Changing track – Form Z to Sketch Up – rationale, tactics and outcomes

  • YEAR
    Pietsch, Susan M
    Shannon, Susan J.
    McCarthy, Joshua
    2006 Conference Papers
    The Education of Future Architects


This paper describes the conversion from a solid modelling computer-aided design program,
Auto•des•sys’s “FormZ”, to a surface modelling computer-aided design program, @Last’s “Sketch
Up”. FormZ had been employed for initiating first years into CAD for 15 years prior to the decision to
switch to Sketch Up. It had been selected for its intuitive interface, internal rendering and animation

This paper describes the motivation to switch from FormZ as the design software of choice for first
years, despite Yehuda Kalay, in Architecture’s New Media, describing solid modelling as the
“representation of choice…in architecture” (Kalay, p.146). It covers the selection of a suitable
replacement program, the implications of using a surface modeller for designing, the
creation/conversion of teaching resources and the process of familiarising teaching staff with the
new software. Notably, the change has maintained the School’s desire to immerse students early in
3D modelling while reducing some of the side effects that digital media can have on student’s
attention to the actual design idea.

It concludes by reflecting upon the development of design skills and design sensibility in first year
students, their evaluation of the efficacy of this program and whether Kalay’s assertion is applicable
to the early years of design education.


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