The Interior Design Program at Abilene Christian University has been in place in the Department of Art and Design for ten years, and has quickly gained a reputation as being a premier program.  This is due in large part to the various local, regional, state and national design competitions the students have competed in and won.  Kitty Wasemiller, Professor and Interior Design Program Director, attributes this success in part to ArchiCAD.   Incorporating building information modeling (BIM) into the program allows the students the ability to easily create and share their projects in a way that no other software can.  Although the design courses using ArchiCAD are taken primarily by interior design majors, the enrollment includes students studying architecture, engineering and even set design for theater. ArchiCAD is a tool they have preferred to use in computer-based studio classes throughout their college career.

Creating Spectacular Images

Retail store sketch modeWasemiller says what sets her students apart from those not using ArchiCAD is the ability to create spectacular images. “The renderings Abilene students produce are so particular to the finest detail, expertly crafted and advanced to the point of knowing exactly what the room will look like in real life.”

A key example of this facet of the students’ learning process is evidenced in the most recent Sherwin Williams Student Design Competition 2013. One of Wasemiller’s students, Tara Holland, took first place in her commercial design of a hospital – created in ArchiCAD. Her submission had to implement Sherwin Williams paint and explain why her chosen colors were supportive of her goal. (a gallery of images from Tara’s submission can be found on the Sherwin Williams Facebook page here) “I’m very proud of her accomplishment, yet it doesn’t surprise me, given the level of illustrations and design concepts created with ArchiCAD in her entry. I’m certain the judging panel saw it as a cohesive design result. That student without question provided everything the contest required. She is a skilled designer who is currently working for an architectural firm in Atlanta.” Other recent competition wins include entries by Haley Buffington Powell, a recent ACU grad*, whose firm uses ArchiCAD. Haley enjoyed success as a student in her design creations, and ArchiCAD continues to help her firm’s award winning ways in Dallas working for AVID Associates.

ArchiCAD Gets Students onto Fast Track for Hands On Creation

About twelve students are grouped in each interior design class at the four year university. The program teaches both hand and computer assisted drawing, which begins in the sophomore year. ArchiCAD is key to getting the students on a fast track of hands on creation. “One of the things that works so well for us is that ArchiCAD is intuitive and descriptive for custom ideas. Students learn building structure quickly and while getting acclimated to the building process, they can try new things early on. I assign the students projects where they need to import and create custom furniture, custom elements and import images from the web. Right from the start, they are working with exact finishes and materials – beyond the default settings – because they can import it from manufacturer websites.”


Image courtesy of Tara Whyte (ACU Senior – Class of 2014)

The resulting designs are highly pictorial – students can see what their idea looks like – a factor that wasn’t there with other modeling software Wasemiller had used in the past. “I was never really able to get them on board with design as quickly with any other software. With ArchiCAD, they are able to work fast and be extremely descriptive – which makes it ideal for design projects. Artistic hand skills are enabled by the software as well. The Sketch mode setting within the BIM program allows 3D views to be printed out as line drawings and hand-rendered.

But the students end up with more than just projects that look good. They are coming up with original, actual, strong designs. The quick uptake in understanding the software just helps them visualize their idea so much better.

Using ArchiCAD to Give Students Key Skills that Will Make Them Valuable in the Job Market

When students enter their junior year, they are required to use the zone tool and use square footage. ArchiCAD facilitates this learning process by allowing the students to quickly pop in walls and edit the form and shape of the walls. Wasemiller says they can form the interior layout of the building according to square footages and adapt it as needed so that the design evolves from a starting point that contains functional data.

soul-hotelWasemiller says a core aspect of the program is focusing on giving the students key skills that will make them valuable in the job market*. She says ArchiCAD has facilitated that aspect of the program.

“My students are asked to work on projects such as hotels. Using reflected ceiling plans, the toggle view mode helps them properly form drawing elements. They are also able to create cut sections, because we want them to look at creating egress and fire exit stairs for a hotel. They can see and evaluate the context of that environment and what spacing is required. ArchiCAD gives them a good training ground when creating a custom stair up to a mezzanine for example – they’re not just making it look nice, they’re getting concrete understanding about depth of tread, rise height and the structure of the space.”

*From the editor: We’ll be speaking to two graduates of the Abilene Christian University program in the coming days to update you on how they’re doing since graduation – look for that post very soon! -M


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