Congratulations are in order as the 2017 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Awards recently announced their five finalists, one of which is Vectorworks software user, Rudy Ricciotti. The award is organized by the Fundació Mies van der Rohe, which also conducts the Young Talent Architecture Award (YTAA), sponsored by Vectorworks, Inc.


Photo courtesy of EU Mies Award.

After receiving 355 nominations, the selection of five finalists is the third step in the long judging process of the biennial award. Previously, the jury whittled the pool down to 40 shortlisted projects, including the design for the European Hansemuseum by Studio Andreas Heller GmbH Architects & Designers and Lacaton & Vassal’s 59 Dwellings, Neppert Gardens Social Housing in Mulhouse, Haut-Rhin.

The Rivesaltes Memorial Museum interior. Photo by Kevin Dolmaire.

The Rivesaltes Memorial Museum interior. Photo by Kevin Dolmaire.

Many of the finalist’s projects have a direct cultural impact or significance; for instance, Rudy Ricciotti’s design for the Rivesaltes Memorial Museum, made using Vectorworks software, is meant to evoke remembrance and reflection on the history of Camp de Rivesaltes. Camp de Rivesaltes, located in the south of France, has a long history as a place to hold the displaced and unwanted, from its beginning as a military camp that later served as a detainment center and prisoner-of-war depot, to when it became a center for deporting Jews to Nazi camps in 1942. Ricciotti’s memorial, a concrete monolith in the middle of the desolate camp, serves as a stark, visual promise to the impossibility of forgetting.

The exterior of the Rivesaltes Memorial Museum. Photo by Kevin Dolmaire.

The exterior of the Rivesaltes Memorial Museum. Photo by Kevin Dolmaire.

Congratulations to all the finalists: Rudy Ricciotti for the Rivesaltes Memorial Museum, NL Architects and XVW architectuur for deFlatKleiburg, Alison Brooks Architects for Ely Court, Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects for Kannikegården, and BBGK Architekci for Katyn Museum.

As the last step in the judging process, the jury will examine each of the five buildings in person and speak to those who use the space every day before choosing an overall winner, who will be announced in Brussels on May 16. For the first time in the awards’ history, the five award finalists’ buildings will be open for the public to visit from May 20 to May 28, 2017.

To learn more about the awards and see all five finalists’ work, visit the EU Mies Award website.

As part of our continued dedication to better serve designers, we just released Service Pack 3 for the Vectorworks 2017 software line. The updates include plenty of productivity and performance enhancements to improve your workflows.

“Vectorworks 2017 was a monumental release for us, but we haven’t stopped working to make it the best design software available,” said Vectorworks CEO Dr. Biplab Sarkar. “This feature-heavy Service Pack 3 update reinforces our mission to develop user-friendly and adaptable software that achieves high-quality performance for the ever-changing needs of today’s professional design firms. What’s more, our service packs are a free added benefit to all customers.”


Updates to the Vectorworks 2017 Products

With the SP3 release for Architect, Landmark, Spotlight, and Designer, designers can now access the following updates:

  • For a more productive 3D workflow and faster navigation, designers will benefit from improved capability with 3Dconnexion’s 3D mouse. Designers can make use of the 3D mouse and design with two hands for better workflow customization. Also, functionality on the Mac now aligns with that of Windows.
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Improved compatibility with 3Dconnexion’s 3D Mouse.

  • Providing a greater level of control and consistency on Open BIM projects, the new IFC Data Mappings command ensures that IFC has been mapped before exporting to a BIM model.
  • More than 13 times as many high-quality 3D plants from VBvisual are now available by default, at the time of use, enabling more efficient workflows and improved visualizations.
  • With IFC symbol import, it’s now possible to instance symbol data, which reduces file import time and file size, therefore improving the overall file performance.
  • When exporting sheet layers to DWG, only the visible objects are exported. This significantly improves the file size when exporting a small, cropped viewport from a large file.
Thirteen times as many high-quality 3D plants from VBvisual are now available.

Thirteen times as many high-quality 3D plants from VBvisual are now available.

Overall performance improvements include but are not limited to the Vectorworks Graphics Module (VGM), structural member object, viewport data visualization, and BCF Manager.

