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SketchUp Campus recap: Model an architectural building from reference

The latest course from the SketchUp Campus team helps you master an often-needed skill in the world of architecture and design: creating a 3D model from very limited information. Follow along with Eric to learn the art of building a conceptual 3D model from only reference photos. 

Video summary of the SketchUp Campus course: Architecture Building from Reference

Quick overview of the new SketchUp Campus course, Architecture Building from Reference

Aging buildings designed for a specific use are often poorly suited to modern society's living and working needs. Often, the most environmentally conscious move is to adapt and reuse these spaces. Not only can designers save time and money by repurposing existing structures, but these efforts reduce urban sprawl and minimize the need for new raw materials for construction. 

A big challenge for designers is deciding where to start. How can we build a 3D model as accurately as possible with limited information and the all-too-common combination of incomplete, inaccurate, or missing historical plans — if we can find plans at all?

While a rough model can help win the proposal, starting with a 3D model that can be used as your conceptual foundation throughout the project is far more efficient. 

Cover photo for new SketchUp Campus course: Architecture Building from Reference

The latest course on SketchUp Campus, Architecture Building from Reference, helps you model an existing building based on little documentation. Eric walks us through a real-world example of his process by 3D modeling a historical Art Deco-style building using nothing more than reference images. With just three images to work from, he produces a compelling model. 

The skills gained in this course will help you see images in a new way. At the end, you’ll be able to translate what you see into modeling terms to give you a strong starting point, which you can then build from for later conceptual design. You won’t be developing a 100% accurate model — you’ll need to do a site survey for that level of precision. We recommend testing out Scan Essentials to save time gathering details and measurements. However, creating a working 3D model from what references you do have available provides a great foundation for conceptual design.

One note: this is an intermediate-level course. While Eric simplifies the process and makes it easy to follow along, it requires a basic familiarity with SketchUp’s tools and workflows. If you’re a new SketchUp user, our SketchUp Fundamentals offering on Campus is a fantastic place to get started. 

Ready to dive in? Enroll in the course — for free — to download exercise models and get the full rundown from Eric, one of our resident SketchUp experts. If you want to try SketchUp, start a free trial to follow along with this or any of our other Campus courses.

About the Author

Getting his start in architecture, Dan is a jack-of-all-trades creative with a penchant for storytelling. When not playing with words or exercising his appetite for new information, you’ll likely find him — coffee in hand — in the woods, on the water, or somewhere up a hill.

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