Castles in the Sky: Google Sketchup

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For the aspiring architect and designer there are many tools available online, to fit any level of expertise and knowledge, not to mention pocketbook. Google's free Sketchup software is the latest 3-D modeling tool.

The basic method is to select a standard shape from the examples provided and to drag the corners and sides into the precise building you want to model. (You can construct the building using lines if you prefer.) You can merge other shapes with it — a turret for your bedroom, for instance — and place the windows and doors and ventilators as you want. Then the fun begins! Try out various colors and textures to see how they look. Find out how the shadows will move as the sun wheel thorugh the sky. Set up the interior with the walls and halls and doors and furniture. Take a vertical slice through the building and march it back and forth to see if it is all in proportion. Take pictures with a virtual camera. Annotate the drawing with dimensions and text.

The package comes with an extensive on-line manual which spells out everything in fine detail. Do you know what a "smoove" is? Well, you will once you look through the manual. While it probably helps to be familiar with building and architectural terms to begin with, the manual has depth and detail enough to make you sound like an expert … and very possibly give you a leg-up on the professionals.

Download Sketchup

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