Constructing a very detailed Google SketchUp model for an active urban downtown setting can be somewhat daunting if you don’t have a clear strategy for how to organize your modeling process and build the model using repetitive architectural components. I thought it would be worthwhile explaining my entire modeling process from the first discussions with my client, selecting a view location, and producing the final detailed model. I developed the model with three distinct phases: 1) view selection, 2) component assembly and 3) detailed presentation model. Each step in the process was reviewed with my client for seamless communication and valuable feedback.
Phase 1 - View Selection
Urban Scale Model. My client had built a very complex master planning SketchUp model representing the large study area in Southern California. We discussed several key neighborhoods within the planning study and selected a specific intersection (shown below) that incorporated three-story residential buildings above street level retail activities.
Located Intersection. Once we identified the specific location for the street scene, I made a duplicate copy from the large urban scale model and deleted all portions of the SketchUp model except for the small model area surrounding the site. This enabled me to work with a minimal sized model for building a quick mockup view.
Mockup View. Using the cropped intersection from the original SketchUp model, I quickly set up a perspective view and push/pulled buildings to heights approximating the retail and residential floor levels. I added a few people, cars and trees to understand the scale of the space. Although it was very rough, the basic model view was approved by my client so I could proceed to the next stage of model development.
New Base Model. I abandoned the original mockup model and constructed a new model with accurate street dimensions and building heights. I fine tuned the model perspective and camera focal length. Notice that I used the two-point perspective view in SketchUp to avoid the vertical distortion that is common from using wide angle lenses. This new view was reviewed with my client and approved for continued model production.
Phase 2 - Component Assembly
Architectural Precedents. My client was deeply interested in the architectural design of the buildings and provided me an example of a similar urban scene he thought would be appropriate to use in this project. I also sent him suggestions for facade variations based on previous projects we had worked on together.
Model Components. Working with a small budget and minimal time, I chose to build a separate SketchUp model with a collection of standardized components that could be assembled to create different building facades. I established a standard module width and fabricated retail pieces, stacked residential units and other window patterns. I also grouped cars, people, trees, light fixtures and other elements in the model that could be easily copied and inserted into my downtown model.
Phase 3 - Detailed Presentation Model
Client Review Model. I constructed the building facades and began populating the model with lights, trees and people. I exported this “in-progress” model view and sent it to my client for review. The horizontal proportion of the scene was not ideal for fitting into his planning report and he asked that the image be more square in proportion. Note: it is important to understand the final graphic format in which the model view will be shown and for you to compose the model scene that fits within the final graphic layout.
Final Presentation Model. I narrowed the width of the model view and increased the image vertical dimension. I increased the tree heights, added cars, people, furniture, signage, shrubs and adjusted shadows to complete the model scene. I exported a high resolution jpeg of the image and sent it to my client. This and three additional model scenes were incorporated into the final master planning document.
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