects by providing a cost efficient tool, both in price and time, that is also extendable via powerful plugins.

Also, we talked on how this product is being used by communities around the world to populate Google Earth with 3D models of their cities. You can see examples of these communities here and here.

Stay tuned for more interviews.

Historic Preservation 2.0

As an architect, I have been involved/consulted on historic preservation proyects. Most of them never materialized, even after spending a lot of time/money between interested parties (government, institutions, communities). It´s Not that it was a waste of time, but after seeing what some communities are doing with almost no official support/money and just driven by their passion, it´s pretty much clear that it can be done in another way.

Let me show you an example: a group of architecture students from Universidad de Talca, in the south of Chile, decided to spend their summer working with a community in Lebu, an old city that was very active at the beginning of the last century thanks to coal mines nearby. Beautiful wooden buildings were erected during the bonanza, but once the coal mines started to shut down, the city lost its economic base and entered into recession until today. All of this beautiful buildings were endangered because of lack of maintenance, and as of today some of them have even been demolished.

So, these students decided to teach the community how to use Google SketchUp as a way to help them preserve their historic buildings. Being a free tool, all they had to go was to get a space and some computers. The local authorities helped them by providing a space for the workshops, and lots of people got interested on this program. They gathered old plans from the city hall and some historic archives, and each one of the 24 assistants to the workshop started to learn how to model in 3D using one of these historic buildings as a case study.

Buy Google Sketchup Pro 7, get $100 off

While walking around the booths at the AIA 2009 Convention, I stopped by , who are not only presenting Sketchup 7 but also showing architects how to market their firms using AdWords and YouTube.

Also, they have a very good discount for those of you who want to buy Google Pro 7: a $100 off (retails at $495).

So, if you were looking to buy the latest version of one of the most easy (yet powerful) modeling tools just head to their store and use promo code SUAIA9, valid until May 15, 2009 on single-user licenses only.

You can also download the basic version for free.

Augmented reality on your desktop, thanks to Sketchup

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Augmented Reality is a new technology that is starting to spread. Basically, it consists on mixing 3D model with live footage in real time. This concept has been applied to futuristic interfaces, and it can be very helpful for architects as it allows you to take 3D Models a step further, placed on the real world and show it to your clients.

Thanks to the AR-media Plugin for Sketchup, you can start playing with Augmented Reality. This plugin allows you to place the 3D Model over live video from your webcam, and move it around as you can see on the above video. The plugin calculates the planes on the live footage thanks to a sheet you need to print out, which allows the software to calculate the distance and inclination.

So, all you need is Google Sketchup (free), a webcam, then download the trial version of the AR-Media Sketchup plugin (limited to 30 seconds), print the sheet and you can start playing with your models.

We just did it at the office with Aravena´s ORDOS 100 model, and it´s very impressive. Try to use a small model to start, since the 30 sec countdown starts running when the software launches and it can take a while to start completly, depending on the model.

Another video after the break.

Aravena buildings in Sketchup / ORDOS 100

A few days ago we featured an interview with Alejandro Aravena and his project for a villa in ORDOS 100, with more than 70 images. In order to further extend the possibilities of understanding this project, Alejandro shared with us a very detailed Sketchup model that is now availabe on Google Warehouse for you to download, explore, explode, modify, share back with us and all the possibilities that Google offers.

Let us know what you think, what you found out by exploring this model, what you modified, etc. Next month we will feature the model for the new building at the Vitra Campus, and St Edwards later on.

Free Sketchup plugins for download

Sketchup is, by far, the easiest tool for modeling. Google acquired this in order to crowd-source the 3D modeling of the earth, since anyone can use it to model their house, school or favourite building. But being simple and fast doesn’t mean it lacks on features.

You can enable several options available on the free standard version, or go pro for more. Also, you can extend it via plugins. Below, two plugins I have found very useful, and also available for free.

The first one is Soap Skin & Bubbles, a plugin designed by german engineer Josef Leibinger, designed to help you in the study of mechanically and pneumatically strained surfaces. The author has also been developing a plugin for tensile structures, but it hasn’t been released yet. But you can still play around with tensile structures on this plugin. You can download Soap Skin & Bubbles for free on their website, and also watch a video tutorial on The Sketchup Show.

The second plugin was developed by Integrated Enviromental Solutions, which lets you assign important sustainable design information like location, building and room type, construction types and HVAC systems to your Sketchup model. From there you can do energy, carbon, daylight and solar analysis, or take this model with all this info to your favourite BIM software. It also allows you to  More info and download a the IES Sketchup plugin website. Complete video tutorial on YouTube.

Two very helpful tools for your design pocess, with the ease of use of Sketchup.

Please share with us any other Sketchup plugins you find useful on the comments below.