Building Materials – One Example to Rule them All
“I would love it if there’s something obvious I’m missing and I am forced to write a retraction of this post!”
This post won’t go live within one week of me writing the above sentence, but what follows was sure written within that time frame. There is a discussion on the ArchiCAD LinkedIn group about my original. Nathan Hildebrandt and Daniel Lindahl (among others) made some great comments. Nathan is a fast rising ArchiCAD Champion. Watch out for him. He understands our beloved program and is doing some really cool things with ArchiCAD, such as not using the Text tool on any drawings. Seriously. One of his goals is to only use the Label tool and pull all the text from the elements. He’s been writing some great stuff for me over on Shoegnome. You need to check his theories out. Anyways, I digress (as is all too typical of me). Daniel is actually the hero of this story (I just wanted to give Nathan a plug). Daniel commented that essentially the problem I had was cultural. Let me just quote him:
“Is this (bold cut line) standard American practice? I have seen this in some architectural magazines from the US, and it always looks odd to me. To my mind, sections should show all cut members, including those concealed within the envelope, with a SLIGHTLY bolder outline, reserving the thin lines for stuff in elevation or fill patterns. But then that is what I have got used to seeing throughout my career.”
After that Daniel went on to say “Maybe it’s a matter of drafting culture, or possibly even design culture.” I sat up straight after this. Exactly. My problems were all cultural and my own fault. I spend so much of my time trying to get architects to wake up from their self-contrived burdens and here I was doing it too. I had found solution after solution and never just said “%$%!@# this. I’m going to think of the answer from the ArchiCAD perspective”.
This solution does everything I was struggling to do in my last post: automatic, pretty 2D and perfect 3D. All it took was to treat both 2D and 3D equally, rather than preferencing one aspect of 2D over everything else—which is what I was doing by always trying to get lineweights to work perfectly. So there we have it. Everything is automatic. Everything is awesome. Daniel’s solution is a great reminder to not slavishly apply traditional drafting solutions to more advanced tools. Yes we can force ArchiCAD to mimic what we are used to, but what if we embrace the power of what ArchiCAD can do? This thinking can lead us to making equally beautiful or even more beautiful drawings than were possible in the past. And just as importantly, we can make drawings that are MORE legible than ever possible before (cough, cough, BIMx Docs, cough, cough).
Daniel got me thinking about other ways to improve our documentation and solve this problem of merging Building Materials and Junctions with our drawing logic. Another answer is of course color. I actually discussed this back in late 2012 in my post about Adding Legibility to Details. You should read that post because it talks about other issues, but here’s an image of the detail I discuss (see right).
Looking at that detail, not only is solid and void obvious, so too is basic material choices. You don’t need to understand standard hatch patterns or read the notes to tell what’s concrete, wood, or brick. But, I’m going to step away from color. Our 3D sections can provide all the color we need for now. And I might argue that so much color in a 1/4″ section could be distracting. I think there’s a lot of value for a larger scale detail, but I’m not there yet for my building sections. Let’s check back sometime around New Years Day 2016. Maybe by then I’ll need to write yet another retraction. I like retractions because it means I’m evolving.
Ignoring the full color option, if I look again at Daniel’s solution, I have two complaints. I could see finding the right cut line thickness to be a delicate operation. Too thin and it doesn’t read. Too thick and all the fine detail gets smushed together as lines merge. But that’s manageable right? It’s just a matter of spending some time playing the high/low game to find the best fit. But if I’m being super critical, I could see that what is cut and what isn’t could still be a bit confusing. Imagine looking at the full building section: if the cut assembly isn’t very detailed, it could be less than obvious what is inside and what is outside. To be honest this is also an issue with relying on lineweights. To the untrained eye, there could be doubt. With a 1/4″ section one of the most important pieces of information we are trying to graphically communicate is solid and void. Whatever solution we find to handle legibility of information should also enhance the differences between solid and void. So here’s my solution: tone.
In the image above, all cut elements have a tone—a light gray—and the same thin lineweight. In my example there is absolutely no confusion. It is obvious what is cut and what isn’t, what is solid and what is void. We don’t need to do any work arounds or cheats. Everything is automatic.
If you look at the colored image above you might notice something. The lineweights don’t add much. In fact I think it’d be more legible if all the lineweights were the same. Actually I bet it’d be best to have the lineweights as thin as possible. It’s so funny, with all my previous solutions lineweights were always the problem. And I spent so much time trying to solve everything else. But once I focused on the real issue, two great solutions appeared (three if you include full color). And in fact, I wonder if there’s an ultimate solution that combines Daniel’s recommendations and mine. It’d look like this:
What do you think? Now that you’ve seen six ways (technically seven if you add in full color drawings) to integrate 2D and 3D views with building materials and automatic junctions with little to no additional 2D fixes, which solution are you going to use? I’m going with tone or tone plus unified slightly bold unified cut lines. I haven’t decided which. Oh and you might be wondering how exactly I created my toned detail in a manner that doesn’t mess up other drawings. I’m working on a few posts and other surprises that will answer your questions on that completely. March is going to be a fun month.
Read James Murray’s great post from 2006: Beauty is Third. He’s spot on correct. But with a little effort when we create our templates (which all my solutions in these posts require) we can focus on accuracy and completeness with the result being beauty. I’m all about finding solutions that give us everything. No need to compromise; not when we can actually automate our way to bigger, better, and faster.
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