Updates Exclusive to Vision 2017

Regarding Vision 2017, we’ve strived to continually improve and develop the previsualization software previously known as ESP Vision, since its acquisition. As part of this commitment, Vision 2017 received multiple improvements in Service Pack 3, including enhanced rendering quality and speed.

Improved rendering quality and speed in Vision 2017.

Improved rendering quality and speed in Vision 2017.

“I must say, improvements are noticeable and as a customer that makes me happy,” said Gaspar Potcnik, a Vectorworks user, after experiencing the Vision updates. “The new render is much more user friendly.”

Other new Vision updates with SP3 include:

  • The new Export Video command allows designers to render out a movie of the currently rendered scene as a video file for improved sharing of design ideas with clients and colleagues
  • Files will load significantly faster.
  • Video capture devices can easily be customized on screen displays.
  • Textured objects look more realistic.

Ready for your enhanced experience? Current Vectorworks users can apply Service Pack 3 updates by running the “Check for Updates” command, and those purchasing a Vectorworks 2017 license after the Service Pack 3 release should double check that it was downloaded. Vision users can obtain the links to download Service Pack 3 updates by visiting the tech bulletin.

It’s a wrap– the 2017 eight regional festivals organized by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), a national program organized to celebrate college theater in the United States, have officially ended. Since 1969, KCACTF has helped students develop their creative and technical skills. As a part of KCACTF’s mission, the program holds eight regional festivals annually for students offering workshops, discussions, scholarships, and award programs.

This year, we donated a professional license of Vectorworks Spotlight software to a winner of the Design, Technology, and Management category at each of these festivals. So, we’d like to take a moment to congratulate these emerging entertainment designers who took center stage for their work.

“The KCACTF awards provide us a wonderful opportunity to continue our mission of empowering and supporting young designers to fuel the future of the industry,” said Alice Lowy, marketing programs director at Vectorworks. “We admired all of the winning projects, and can’t wait to support these students as they embark on their professional careers.”

Bradley Taylor, a student at Oklahoma City University, presents his lighting design for “The Crucible” to judges.

Bradley Taylor, a student at Oklahoma City University, presents his lighting design for “The Crucible” to judges.

The festivals ran from January 3 to March 4, 2017. Congratulations to all the winners, listed below:

Winner Emma Cummings with her scenic design project.

Winner Emma Cummings with her scenic design project.

“Computer-aided drafting is a major component of my work as a technical director. It allows me to efficiently and accurately interpret scenic designs and generate shop drawings. It also provides the advantages of rapid editing and flexibility when sharing documents,” said Sawle, winner from region five of the KCACTF. “This award will enable me to continue refining my drafting ability and style as I prepare to re-enter the professional world. It is quite exciting to be a recipient of this award.”

Learn more about how we empower students to step up to the spotlight with free educational software, our Vectorworks Design Scholarship, academic grants, and more here.

By Luc Lefebvre, Senior Architect Product Specialist at Vectorworks, Inc.

Due to intense industry competition, there is increasing pressure to design and construct quality buildings in shorter timeframes, making performance and efficiency even more essential in today’s architectural practice. An architect’s tool of choice is critical in responding to this demand. Back when I worked for King + King Architects as a project manager and BIM manager, I handled our firm’s switch to a fully integrated 3D modeling and BIM process using our tool of choice: Vectorworks software.

An example of a project completed using King + King's BIM process. Image courtesy of King + King Architects.

An example of a project completed using King + King’s BIM process. Image courtesy of King + King Architects.

We picked Vectorworks software for its easy-to-use set of tools and powerful graphic capabilities, which allowed us to not only initially learn the software more quickly, but also adapt our design workflows to better accommodate shorter timeframes. The software’s various 3D modeling tools and 3D objects offer powerful and flexible ways to represent ideas and perform various types of analysis for things like energy performance. Using native objects such as walls, windows, doors, spaces, and more enabled us to work in a 3D environment, while the information contained in those objects facilitated the creation of various types of documentation, from schedules to 2D floor plans, sections, and elevations. The flexibility of the software gave us an edge over our competitors.

Vectorworks software is also designed to help firms smoothly handle collaboration. Being able to work on one central model using project sharing, where each team member can see what is being modeled or altered in real time, helped streamline King + King’s process and internal teamwork. The publish function and various file formats available for export, such as PDF, DWG, and IFC, ensure that Vectorworks models are compatible with various tools on the market, whether it be a consultants’ software of choice or clash detection software, which was a game-changer for our external collaboration.

