Google Earth to Sketchup Video Tutorial

5 02 2014

I’ve created my first video tutorial this evening.  Recently I’ve found myself needed to create a number of very quick context models for various project sites.  Fortunately for me, I remembered a technique that I learned a while ago, using buildings from Google Earth (and more specifically the Google 3d warehouse) to bring into sketchup.  I know that a number of you have heard my rants on sketchup and for those who haven’t I’m sure it’ll come up in the future.  Needless to say, I’m not typically a sketchup user, but I do have to say, this technique is VERY helpful.  Because of the past connection between Google, Google Earth, and (formerly) Google Sketchup, this technique starts and is fundamentally rooted in Sketchup.  Don’t worry fellow Rhino and 3D Max users, the next tutorial will talk about how to pull this out of sketchup and into another program.

Check out my video on youtube:


Hopefully this helps!  As always, please leave a comment or let me know if there’s anything that needs clarification.


Short sighted politics

10 06 2011


Let me start off this post by disclaiming that I am not politically affiliated because I care about the issues and not the people who are in office.  As the optimist that I am about our cities, and Cleveland in particular, I feel that politics is indeed going to play a huge role in the outcome of our cities and regions, but I do not like to get into political debates about one party over the other and this post will not intentionally be based around such a debate.  And now to the post…

Image courtesy of

At 9AM this morning  the Cleveland Landmarks Commission hosted a meeting to discuss the demolition of the Columbia Building located downtown.  The  building is currently vacant but still structurally sound.  The debate that brought out, by some accounts, over 450 people centered around the sacrifice of the 103 year old building to make way for a new parking garage for the upcoming casino to be located downtown.  While I will readily admit that I am by no means an architectural preservationist, I also admit that I am an urbanist and as a result care deeply about the urban fabric of our cities.  While the demolition of the urban fabric is often a temporary necessity for the betterment of the overall urban experience, this isn’t the case with this particular building.  The last thing that the Public Square area needs in another parking facility, especially one that removes pedestrian foot traffic but instead funnels people directly from a parking deck into an adjacent building bypassing the potential for revenue for other local businesses, decreasing the amount of people visible in the city.

After much debate the Landmarks Commission voted to allow the demolition of the building by a vote of 4-3, which forced me to the realization that our city, particularly our politicians have become so afraid of losing out on any potential money that no one is asking whether it’s the right thing.  As Steve Litt points out in his article published yesterday, the architect’s design concept shows how the building could be re-used without any negative economic effects to the casino.

Image courtesy of KA Architects via


A few hours later, while attending a Washington University function at the Marriott located downtown, I found myself in the middle of a discussion about the city and what is needed to help revitalize Cleveland.  Having a great view of the hole in the ground that will be the future Medical Mart, I again came back to the idea of political leadership and the need for leadership that has a holistic approach to development and economic growth of the city and region.  How much longer will we as citizens allow our politicians and decision makers to utilize these types of short sighted decisions to determine the future of our built environment with no repercussions?  A common complaint about the city by Clevelanders is that the current planning is doomed to fail because the designs aren’t beautiful, or won’t attract people downtown, or won’t create economic development but when faced with an opportunity to help promote all of these, our decision makers falter and select to do the easy thing instead of the right thing!

Sens[e-Res]ponsive Architecture Workshop

17 05 2011

I received an email today announcing the Sense[e-Res]ponsive Architecture Workshop that will be held August 22-29th at the Department of Architecture at the Technical University of Crete in Chania, Greece.  To see the website click here:  The cost for the workshop is 550 euros which includes accommodations, food, and workshop materials.  The workshop seems extremely interesting and looks to create a dialogue between some of the top researchers in architectural computing and  fabrication.

This workshop will be taught by Harvard GSD Assoc. Prof. Kostas Terzidis, MIT School of Arch. Visiting Scientist Edith Ackermann, TU Delft Hyperbody Group PhD Candidate Christinan Friedrich, MIT Media Lab Research Assistan Peter Schmitt, MIT MediaLab Post doc. Associate Susanne Seitinger, and Univ. of East London School of Architecture and the Visual Arts Lecturer Emmanouil Zaroukas.

Workshop Theme:

Over the past 10 years, autonomy, adaptability, customization and communication have been the most common words used to describe the qualities of Information Technology devices that facilitate everyday activities. IT is now ubiquitous, being integrated into almost everything people get their hands on. It is not strange then that the spearhead of architectural research today engages with more elaborate and sophisticated issues regarding the implementation of these technologies in an effort to create more demanding environments. One such direction that shows great potential is the integration of information technologies systems into the living space. The know-how to perform such a feature is available and the potential for architecture is significant. Already innovators in the field from around the world have created a test bed for the integration of IT into the core of the production of space. These research efforts open up the way for architecture to extend its inquiry beyond the Vitruvian triptych and design spatial behaviors. Embedded interactivity in places that were long regarded inert opened up new possibilities for the human experience. Intelligent control systems are able to enhance the functionality of space, create provocative aesthetics and instigate radical changes in everyday lives as we know it. Moreover, contemporary social conditions seem to be addressed better through the acquired connectivity.

Cleveland Design Competition Announced

3 05 2011

The 2011 Cleveland Design Competition was announced and opened for registration yesterday.  This year’s site is located just north of Cleveland State University and a great mix of urban design and architecture, looking at how to change both the urban landscape of the city and the way that urban educational systems influence and have the potential to revitalize and act as an attractor to the urban core.  I invite everyone, designers, urbanists, and educators, to look into the competition as it has the potential to change not only the city of Cleveland, but extend to any city in the world.  The $5,000 first place prize doesn’t hurt as a motivating factor either.

