I have a confession to make: I can’t draw. At least I can’t draw architecture by hand. I can’t sketch out lovely elevations and I certainly can’t sketch perspectives from my head like real architects. I never fully developed the skill in architecture school, then went on to grad school where I studied preservation. At that point, and for most of my career after, I didn’t need to hand draw designs in order to work on historic buildings; I had to measure what was existing, enter it into CAD, then work on space planning from there. I’ve gotten good at it, and good at adding architectural details that have gone missing, all in hard lined 2-D CAD. Similarly, I have had no problem designing directly in CAD for our sheds, garage and cottages since the footprint is limited by our build/ delivery constraints and I can space plan in plan much in the way I worked on historic home remodels prior to starting Historic Shed. And boxes aren’t all that hard to visualize.
That said, I have always looked wistfully at nicely rendered drawings in 3-D, hand sketched or drawn in computer modeling programs. I, however, have always drawn/designed in 2-D AutoCad which doesn’t allow you to create those nice images (CAD programs were fairly new when I attended school in the late 80s, early 90s). I am very good at AutoCad (I even taught it at a tech college years ago) and can create good construction drawings in fairly quick time, but AutoCad is limited to 2-D and can be hard for people to visualize when you are showing them how their cottage will be laid out.
I’ve been struggling with this for years. I pride myself on being pretty computer literate (although I will say I’ve gotten lazy since I have a teenage son that I can turn to for IT) so have spent a lot of time exploring various options to create 3-D renderings, convinced I can learn a new system. I tried SketchUp in the early years, and then again at various intervals, but found it didn’t work with my CAD-trained brain. I tried several other programs, all with similar results: tried them for a couple of days, got frustrated, and then went back to my comfort zone pumping out AutoCad drawings. One of these trials was Revit, which I had bought as part of a package deal with my last AutoCad update (2015). I tried it at the time, then let it sit on my computer unused for several years. About four months ago I decided that I was going to put the time and effort in and learn Revit once and for all. So I watched training videos and I followed step by step hands-on training every evening for months. In the end, I could draw a basic building, but found it difficult to draw certain items that are standard to our Historic Shed designs, such as exposed rafter tails. When, after months of seriously trying, I found my 3-D images constrained by the computer program and the steep uphill learning curve, I starting looking around again.
This time I re-stumbled upon SoftPlan, a residential design program that I had purchased years before, but which wasn’t really right for the work I had been involved in at the time (a project that involved relocating and renovating 33 historic buildings). Now that I was working on new construction residential projects 90% of the time, it seemed worth trying out again. I downloaded the trial, starting playing around and found that it didn’t have the issues I had run into before with other programs. So I bought the online subscription upgrade. I have now been at it most evenings for about a month, received some free training from the company, and am feeling very confident that I will soon be turning out 3-D drawings, along with construction drawings, that will work for us. At some point, I may find it’s not everything I need, but for now, I am very pleased at how quickly I have been learning it and by the powerful built in framing and materials take off tools.
Here are some of my attempts at drawing our Ponce model, one of my favorite floor plans. They still have a ways to go, but I definitely see potential!
Look for some new designs in full 3-D soon.
Ponce model floor plan, 3-D model, and interior