For the Love of SketchUp

Blogger: Kevin Lynch, Director of Interior Architecture | Dallas, TX, USA
November 04, 2011

I have a confession to make: I am in love with Google SketchUp. SketchUp is freedom from the constraints of the long-ago mastered 2D drawing world. The possibilities for creation and modification are endless and are only limited by two things: my imagination and my skills. I can't really say that about anything else… not even my childhood fascination with Lego bricks.

My love affair with SketchUp began more than five years ago, and in that time, I’ve seen both architectural design and interior design change significantly—a change I attribute mostly to SketchUp. After all, “origami” or “folded” architectural forms are popping up everywhere these days. Why? Because they look and feel modern? Because they look cool? Because they are in fashion? Yes… all of the above! But I believe they are also showing up more because it is very easy (and fun) to study those types of forms and how they impact design solutions in SketchUp.    

I’ve also noticed a significant change in my own design work and the work of the designers in my group because of SketchUp. Never mind the obvious bonus effects that happen as a result of whole space design  vs. plan- or elevation-based applied design; I think the single biggest impact SketchUp has made on our work is in the quality of our detailing. 

Before we started studying our design solutions in 3D, we never really had a true understanding of what was going to happen with the difficult details, the intersections, and the transitions between forms and materials. For me, it is this ability to understand these elements quickly and early in the design process that makes SketchUp such a brilliant tool. 

In the 2D drawing world, I might have been able to visualize these conditions in my head (mostly), but I still had to rely almost solely on a sub-contractor’s understanding of my 2D representation in plan or elevation. Now that I have the ability to communicate the design intent in 3D, quickly, easily, and accurately, I can feel more confident that I will be able to realize that design intent rather than having to settle for a contractor’s potentially lackluster interpretation.

So regardless of your architectural style or taste, I am confident that using SketchUp (with at least an intermediate skill set) will make you a better designer. If you are not using SketchUp, it’s probably a good time to get on the bandwagon and build your skills. Chances are you won’t be disappointed. 

Image 1: Flickr CC—Laughing Squid | Image 2, 3 and 4 courtesy of Kevin Lynch