Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Getting my Architectural Jonesing In" or "Why My Wrists Hurt a Lot"

My first semester of college, I was an architecture major. I quickly figured out that it wasn't for me (deficit of talent + inability to go sleepless more than 2 days without hallucinating), and since then, I haven't done any work even remotely resembling the visual arts, save for photoshopping the occasional picture.

While doing some reading a few days ago, I came across Google SketchUp, an earlier version of which I used in one of my VisLit projects. Google took the $495 piece of software (I only used the time-limited free trial) and released it, in its entirety, for free.

Too good to be true. But it was/is.

The toolset is much cleaner, and it's a lot easier to use than I remember SketchUp being.

I spent some time dinking around before trying to figure out how to make the windows of an office building I remember seeing in Colorado Springs (windows pictured to the right).

And of course I had to keep going.

SketchUp offers a way to build Components, which is essentially a grouped set of objects that can be replicated elsewhere, with the added feature of all copies of the original component will update themselves automatically as the original is edited (which saves the trouble of having to re-copy/paste everything).


I turned the little boxy office rooms into components, and stacked them on top of each other. Of course, this meant I needed a staircase.

I added a bunch of windows so that there'd be a lot of light (nothing's worse than a dark staircase), and also some curved bits to break up the orthagonal thing I had going on (you can see them on the left side of the staircase, even with the top stair on a flight (just below the landing).

I didn't see any stairs that I liked in the component library (which, by the way, is a nifty little feature), which meant I had to build my own. If I were to go back and re-build them, I'd do some work with making sure the stairs were of even height. I know how to bi-sect a given face/edge, but it'd be neat to be able to divide it up into different areas... that's something I still need to learn.

Going with the windows thing, I decided to play a bit more with the curvilinear theme (though at a fraction of a fraction of a percentage of what Frank Gehry does), and added a big, swooping walkway that sits suspended off the ground, and whose entrance and exists are the landings for the main staircase. The offset means I've got an awkward bit of space underneath it, but I'll find something awesome there (I'm thinking of raising the whole building up off the ground, then making that the entryway).

The curved hallway was the hardest thing to do. I wanted big windows, but I had a hard time figuring out how to make them. I'll probably have to go back and re-draw all the curved walls with polygons, at least until I figure out a more elegant solution (I'm sure that one exists, but brute force is all I know). So there's only one "window" there, and even then, it's mostly a rectangular hole in the wall.

But the whole thing is made of numbers, so I can't exactly complain.

And I'm having more than a bit of fun with it. I don't forsee any pragmatic use for this just yet (this may be an option for a project for my students at some point... except related to literature... and graded...), though I'll probably use it to sketch out the buildings and such for my novel (it's so much faster for me than pen/paper... a testament to my horrendous motor skills and shaky hands), so as to visualize everything in a perfect/awesome fashion. Or a substitute for all the time I've been spending on slam poetry (as my career as a poet is rapidly coming to a hiatus).

For now, though, it's a means of getting my architectural jonesing in again. It's been a long 3 1/2 years without it.