Architecture CAD Model Importing Now Possible!
July 26, 2007, 5:31 am
Filed under: architect, architectural resources, architecture, virtual architecture

….will be a headline on this blog someday. We’re not there (yet), but now that I have your attention, I have a favor to ask.

For the time being, let’s not focus on what we can’t do in Second Life, and take a look at what we can do there that we can’t as easily or as affordably do anywhere else. It isn’t that each of these points can’t already be done elsewhere, but now they can all be done in the same place, at the same time, for free…

  • We can meet with other architects, designers and collaborators from all around the world
  • When we meet, we can talk to each other – either in 3D proximity-based voice, or in chat.
  • We gain value and insight during meetings by being able to observe fashion signals, body language, and spatial clustering (thanks Trevor!)
  • We can psychologically ‘prime’ the 3D context of our meetings with appropriate visual and informative cues, increasing effectiveness and productivity (discuss modernism sitting inside the Farnsworth House).
  • We can watch live streaming content from architecture and design conferences worldwide.
  • We can attend (free) presentations by world renowned architects, discussing important issues and opportunities facing architects today.
  • We can use the building tools to quickly mock up (in real time) 3D studies to help more effectively describe our ideas.
  • We can allow others to modify what we’ve created, so they can add or contribute their ideas – see Wikitecture.
  • We can quickly and affordably build mockups of design ideas, and invite the public to tour the concept – testing their reaction, hearing their input, and improving – at a cost far less than the same experiment would cost in real life.
  • We can teach architecture.  See Tab Scott’s work.
  • We can share design concepts with our peers, gaining a diverse range of feedback from surprising and qualified sources worldwide.
  • We can do all of this for FREE!

There are many more advantages, too many to cover here, but you get the main idea. In the end, it all comes down to community and collaboration.

Rez Menoptra and I exchanged some comments on a post he wrote on PrimDig last week, and I’m starting to understand what I think is at the core of Rez’s point about architects being more open with their work in Second Life. The really big deal in SL is the community. Without the community, SL would be nothing. So, the more architects we can get to adopt, the more great conversations we can have, the more collaborative building we can do, the faster the platform will evolve. To Rez’s point, this is one of the worst things an architect can do is hide their work on a private sim. I respect the need for privacy in real-life projects, and argue in support of that right, but I think those architects do truly hurt themselves by hiding in isolation if they’re not participating in the community. They’re missing out on the real reason Second Life is a special place for architects. If all you’re going to do is build projects to show clients your project in isolation, there are better applications for that purpose. You’re wasting your time in Second Life.

I think every architect in Second Life needs an elevator pitch. If you catch a newbie architect flying around, how quickly can you get them past ‘can I import my models?’ Invariably, the visitors you can truly engage, and prove to them that SL is more than just a place to import your models, they come back – again and again.

Sure, there are limitations in Second Life. But there is absolutely no question about it – the benefits far outweigh the challenges.

9 Comments so far
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❤ YESSSSS. You’ve got it, my friend. You’ve so gotten it.

Comment by Rez

> We can meet with other architects, designers and collaborators from all around the world.

That’s important, but I think it doesn’t stress what makes meetings in online 3D spaces unique: fashion signals, body language, and spatial clustering add more to the meeting than is possible with text or audio alone.

Without those things, it might as well be a conference call or WebEx.

Comment by Trevor F. Smith

You almost made me spit my coffee out with that headline. A compelling summation, thanks for not framing it as yet another ‘Top Ten Reasons…’ article (especially since you’ve got twelve there 🙂

I interpreted the one notion somewhat differently than Trevor. For example, Keystone and I ‘met’ in Second Life, such that I never would have known him otherwise in a way not facilitated by Webex, conference calls, or even LinkedIn.

I’ve been remiss in joining the dialogue over on Rez’s blog, needless to say I think you’re both right on the money.

Comment by Chip Poutine

Chip has it right here… that headline was so cruel… haha

Comment by Ted Mikulski

Its no lie, architecture CAD model importing is definitely possible, into programs like AutoCAD, Sketchup, etc. =P

The headline didn’t say anything about Second Life. =)

Just wanted to be sure all 4 readers were still paying attention!