The competition website is:

Knowing when to say no

12 04 2011

I was fortunate enough to have dinner with a close friend from my MBA program who was in Cleveland for corporate training.  As he is a consultant for business development. we began discussing the intricacies of the architecture industry.   It wasn’t until our discussion over a few hot dogs at the Happy Dog that I truly realized how interesting the architecture business model is.  I have been recently reading the book by Eric Cesal titled Down Detour Road which describes the author’s view of architecture threw various business models.  Mr. Cesal and I were classmates both at the Olin School of Business and the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.


The interesting thing about both my conversation and the  reading that I have been doing both call into question the way in which we as designers value and provide value to our clients.  One of the reasons I found it imperative that I earn my MBA is the understanding that designers, as a profession, are taught to design.  However there is more to our profession than simple design.  There is politics, there is marketing, and there is business decisions all of which impact the way in which a designer is seen in the eyes of the public.  As a result, the understanding of business is as important to profession as is the quality of design.  While talking to my friend, we discussed how a firm “wins” a job based on their qualifications and then must uphold their contractual obligations while simultaneously trying to earn a profit on the pro-forma done on the firm’s behalf.  At times a firm will undertake a job with very tight financial constraints in order to create a dialogue with a new client that can create a new relationship between the firm and the client.


No matter why a firm takes a new job, the important aspect from a business perspective is to create a profit.  Without a profit, a company, no matter in what industry can not sustain itself.  As a result, I must remember one of the earliest lessons that I learned in my Intro to Economics course that I was taught.  A company can not be successful by taking on a loss.  The design profession is so intent on earning a job that we often lose sight of profitability.  I would much rather pass on a job that I know I can’t make money on than taking the job and then try to cut my design talent short in order to sustain profitability.  As Eric describes in his book, there is a difference between “the paid architect” and “the idea architect”.  My goal as a designer is to blur the line between the two and bring the value to my client through great design.  However, it’s as important that I as an individual take on this responsibility as it is that we as a profession understand that we can not low ball each other to drive the margins down to zero.  By doing so, we force our clients to understand that our design is not a commodity, but instead can be based on just the dollar figure we submit in our proposal, but we can also be judged on the quality of our work!  As a commodity, we must base our proposal based on the other firms that we know are also submitting for the job.  However, we must at the same time submit our qualifications that differentiate us as designers and resultingly separate a firm based on quality.  Our industry is am interesting one that combines commodity economics and that of differentiation.  It’s a fine line between being a high end designer and a value designer.  Between the two is where a majority of our industry sits.

Distributed Innovation, Frank Gehry, and Peter B. Lewis Building

4 04 2011

Image by Bryan Chang (via Flickr)

This past Saturday, my wife and I were able to take a behind the scenes tour of the Peter B. Lewis building by Frank Gehry on the campus of Case Western Reserve University.  The tour was led by Dr. Richard Bolland of the Weatherhead School of Management at Case.  Dr. Bolland was an interesting choice to lead the tour because he not only works in the building, but was part of the programming and design as part of the team representing the University.  As a result of, or at least influenced by that experience, Dr. Bolland has recently focussed his research on design and what he called “distributed innovation”.  Of the entire tour, I felt that this was one of the most interesting, thought-provoking parts of the entire tour.

PBL Looking towards Lake Erie (thanks Flickr, namely fitchdnld)

Partially because Gehry uses a proprietary software (sure you can make the argument that CATIA/Project Designer is not used exclusively for Gehry Partners, but that’s another argument), partly because of Gehry’s free-flowing design, and partly because of the construction process, the PBL created some very unique issues in both design and construction.  What Dr. Bolland realized is that the process of design has changed!  Because of the use of 3d modeling, because of the interactivity between the designer and the contractor (and subsequently sub-contractors), and because of the advances in building technologies, the communication and flow of information becomes the something that we as a profession haven’t seen before.  We no longer are sharing 2 dimensional representations of our ideas, but we can virtually create the walls, the spaces, the windows, and as a result the building.  This information is no longer a one way street, but more a conversation.  This flow of information leads to the distributed innovation that Dr. Bolland referred to.  The idea when broken down (if I understand it correctly) is that the innovation in one profession (architecture in this case by the way of BIM/CATIA) influences and necessitates innovation in other industries (contractors, fabricators, framers, and drywallers).  In order to create the space designed, it was necessary for the architect to share with the builders more than just the drawings, but sharing the 3d model, breaking down where the framing should be.  By doing this, the builders begin creating a conversation with the designer, and can have a better understanding of the designer’s intent.  As a result of this process, the designer is happy because the finished building is closer to the original intent, the builder is happy because they have produced a top quality product, and the client is happy because they have a building that is fully coordinated (hopefully) resulting in a savings.

Image from Flickr (I forgot my Camera) - Thanks to Wayne Chen

Now while this sounds like IPD (Integrated Project Delivery), it’s important to realize that distributed innovation and IPD aren’t necessarily the same thing.  IPD is the way a project is set up from a contractual stand point, distributed innovation is what happens between industries as an evolution of one’s innovation.  The teamwork and open, information sharing attitude between all parties is certainly the ideal and hope behind IDP, but the distributed innovation is what happens as a result of various people working together for a common goal.  IPD works to align the incentives of every team member to promote the teamwork.  However, there are plenty of other ways to share the knowledge and create a network for distributed innovation.  Websites that host tutorials and user forums, user groups, webinars, software sponsored conferences all contribute to the distributed innovation.  To see a list of some of examples, check out my Links page!