With our switch to BIM, King + King was able to exceed the growing demands of the field, helping us gain an advantage over other firms. And, now that I work for Vectorworks, it’s my role to help educate other firms like King + King Architects on how worthwhile and feasible it can be to make that transition. If you want to help your firm gain an edge over the competition, then think about making the switch to Vectorworks software and download your free, 30-day trial of the program. To find out more information about how Vectorworks can help optimize your firm’s workflows, check out our infographic below.


With our global network of 35 distributors, we’re firm believers that teamwork makes the dream work. As a result, we’re always eager to celebrate our extended family’s successes, so we’d like to congratulate our Japanese distributor, A&A Co., Ltd, for receiving a BCN AWARD 2017 in the CAD software category thanks to its large Japanese market share.


“This is an incredible honor for A&A, and it’s quite the accomplishment for them to win this award in the highly competitive Japanese market. We sincerely thank all A&A employees for their hard work and dedication, resulting in this tremendous success,” said Vectorworks CEO Dr. Biplab Sarkar. “We will continue developing the robust Vectorworks product line to further empower our distributors to lead the market and enable today’s designers to create unmatched experiences.”

Run by BCN Co., Ltd. for the past 18 years, the BCN AWARD collects the sales data of major domestic electric appliance mass merchandisers, personal computer specialty shops and net shops in Japan. Based off these numbers, the awards recognize manufacturers with the highest total annual sales volume. This year, 58 product provider companies took home prizes in 121 different categories, ranging from categories like Business software, Communications software, and Education/learning software.

With a 32 percent market share, A&A beat out software providers Phototron Limited (24.3 percent market share) and Lilac System Inc. (21.8 percent market share), establishing Vectorworks software as the market leader in Japan. This marks the seventh year that A&A was recognized with a BCN AWARD, winning third place in 2012 and second place from 2013 to 2016.

“It is a great honor to receive a BCN AWARD. It reaffirms that architects and designers highly appreciate the creative design features in the Vectorworks series, which led to us receiving this award,” said Eiichi Kawase, president of A&A Co., Ltd., during the awards ceremony. “We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all the customers and dealers who have given us support and patronage. We will continue to make efforts to provide more attractive products and services in the future.”

You can learn more about our line of design software, available in twelve languages for the architecture, landscape, and entertainment industries, here.

We’ve discussed how to apply to the Vectorworks Design Scholarship, what you get if you win, and best practices for applying — but what does it actually mean to win? How can the scholarship affect your professional career and be the major résumé booster that it promises to be? To find out, we caught up with Martha Carter and Morgan Price, who took home a 2015 Vectorworks Design Scholarship, to see what they’re up to now and how winning jumpstarted their careers.

Carter and Price were masters’ of fine art students at the University of California, Irvine who had taken on a variety of projects over the years in their specific niches: lighting design and scenic design. So, when Carter and Price joined forces to work on The Electra Project in 2015, they had no idea that their experimental production would win a Vectorworks Design Scholarship and have a huge impact on their careers. Together they created a spectacular production while overcoming significant hurdles, such as working across borders, time zones, and language barriers with the director of the play, Mihai Măniuțiu, the Artistic Director and General Manager of the National Theatre of Cluj-Napoca in Romania.

Photo from The Electra Project highlighting the main scenic element, the pendulum. Image courtesy of Morgan Price.

Photo from The Electra Project highlighting the main scenic element, the pendulum. Image courtesy of Morgan Price.

For Carter and Price to best communicate their vision across thousands of miles with the director, they turned to Vectorworks software to produce renderings and digital 3D models. “It’s such a powerful tool to communicate and organize ideas,” says Carter. For students applying to the scholarship, both Carter and Price recommend emphasizing the visual aspects of a project, ensuring they’re the highest possible quality and reflective of the actual production.

Since winning the scholarship and graduating, Carter, who has been pursuing lighting design since she was 14, has been freelancing on many types of productions in the Los Angeles area. She cites winning the free license of Vectorworks Designer as one of the biggest advantages of the scholarship. “I use Vectorworks with every design, whether it’s theatrical or event oriented, or even for laying out the floor plan for a dance production,” says Carter. “I don’t know how I would do my job without it.”

