What we offer

Architecture, Interior Design, Planning, Design, Home planing, AdditionsHere, we offer plans, help and advice about architecture, interior design and planning. We will answer basic quesitons for free so don't hesitate to send them.Our business is architecture, planning, interior design, and construction. We have offices in Italy and Southern California.We also offer drafting and 3D renderings to professionals. We work hourly or by fixed fee. Tell us about your project. Contact us: hmarch@hotmail.com and visit our main website http://www.hm-architects.com/

People Props for VectorworksVECTORWORKS PEOPLE PROPS A collection of props for Vectorworks using pictures of real people. To use them just load the file and select the symbol to place it in your drawing. Props take up very little file space and they always face the rendered view. To purchase them click on the links below. Use just a few of them once and the savings in time over making your own pays for them and you can use them as many times as you like. See a short video here: http://youtu.be/TfbmgxU8dJ0 NOTE: It is also available for previous versions of VW, let us know which one you need. Click on the purchase link and have People Props to use in minutes.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

American Design

Do you live outside the US and wish there was someone who could help you with a project involving your living spaces that understood your desires, need for functional spaces, ideas about how kitchens and bathrooms should work, and just in general the way you would like to live.  If so why not contact me, I have over 30 years of experience designing homes for the rich, the middle class and the poor.  Even though I am in Italy most of the time I continue to do projects in the US and together with my wife who is an Italian architect we have done projects in the Czech Republic, Mexico and Switzerland as well as Italy.  Most of the work we have done in these various countries is done over the internet so we can easily work with you even though we may not be able to meet face to face.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Vectorworks 2012 Review
By John Helm - Architect

Now I have to say that my first thought is that the yearly releases should be done closer to Christmas as it seems that the elves at Nemeschek land work all year long fulfilling the wishes of all the good little boys and girls in the real design world.  Really 100 improvements and a bunch of new features, what more could one ask Santa to bring us.  Well they do charge for these presents so one still has to ask wither or not they are worth the added expense. 

In this review I am not able to address all of the improvements, added features, etc.  There are too many.   I am just going to sort of randomly pick out a few and comment on some that stand out at first glance.  The best way to see them all is to go to this site. http://download2cf.nemetschek.net/www_misc/2012/VW2012_whats_new_brochure.pdf  And you will notice that my comments are directed mostly towards the use of the features by an architect, because that is what I know best and of course some of my comments might not be the last word as I am not pretending to be the total expert.

The first new feature that I noticed with affection is the ability to select a working plane by just clicking on it and then being able to work directly on it, adding text, cut outs, new parts and so on.  I have up to now been too lazy to really use working planes choosing instead to sort of work around them.  This is a great new feature.  But on my computer at least I have noticed a bit of a time lag as the changes get updated in 3D.  This is one of the many issues that come up as a program gets more complicated.  Older computers have a harder timekeeping up.

The Handwriting in on the wall, that is if you select the working plan then type some text it will be on the wall or plane selected in 3D, this I believe could be done before but now it’s much easier.  Also dimensions can be added in a 3D view so it is much easier to show the height of an object for example. 

Pushing and pulling, this is not really new from 2011, but by easily selecting the working plane it also becomes easier.  One thing I thought would be fun and useful was to draw a curved line on a working plan in 3D and then pull it up to a height and turn it into a wall by extruding it.  That didn’t work.  Then I tried to change my curved object by offsetting it.  That didn’t work either.  What does work is to draw any shape in 2D then offset it using the close open curves (also works with straight lines) mode then use the push pull tool to stretch it up to whatever height you want.  It could also just be extruded at that point.  The thing that makes this interesting is the ability to easily create curvilinear shapes that can become walls or maybe areas of glass.   You could do the curved wall thing by drawing a polyline and converting it into a wall using the create objects from polyline tool.   That works but when I tried it with a rather complex set of curves the result was some disconnected pieces.

You gotta love the ability to change the size and angle of tiles and hatches on the fly; wow this one is cool.  It’s great for anyone who does layouts of paving for example.  I almost made myself crazy doing this a few versions back working on the design of a small piazza in Italy.

Collaboration, one of the complaints I’ve seen often is that VW is not the greatest program for larger offices with several people working on the same project.  Of course there are many large offices using the program and it is fairly easy to coordinate several designers working together on a project using viewport referencing.  But this seems an area that has not been improved in this release.

Since I do most of my designing in 3D all of the improvements to this area are more than welcome.  The revised stair tools come to mind here.  In the past in order to have stairs show up on both 2D and 3D views one had to fiddle around with the stairs.  I would generally put the stairs in a separate layer that could be turned on or off.  Now that stairs know what floor they are on that won’t be necessary.   They also adjust themselves to the height between floors, so if we change floor heights the stairs change as well.  The only problem is adjusting the floor plan to for the added horizontal space required, but at least it will be obvious that a change in the floor plan may be needed.  This is something that might be forgotten otherwise.

VW still remains a multipurpose tool.  That is it is not just designed for architects, so one might find that it is not as automated as some other programs.  We can’t have our cake and eat it too.  If we want a tool that allows tremendous flexibility then we have to accept the fact that it is not going to do everything automatically.  However, VW does do a pretty good job in this area and with some tweaking an office that does a lot of repetitive design, apartments, production housing and so on can really set up the program so that anything that is used more than once can be part of the office standards.  The improved standard notes, easier to find symbols, scalable and save-able hatches and tiles, Renderworks styles that can be modified and saved, and improvements to worksheets among other improvements all make for added efficiency.  

