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Setting the Scene

Editorial Type: Review     Date: 03-2014    Views: 3628   

Vectorworks Landmark provides planning tools to create an idyllic setting to place your iconic building designs in, writes David Chadwick

If there is anything that confirms the comprehensiveness of Vectorworks, Nemetschek's alternative architectural software suite to Allplan, it's Vectorworks Landmark, which extends the capabilities of the architect far beyond the limitations that you get with other architectural packages. In fact you don't even have to be an architect to use it - you can be a landscape or site designer, and not only integrate surveys and maps into your bit of land but develop landscape designs, select and visualise plant schedules, build site information models, or create visually compelling presentations and visualisations.

Vectorworks Landmark provides a great set of tools to take you from initial concepts and layouts to presenting the finished product, starting from hand-drawn sketches, site photographs, cardboard models or any other 2D or 3D CAD package and using them as the basis of a bit of freeform modelling, to create mass models, building concepts, and to lay out the landscape. It's a great team product as well, as it incorporates workflow management tools that allow you to split complex projects into manageable workgroups, automated facilities to collect and collate database worksheets and schedules, and the creation of unique reports for submission for LEED, SITES and other sustainable construction standards bodies. In short, you can cover all of a project's bases with Landmark, using Vectorworks Architect to crown the project by designing the building and producing the construction drawings.

But we are running ahead of ourselves. We need to look at Landmark tools separately to get a better idea of the scope of the software. In the first instance you need to create a digital representation of the site, using its Site Information Modelling tools.

The first step is to use the property line tool to define a site's boundaries, which can be integrated with georeferenced survey data from aerial or satellite images to form a 3D digital model of the terrain. The software uses the Triangulated Irregular Network (TIN) data to create a network of triangles that form the 3D terrain. Interpolation between the TINs produces the sites contour lines.

The site representation can be presented in two modes - the existing site or DTM (Digital Terrain Model) which includes simple models of existing structures created as Mass Models using the software's freeform modelling tool, and the proposed DTM which includes site modifiers - roads, building pads, landscape and water management features. Comparing the existing site to the proposed DTM enables cut and fill features to be identified and quantified.

Taking concept sketches from the various sources mentioned earlier allows you to explore building ideas in 2D or 3D, with advanced modelling tools designed to guide you through the freeform design process, automatically sensing work planes, the use of SmartCursor, which provides modelling hints, snapping to objects - and the new X-ray Select technology, which lets you look through a model and select, move and modify hidden objects with precision and ease.

This is enhanced further with an advanced suite of solids and NURBS surface tools that enable the user to create any shape and explore organic geometry using a variety of plastic modelling tools: push, pull, blend, twist, sculpt, deform or punch holes. The software isn't restricted to architectural elements, and can be used to design any physical object - internal fittings, furniture, ornaments. Then, using the same design tools, they can go on to design garden walls, hardscapes, decking, irrigation ditches, roads and so on.

That's if you want to go that far, as Vectorworks Landmark gives you access to large landscape libraries which include furniture, outdoor equipment, lighting and irrigation features. These can be shown in 2D or 3D format along with thousands of pre-drawn plants, plant images, symbols, tile patterns and hatches courtesy of Unilock. In addition, Xfrog, the premium developers of botanical models, provide one of the largest plant image libraries available to any CAD application. Their photorealistic plants are not only available in several views - top, elevation and 3D - but also show seasonal and growth views.

The Freehand drawing tool can be used to create organic shapes for ponds and flower beds, with the Hardscape tool used to fashion the brickwork. An exclusive Place Plant tool can then be brought in to create plant settings, in groups or individually. Set the season and date of planting and you can then watch them grow.

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