Martha Collage

Left: Dog Sees God at Chapman University. Right: A Chorus Line at The Chance Theater. Lighting design by Martha Carter.

Within her freelance work, Carter’s been able to work on a wide variety of projects, such as Peter Pan and Evita in Panama City, Panama and a dance convention with Break the Floor Productions, where she was challenged to light two new dances every day. Carter was also recognized by the LA Times for her lighting of A Chorus Line at the Chance Theater, saying, “Lighting, superbly designed by Martha Carter, denotes the transitions. Whenever the action turns inward, the lights shift from the bright, flat, naturalistic illumination of the audition to the dimension and color of the mind.” When she’s not freelancing, Carter teaches lighting design and Vectorworks software to high-school students part time at Orange County School of the Arts.

Price has also been busy since graduating in June 2016. She has worked as a draftsperson on a number of plays in Los Angeles, helping translate designers’ ideas from hand drawings to sophisticated computer drafts and digital renderings, sometimes even designing portions of shows. Price lands most of her new clients by impressing people with her drafting skills. “I don’t know how I would have gotten the jobs that I have if it weren’t for Vectorworks,” says Price. “My knowledge of the software has given me such incredible job opportunities, and opened the door for me to work with amazing designers in LA and meet more potential clients through them.”

Drafting samples by Morgan Price from the musical I Only Have Eyes For You at the Montalbán Theater in Hollywood. Scenic Design by John Iacovelli. Image courtesy of Morgan Price.

Drafting samples by Morgan Price from the musical I Only Have Eyes For You at the Montalbán Theater in Hollywood. Scenic Design by John Iacovelli. Image courtesy of Morgan Price.

One such occasion afforded Price the opportunity to work on the Shonda Rhimes TV show, The Catch on ABC. While Price was initially hired as an Art Department Production Assistant, within a few weeks she had impressed the production designer with her skills that she was given more responsibilities such as helping the set designer with drafting and the occasionally editing of drafts for the lighting designers. Her work wowed the production designer so much that she is bringing Price along to her next project, Future Man from Seth Rogen, as an Art Department Coordinator.

Set photo from The Catch on ABC. Production Design by Jessica Kender, Art Direction by Brian Grego. Image courtesy of Morgan Price.

Set photo from The Catch on ABC. Production Design by Jessica Kender, Art Direction by Brian Grego. Image courtesy of Morgan Price.

In their free time, Carter and Price devote their efforts toward developing feminist productions. “We have a lot of ideas, but essentially we want to create work that inspires women and minorities to have a voice,” says Carter. “We’re commissioning playwrights to write productions that will hopefully inspire new artists and designers.”

On winning the scholarship, the two are beyond grateful for the prize money, which they’ve used to fund their vision. “I just want to say thanks to Vectorworks,” says Price. “The scholarship was so helpful financially in pursuing the first feminist piece that Martha and I had been wanting to put together. It allowed us to get together a rough reading of a play with actors and minimal scenic and lighting elements. We plan to continue developing the work over the next few years and hopefully get it on its feet.”

If you’re looking to jumpstart your career and win some fuel for your visions, then don’t hesitate to apply to the Vectorworks Design Scholarship. If you need a little more inspiration before applying, check out other previous winners.

February may be the shortest month, but there’s still plenty of time to sharpen your skills with these quick tutorials.

In the first video, learn how to clean up your renderings by changing display settings for light objects, so you can show them when you need to and hide them when you don’t.

Then, watch step-by-step as we replicate Richard Meier’s Jubilee Church in Rome using Vectorworks 3D modeling tools. Feel free to pause and design along, so you can exercise your modeling muscles, or just watch for inspiration.

Remember, if you have any questions reach out to us at or tweet us @VectorworksHelp.

The scene is the iconic Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, completely crowded, where in a few moments the show will begin. The experienced set designer of Brazilian scenography company P&G Cenografia, Altamir Júnior, huddled in his small control cell inside Box City with coordinators from other disciplines, finally receives the long-awaited signal via radio: “Everybody get ready!” And the show begins: the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Getty Images Richard Heathcote1

Praised by critics from the national and international press, the ceremony was broadcasted live on TV and streamed on the Internet by various networks around the globe, drawing the largest audience for an opening ceremony of any Olympic Games.