One  problem is that whereas a final renderworks render can take just a few minutes some of the styles as they come preloaded can take hours to finish and as you can see below they don’t always produce useable results.  Of course this depends a lot on the computer being used.  Sometimes I think programmers should be made to spend a week using their programs on at least 5 year old computers, with little memory and a slow graphics card.   
The two examples above are the exact same image the first rendered with final quality renderworks and the second with the pre-set artistic renderworks  exterior setting.  As you can see the second one isn’t really useful with those odd spots on the floor.  Where they came from I don’t know.  It could probably be fixed with some setting changes.  The glass wall is cool.  I made it by offsetting a polyline and extruding it then applying a clear glass texture.  It worked fine on this fairly simple polyline.

How many of us are really into BIM, or even really working in 3D, not that many but that is the future.   What will make it work is being able to coordinate the architect’s drawings with all the others involved in a project.  The IFC export import option is what will make this work.  And Vectorworks is pushing ahead of many others in this area.  The real power of this comes when even a small firm can tie together all the various parts of a building project into are true building information model.  Often the whole modeling concept is one which the client is not all that excited to pay extra for, but as the process becomes easier it will become just part of the work not really requiring a lot of extra input or time spent.

The space planning set of tools are really useful and a feature that I think is sometimes overlooked.  It has been around for years but is now getting more attention and has been improved.  Now the spaces for example are defined as polylines so they can be easily changed and they can be any shape including curves.  With this tool you can roughly layout the spaces you need in a new design, push them around  manually to come up with the best arrangement or use the matrix tool to define relationships and the tool arranges the spaces for you.   Then when satisfied with the layout use the walls from polyline tool to create walls.  Add windows and doors, use automatic dimensioning and you have at least a pretty good preliminary floor plan which also has room labels and areas listed and is if you set up your model properly already a 3D model.   One thing I noticed is that the create wall tool is not smart enough to know that walls already exist so if you change the layout after making walls the tool just creates a whole new set of walls.  You can work around this by putting the new walls on a separate layer or erasing the old walls first.  Also it seems to work best when setting the walls to center-line mode, otherwise some walls that ought to line up don't.
Above is a quick space layout done manually.  The room labels can be changed to include sizes, area and room numbers.  All of the spaces can easily be changed, moved around or new ones added.

Here is the space layout with polygons converted to walls and automatic exterior dimensions.  Adding windows and doors would be the next step.  Or what about rendering it with a sketch format so the client doesn’t get scared thinking it’s the final plan.

And then a simple 3D with an automatically created roof and some texture added.

One more feature I want to mention is the georeferencing or GIS.  We recently designed a 100kw photovoltaic plant on the ground.  Being able to easily locate the site on say Google Earth would have been very handy as we had to produce aerial photos with our 3D model located on it.  Of course location is the all important aspect of photovoltaic for shadow studies, sun angle, etc.  This would have been much easier than the way we had to do it.  And here besides the GIS aspect this project was another good example of the universal uses to which VW can be put.  Panels were made into symbols, as were the pieces of the frame work to enable us to easily create an overall model of the project as well as all the plans required.   We did it with version 2011 but this is also an example of how version 2012 would have probably paid for itself in one project.

I guess I could go on about features, but that would take a small book; hopefully this gives you a taste and inspires you to read more on the VW website.  But I have to also conclude by saying that VW has really become a fantastic design tool that gets better and better.  It is as I have written in previous reviews a one stop shop, that architects and designers can use to design just about anything.  It remains intuitive and easy to learn.  For architects and other designers it is the tool that lets them focus their attention on design while at the same time not forcing them to turn the CAD work over to CAD operators.  It is a tool that feels comfortable and fits easily into the hand, like the classic cabinet makers tools that only got better with age.

Finally are the improvements and added features worth the cost to upgrade.   If you are not into 3D at all and are using the program in a kind of old fashioned drafting sort of way then maybe it’s not worth the move.  You have to decide if the 2D improvements are going to save you time.  I think they will if you use them.  If you are into 3D, want to get going with BIM integration into the broader community then it’s a must to keep up with the technology, buy it and spend some time learning all the new features as well as the old ones you never learned how to use.  Actually I think all designers should be designing in 3D.  After all what we design is not only two dimensional and being able to see it in 3D in other than our minds is a big advantage unless of course you don't want your client to really understand what it looks like until it's built.

The disclaimer, I am a fairly longtime user of Vectorworks and I like the program, also I got my copy of 2012 gratis so I could write this review.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ideas for the main Plaza in Belluno, Italy

Above are some of the 3D images we did for a competition to present ideas for updating the main plaza in Belluno, Italy. All of them were captured from one 3D model created with Vectorworks.

Our goal was to make a plan that would enhance the commercial activities in the center of Belluno and at the same time to provide a plaza free of traffic and available for a large variety of activities.  We felt that the success of the downtown businesses is vital to having a strong and healthy central area of Belluno.  Without that the old towns die.  Architects tend to think that people should park away from the center so it can be preserved, and walk to their destinations. But the reality is that most people will sooner get in their cars and drive to the shopping areas that are convenient.  And without the income generated from downtown businesses and the continuing flow of people in and out of the city the city center withers and dies.   But we also considered that the plaza is a great asset and must be enhanced.  We designated some areas for particular activities and provided a new tribute to those who died there.  The concept is the thing that is important.  If a final design is done that can actually be built much might change from what we proposed, however, I believe that our idea to provide a safe plaza separated from traffic while at the same time enhancing the traffic flow around the plaza is the best solution for everyone.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What's growing on the farm

Our new crop is electricity generated from the sun.  The first picture is our rendering of the design done with Vectorworks.  As you can see it very closely reflects the actual constructed project.  VW is quite the design tool, you can design most anything with it.