For a while now we’ve been able to add dashed and dotted lines to Composites and Complex Profiles. I’ve exploited that feature with the white dotted line trick to get dissimilar fills to merge. Here’s a video on that. And more recently we’ve also been able to use Symbol Line Types in Complex Profiles. Now in ArchiCAD 17 we can use any Symbol Line Type on any Composite structure—Walls, Slabs, Roofs, Shells. Here’s an example:


The above image is a quick Composite Slab that I cobbled together from the basic USA template. To get the the gravel correct, I had to create a new line type because the one that comes with ArchiCAD was pointing up rather than down. Nothing hard. Sure the gravel is a little repetitive, but that’s easily fixable by just making a better Line Type.

A video showing how to alter a Symbol Line Type PLUS more on Symbol Lines Types in Composites

So what have I created? What’s the value of this? We’re merging graphic qualities, macro-solutions, and accurate BIM data. That gravel looks pretty, but doesn’t exist in 3D. It’s not going to mess things up, but it is going to move with the element and appear in every applicable 2D view. Sure if we wanted to calculate the gravel we could do some other tricks (use a Fill instead of a Symbol Line Type or use a Line Type that covers an empty Fill… lots of options). In other words if we wanted it to be 3D we could do that. But one curious thing I see happening in ArchiCAD 17 (and again this is a hunch so I might be completely wrong) is that because of Building Materials we can’t cheat as much as we did in earlier versions. In previous versions of ArchiCAD I would use the same fill all over the place to get it to merge beautifully in the section. That will still work with Building Materials, but if we want to use Building Materials properly we’ll need more differentiation. So the old tricks will work differently. We’ll come back to that later once I investigate further. But I can see a scenario where I want the same Building Material, but for some weird reason I want a slightly different graphic representation. A situation where I want ArchiCAD to see one thing and my clients to see another. Symbol Line Types may fill this gap. Or maybe I’ve just found a solution to a non-existent problem. Either way, check out this image:


Notice the variation we can achieve. Notice what controls whether or not we see a line between elements (hint: it’s Building Materials). I probably should have made the dissimilar Building Materials the same color to highlight that that doesn’t affect the situation. But this is more clear.

The thing that intrigues me, and why I’m sharing it is this: using Symbol Line Types means the 2D data can go beyond the extents of the 3D. In a way you could argue that Symbol Line Types add a 4th dimension to the elements. They had another layer of information that can now be expressed in the drawings. It reminds me of how we sometimes want the 2D symbol of 3D Objects to be a different size than the 3D model. I think this is very powerful. I just don’t know what we’ll do with this ability. Are Symbol Line Types the key to making better, live details? Are they just about beauty? Will they allow us to find a better answer to the question of “how much should I model?”

What do you think? What advantages do you see to having 2D graphic data that is part of a 3D BIM element, but able to be outside of the 3D (and not appear in a 3D view)? My hunch is that it’ll help bridge the gap between pretty and useful drawings. You can get some more of the graphic qualities you want without having to spend lots of time drawing extra lines and fills and things that are not part of a 3D element.



BONUS NOTE: If you find my suggestion of Symbol Line Types as extra-dimensional data a little odd, read this.

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