Allied Works and Arup Find Common Ground in SketchUp

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Friday, July 26, 2013
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Various design iterations for the perforated concrete ceiling at Denver's Clyfford Still Museum were modeled in SketchUp and Rendered in Maxwell Render. (courtesy Allied Works)

Various design iterations for the perforated concrete ceiling at Denver’s Clyfford Still Museum were modeled in SketchUp and Rendered in Maxwell Render. (courtesy Allied Works)

Allied Works communicates with project collaborators Arup Daylighting via SketchUp plugins.

When Joe Esch, Brad Schell, and a small group of AEC and CAD industry veterans launched SketchUp nearly 13 years ago in Boulder, Colorado, many of the 3D modeling tools on the market had been developed for the entertainment industry. Google acquired the company in 2006, and Trimble bought it in 2012, yet in spite of these changes in ownership, the team has continued to develop SketchUp into an intuitive design-build program to develop sketches and 3D models for the AEC industry. With its user-accessible Ruby API (application programming interface), the generic modeling program of yesteryear has become a full-blown, application specific design tool capable of detailing architectural projects faster and cheaper than in the past.

In addition to the program’s capabilities that facilitate 2D drawings and 3D models, the latest release of the software—SketchUp Pro 2013—includes a categorized selection of plugins organized within the new Extension Warehouse. According to John Bacus, product management director at Trimble for SketchUp, a study conducted several years ago revealed 45 percent of SketchUp users had used plugins, but without an organized search and retrieval system those benefits were underutilized. “There was some chaos in that world, with people writing extensions that didn’t perform particularly well,” said Bacus. A team of developers has worked to compile and format 167 extensions that have been downloaded more than 200,000 times since its release less than two months ago.

A spacing diagram of perforations and reinforcement steel in the ceiling design was used to communicate with the structural engineers. (courtesy Allied Works)

A spacing diagram of perforations and reinforcement steel in the ceiling design was used to communicate with the structural engineers. (courtesy Allied Works)

  • Fabricators Sunders Construction
  • Designers Allied Works
  • Location Denver
  • Date of Completion 2010
  • Material concrete, structural steel
  • Process SketchUp, Maxwell Render, site casting

Portland, Oregon–based Allied Works Architecture has embraced these specialized plugin capabilities. The firm relies heavily on SketchUp’s modeling capabilities, in addition to a regular cache of plugins. Brent Linden, director of Allied Works’ New York office, noted how the flow of programming through the buildings they design is easily made the focus within SketchUp. “Since the design process of the Clyfford Still Museum, we’ve moved away from rectilinear into curvilinear,” said Linden. “When you add curves to rectilinear order, space can continue to flow through structure and the Curviloft lofting tool made that possible for our whole team.” The extension was instrumental in developing the perforated concrete ceiling, one of the museum’s most distinguished features.

Lessons learned in lighting design from the Clyfford Still Museum have also been applied to the firm’s work on the Spaulding Paolozzi Center, a new project currently underway for joint use by Clemson University and the College of Charleston. For both projects, Arup provided daylighting consulting services. “We’re trading SketchUp models of individual perforations and the span of a wall so the amount of daylight being mitigated is where we want it to be,” said Linden. “Arup first gave us a CAD file, we made a 3D model in SketchUp, and now we’re communicating through that program.”

The final design is realized in the gallery's second floor galleries. (Jeremy Bitterman)

The final design is realized in the gallery’s second floor galleries. (Jeremy Bitterman)

In addition to the capabilities of distinct extensions, Linden praised SketchUp for its wide adaptability across his entire team and the speed at which it can be learned. Even as new people come into the Allied Works office and introduce a host of different modeling tools, they can all find common ground in SketchUp. “On the fly, sitting as a team and walking through a 3D model, we can push and pull walls or edges, and change the way the form looks inside and out. Its speed has lent it to being an iterative design form in our process.”

2 Responses to “Allied Works and Arup Find Common Ground in SketchUp”

  1. Brian says:

    The article is an interesting insight into some top flight practices. I have one quibble with the first sentence:

    “… the only 3D modeling tools on the market had been developed for the entertainment industry.”

    Its hard to read a article when the first sentence contains misinformation. Form•Z, a boolean modeler was developed by people in the architecture program at Ohio State University over 25 years ago–and it wasn’t the only example of a modeler designed for the design fields. It sends up a red flag that either the author doesn’t know their history of the medium or someone in the industry is re-writing history in their narrative on how this medium developed.

    Everyone needs to go see the excellent exhibit at the CCA in Montréal curated by Greg Lynn that frames the period when the digital was new, which was way before sketch-up came along.

  2. Andrew says:

    Agree w/ Brian, Rhino 3D, which released 1.0 in 1998 (I remember beta-testing this as a high school student). Rhino has always been seen as a design tool as it’s NURBs focused as opposed to mesh.

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