Ed. note: When we first glimpsed the work being done by Professor Joaquin Lorda and the architectural history students at the University of Navarra in Spain, we knew this story, a melding of tradition and whimsy, had to be shared. Sadly, shortly after concluding the following interviews, we received word that Professor Lorda had passed away. Despite this somber news, Professor Lorda’s boundary-pushing work continues to inspire us all. After consulting with the University of Navarra, we decided to publish this blog post in tribute to Professor Lorda and his dedication to the crafts of Architecture and Education.
Each semester, Professor Joaquin Lorda assigns a supplemental project that asks students to explore classical architectural methodologies, while iterating upon those prolific traditions. Students work in small teams, employing elements from Late Roman, Byzantine, Persian, Gothic, Mexican, Spanish and other time-honored styles, into collaborative architectural models limited only by imagination and processor speeds.
We asked Professor Lorda and students Álvaro Martínez Alcalde Tejerina and Miguel Acebrón to talk about the benefits of using SketchUp to collaborate in a classroom setting.
Your students’ projects revolve around collaboration. Can you talk about the challenges this presents, and how you overcome those challenges?
Professor Lorda: Time and organization are the greatest challenges. This exercise is not a traditional architectural design project where each student presents an individual design. It’s a complementary exercise within the History of Architecture course. Students learn historical architectural composition, bringing out the best of its forms, while making progress using 3D programs. The exercise must be done in a short period of time, and students must not do an individual project; they must work one over the other, as artists did in medieval cathedrals.
How does the class approach the presentation phase? Is rendering or photo editing software used?
Miguel: We don’t use any rendering software. We export the model in a 2D graphic (.jpg) with high quality and then Professor Lorda highlights the volume drafting with ink pens. It’s not a very common process but the results are quite impressive. Occasionally we add characters from William Walcot via Photoshop in order to show the scale of a building complex.
How does SketchUp affect traditional modeling and drafting methods in the classroom?
Professor Lorda: SketchUp is an ideal tool for working on this kind of expressive architecture by adding or taking away a little bit in the composition, in the same way as if you were drafting or sculpting with your own hands. Modeling gives expressivity to architecture: a building may be strong, delicate, proud, or implacable… these qualities were acquired traditionally by drawing multiple drafts.
Álvaro: In my case, this was the first time that I used SketchUp and it was really useful. Since that moment it was, and is, as important a tool as the pencil when you want to design.
The projects you model are very large. How do you employ lean modeling practices to navigate the model with ease?
Miguel: Each piece of modeling is developed by a couple of students in a different SketchUp file. The complete model takes a lot of time to process when navigating so we work in separated layers, hiding the areas we are not working on at that moment.
Álvaro: We work with a lot of components, only changing the scale or symmetry. Working this way is really very efficient.
Ed. note: Using layers to help you organize your model is a great way to save time and model faster. Here’s some more information on getting started with Layers.
What SketchUp functions proved fundamental to this design process?
Professor Lorda: Components proved invaluable, since almost every element or building is symmetrical. We can easily divide in 2, 4, 8, etc. equal or symmetrical pieces (inverted vertically or horizontally). For instance, any cuboid modeled is made into a component.
The Scale Tool was used to quickly adjust cuboid shapes into any size and dimension. We create all basic volumes (thick or thin, high or low) within an architectural composition. Walls, plinths, bases, baseboards, roofs, floors, moldings, etc. all are made the same way; a basic piece is made into a component and is stretched with the Scale Tool to fit any particular place.
Miguel: We try to generate the fewest amount of different components we can and later combine them in a wide range of dispositions, similar to traditional architecture’s handling of symmetry and radial display.
To learn more about the program at University of Navarra, or to learn more about Professor Lorda, please visit the University of Navarra website.