In a recent Revit Users Group meeting at the BSA, we addressed the topic: “Revit vs SketchUp.” I spoke in favor of SketchUp alongside Henry Weinberg of CBT who advocated for use of Revit.
Henry shared a variety of projects (many of them competitions) where he used Revit from start to finish in very short periods of time to produce plan diagrams, axons, interior / exterior rendering and detailed sectional perspectives. In many examples he demonstrated how one can “soften” a Revit image with watercolor filters in Photoshop, or by layering on a hidden line image over a rendering.
A number of key points from Henry’s discussion include:
- You can use a Revit model like a “fat sharpie.” Don’t be afraid to “throw away” a Revit model after SD and start over.
- Use Revit massing tools for form exploration. They are equal to most modeling tools in other software.
- Revit imagery can be enhanced using other software such as Photoshop and Archvision.
- Revit’s ability to generate real time analytics (such as BGSF, or energy considerations) can inform a design.
- Collaboration is enhanced by having the whole team working in one model.
- Revit inherently organizes elements in the way a building is put together, saving you time creating your own system of layers and organization.
- “Rhino is the new SketchUp,” and is being widely adopted among young designers. Revit’s interface is admittedly poor. However the next release will allow editing in perspective mode.
In my presentation I explored the workflow of our software use at Payette and for me it breaks down into three main tasks:
Exploration – coming up with concepts, testing ideas and options
Presentation – “selling” a design for client meetings and front-end business
Documentation – drawing and creating packages of deliverables
I focused my discussion on the first of these tasks, and posed the question:
How do you explore a design?
At Payette we do use occasionally use Revit in competitions. In one recent design competition, a large team concurrently explored and crafted the design using a wide variety of tools and media – hand sketches, diagrams, physical models, SketchUp for massing, CAD and Illustrator for plans and sections, and Photoshop collages for “rendering.” My point here is that each tool allowed different avenues of exploration to occur while staying in one primary medium would probably have held us back.
When that same project kicked-off SD, we used SketchUp at various scales, from urban to interior. At one point in the process the curves of the building changed almost from week to week, utilizing SketchUp and CAD allowed us to iterate very quickly.
In DD to CD, we brought in other software such as Maya and Rhino with Grasshopper to explore and generate the complex geometry of the spiral staircase and curved building skin. We continued to use SketchUp for specific areas of design study and we rendered directly out of Revit.
In this project we brought a wide variety of tools and modeling software to bear on each design problem, and based on each team member’s skillset we leveraged these tools to explore design and enable our firm leadership and clients to visualize spaces, and make design decisions.
These are the key ideas:
Thesis 1: Software diversity improves range of imagery types and maximizes team abilities.
The decision to use any given software depends on the ability of the available team members, time available and the stage of the project.
Collaboration is fostered through proactive team communication, not software. In the same way, knowing software does not make one a good architect or designer.
Thesis 2: SketchUp is an ideal medium for design exploration (…except when designing complex curved geometry)
- SketchUp is designed to give freedom to explore alignments, proportions and relationships between elements through intuitive navigation and simple user-interface.
- In SketchUp, what you see is exactly what you get. Default perspective view and ability to navigate into and “inhabit” every part of the model is a strength of the program.
- SketchUp is widely used and easy to learn – at Payette anyone across the firm can make an immediate contribution to advancing the design conversation and process.
- Fast, responsive software.
- Efficient small file sizes.
- Free to use, and easy to learn.
In conclusion, SketchUp lets me explore a design in the same way a physical model does. The interface allows me to model almost at the speed of thought, and spinning a model around on screen is like holding it in my hand, which is why I don’t think I will ever stop using SketchUp.
So, how do you explore a design?