Architect Attempts Book Review

I recently volunteered for a book review for Nemetschek USA, the makers of Vectorworks. Vectorworks is the mainstay software of our office, and the book is called ‘3D Modeling in Vectorworks 2009’, by Jonathan Pickup. Mr Pickup is a familiar face, if you can say that, on the Nemetschek tech board and is an architect based in New Zealand.

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The book is a guide for beginner users who want to start learning basic 3D and for more advanced users who want additional tips and instructions for more complex geometric forms. I have always thought that software guidebooks should not only show how to use the tools and commands, but also provide tutorial project examples where you can apply the tools for complete learning. This book succeeds in both tasks.

The book comes with a CD that has an interactive PDF of the book, exercise and movie files. The exercise files correspond to the related tutorials of the book allowing the reader to draw along with the lesson. The movies are accessed with Acrobat and are video versions of each exercise, narrated by the author. (For us Mac users, the PDF does not work with Preview).

The book itself is a small spiral hand book that lays flat while in use (all guides should be thus formatted). It is divided into three sections: ‘Simple 3D Modeling’, Architectural Modeling’ and a complete project for a bus stop. The first section explains all the necessary tools for 3D modeling, including extrudes, loft surfaces shells and the like.

The second section covers more architectural aspects of a project, in this case creating a small building on a simple site. The site part is especially useful as it shows how to create a simple site model in lieu of the more complex Digital Terrain Modeler tools that Vectorworks has. The small building here is created not with walls, windows or roof objects, but with extrudes. In that sense it is less a building and more a form to play with.

The last section covers the creation of a bus stop and includes making bollards, trash cans and the bus stop structure. It is a good mix of objects and architectural elements illustrating layer setups, sweeps, solids, extrudes, shells, symbols and rendering modes.

By the way, the forms on the covers are quite interesting objects created in Vectorworks by Sarah Munro. They look like Jello from molds gone wild and are apparently made of fiberglass.

Overall this guide is very nicely designed and organized, and will be passed around our office (at least until the release of Vectorworks 2010).