Anything You can Do, I can Do Better: taking materials from SketchUp to ArchiCAD

I expect to have dozens of people argue against that title. But I sure bet it caught your attention. The real point is that most architectural software has something to teach us about our own preferred program. The examples are endless. But today I want to focus on one program in particular: SketchUp. SketchUp models, the traditional variety of them, have this beautiful balance of realism and abstraction. They sit at a great point along Masahiro Mori’s curve, at the peak before the descent to the Uncanny valley. If you aren’t familiar with this term pause and read up on it.

What is it about SketchUp that makes these models so enjoyable and perfect? Is it something intrinsic to SketchUp? Or is it just something done really well by its creators? Is it something that can be stolen. I think it’s probably a little of each. Those guys who originally created SketchUp were smart: they understood something deeper about the representation of architectural models that others missed.

One of the foundations of a good looking SketchUp model are the default materials. They’re beautiful. Unlike defaults in programs like ArchiCAD which went for realism, SketchUp textures aim for the essence and feel of materials. This is a much better route because we all know that a realistic texture in an unreal environment (non-realistic sun, hard shadows, no environmental effects, etc.) can be very off putting. Or frighten the client into thinking that too much is decided: another trouble BIM always wrestles with. We’ll return to that topic in the future, because clearly I’m over-simplifying things for the purposes of this post.

The Video

Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to bring materials from SketchUp to ArchiCAD. The video also discusses embedded libraries, external libraries, and adding images to materials. Enjoy!

A big thank you to Tim Fuller for constantly making beautiful SketchUp models when we worked together at SALA Architects, and thus continuously throwing down the gauntlet. His work kept me pushing hard to create equally beautiful ArchiCAD models. For more on our experiences together, check out one of my most popular posts: From AutoCAD (to ArchiCAD) to SketchUp… a race.

Are you interested in the representation of architectural models or the relationship between various tools at our disposal? Follow Shoegnome on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to get my thoughts on both those topics. And more. So much more.


  1. M April 18, 2013
    • Jared Banks April 18, 2013
  2. costas April 20, 2013
    • Jared Banks April 20, 2013

Leave a Reply