Comment by keystonesl

[…] 26. Juli 2007 Interessanter Artikel auf “The Arch Blog” (hat mich eh gewundert, dass auf den keiner gestoßen ist…). “How to import CAD models into SL“… […]

Pingback by Leider zu spät… « cpe | Medienexperimentelles Entwerfen

Hi Keystone,

Here is a copy of the comment I made on PrimDig (Bring it … if you got it thread) that I think is relevant to this thread as well:

Here’s a story I think of when issues of architecture and visualization surface.

But first, some background: I was a member of Apple Inc.’s QuickTimeVR development team. QuickTimeVR was the first virtual navigation technology to hit the Web. In ‘97 I left Apple and Silicon Valley with my Icelandic wife and newborn daughter to spend time in my wifes homeland.

We settled in Reykjavik and I did Internet, 3D, and mobile consulting.

In Reykjavik I met the talented architecture husband/wife team of Steve Christer and Arnhildur Pálmadóttir who run small studio called Studio Granda (

He is a Brit, she is an Icelander. They hold the amazing claim to fame of having won the highly coveted competition to re-design the Reykjavik radhus (town hall). Pretty sweet for your first gig out of school!

I rang up Steve one day and said I’d like to come by his studio to show him the wonders of QuickTimeVR. When we met I proudly showed him a series of panoramas I’d created, extolled the power of visualization, etc. I told him I’d love to do the same for his built and unbuilt work.

Steve looked at me unimpressed and politely told me he had no use for this technology. I was stunned. Steve told when he presents to a client he creates a few simple hand sketch of key vantage points with just enough detail to convey a sense of space. But no more. Steve relies on the client to “fill in the blanks” in their head. This approach allows him the crucial flexibility to change the design down the road as he sees fit. QuickTimeVR would handcuff him into a design solution the clients would expect to be built.

When Steve hires a photographer to shoot one of his buildings he instructs the photographer to follow the same approach. Just a taste. Always leave “air” between the built work and the idea it articulates.

This was one the most eye-opening encounters I’ve had regarding the presentation of information and how a story is told with visuals.

I wonder if SL is actually less valuable to architects then we think.

Doug Turner
SL: Douglas Douglas
Skype: dduuggllaa
email: douglass dot turner at gmail dot com

Comment by Douglass Turner

Great comment Douglas. You’re absolutely right. Architects have been struggling with the idea of sharing realistic 3D renderings of their designs with clients for many years now – since the advent of 3D modeling.

It’s for this very reason that ‘building photorealistic models for visualization’ isn’t even included on this list of reasons Second Life is valuable to architects. In fact, only 4 of the 12 reasons have anything to do with building at all. It’s so much more than just another place to build models. My point is that I’m afraid architects give up or don’t come to Second Life for the very reasons you point out. When architects bring a traditional modeling mentality to Second Life, they completely miss out on everything else the community has to offer.

Besides, if architects prefer sketching over polished renderings, Second Life is perfect for that. People get upset with me when I say this, but I actually like the in-world building tools a lot. I think they are quite elegant in their simplicity, and lend themselves perfectly to schematic design, collaboration and brainstorming for architects. You don’t have to build the virtual model with exacting detail if you don’t want, but can instead focus on studying relationships between spaces and the fundamental principles of architecture, while in a virtual environment. It won’t replace your CAD software, but consider it like cardboard study models you can invite your clients into for a meeting to discuss a design concept. While they’re sitting in the model, you can rip and tear away at the prims as you discuss ideas. Like Rez sez (lol), its more like using pencils or crayons (or clay, cardboard or basswood).

But again, building things is by far the minority when it comes to the reasons why Second Life represents a significant value to architects – and we’ve only just started to scratch the surface of what is possible

Comment by keystonesl

Well… the “Architecture CAD Model Importing Now Possible!” is possible since 3 months ago. Not free but almost free (an avie has to eat every day, and pay rents… you know).

Just take a look at Henshin (click on my website, under SLTools menu). We are preparing the version III with some interesting news (textures, prim modifications, a complete standalone application compatible with most Acad versions, etc.).

And not, it is not an advertising… I have only answered to the title 🙂

Comment by Impalah Shenzhou

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