Something of such visibility and notoriety could definitely not be run by amateurs. For this reason, the Organizing Committee of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games held an international competition to select the best companies in the world to be responsible for the executive and artistic production of the Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies.

Cerimônias Cariocas 2016 won the competition and in turn hired P&G Cenografia to execute the most important scenic element of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games: Box City, as nicknamed by its creators.


Among other activities, P&G was responsible for the construction detailing of Box City, the development and production of prototypes for systems and materials, the testing for and identification of failures or inadequacies, and the presentation of technical and operational solutions for the construction of the scenery. P&G was also responsible for the operation of Box City during rehearsals and the ceremony.



Conceived by the award-winning British scenographer Es Devlin and production designer and scenographer Daniela Thomas, the idea of the Box City was both simple and challenging. As the name suggests, the scenery consisted of several boxes (or scenic cells) that simulated a city, acting as both a mutant scenario and a multi-level stage, where the dancers climbed to perform choreography.

4_evento 3_m

The internal structure of the boxes, which allowed for circulation of the dancers, artists, and professionals, was made of box trusses and metalon frames covered by different “skins” made of printed vinyl canvas, enabling the formation of various integrated scenarios throughout the ceremony.

At first glance, the assembly of these boxes didn’t seem so challenging, until the following five points were considered:
1 – The boxes needed a structure sturdy enough to support a group of performers jumping and dancing on top of them.
2 – The boxes needed to incorporate a mechanism for exchanging the “skins,” with a total of seven skins per box.
3 – The whole structure of Box City needed to be mounted on the side grandstand of Maracanã Stadium. In other words, the installation had to be very carefully planned.
4 – The whole complex of Box City needed to be composed of 73 boxes.
5 – The mosaic formed by the images on the boxes needed to be seen with minimum optical deformation by all attendees in the stadium.

And all of this had to be considered alongside the natural tension that comes from planning an event that will be broadcast live to billions of viewers around the globe.


Even for the experienced scenographers and stage designers, Altamir Júnior and Omar Muro, who coordinated the assembly of Box City, this was not an ordinary mission. Despite their experience designing mega-events and their assemblies, they knew they were facing a great challenge.

“The process of assembling the box truss structure started from the center and then spread sideways one by one as the adjacent box levels were checked. Often, the levels did not match because of the gap in the stadium stand, which required us to review much of the design to detect and solve the problem,” says Muro. “There were several difficult pre-assembly phases, such as researching and testing the most suitable materials and systems for building Box City, as well as setting the upper levels of each box. The assembly process also took longer than expected due to the precision we were trying to achieve between each of the modules. If we had made a mistake during this process, the rest of the structure would have been compromised. That’s why I supervised the assembly process of the box truss.”

The entire construction process was carried out in P&G workshops under the direction and supervision of the experienced construction manager, Julio Gomes.

“It was a huge task,” remarks Gomes. “We received around 300 technical drawings and details in Vectorworks files from the team of architects and designers, which were immediately analyzed and then printed and distributed to each department in the workshop. About 300 workers, among them carpenters, mechanists, painters, electricians, and covering specialists, translated the technical drawings into reality.”



Considering all the conditions and challenges mentioned, both the manufacturing and assembly of the structures had to be very well planned, necessitating a high-performance 3D design software that would allow for rapid modeling and, at the same time, generate detailed documentation. That’s where Vectorworks software enters the scene.



Vectorworks software has come a long way since P&G Cenografia began using it, Designer and Creative Director Paulo Neves recalls. “Vectorworks has been used at P&G since it was called MiniCAD in 1996,” said Neves. “When we started using computers in the company we adopted 2D vector drawing software like FreeHand and Corel. They were not advanced software, but they allowed us to both illustrate projects, as well as to make technical drawings, in a more intuitive way. And here was where Vectorworks won us over, by allowing us to generate more precise drawings through the same easy vector drawing techniques.”

Paulo Neves_m

“Additionally, Vectorworks’ state-of-the-art 3D modeling capabilities were also a key determinant of its continuous adoption by P&G,” Neves continues. “Today, we use 3D modeling in all our projects across the board, for initial studies, rendering, and as support for the assembly simulations of events.”

“The versatility and speed in 3D generation using Vectorworks has had a great impact on the actual simulation of the construction and assembly of parts,” adds Muro. “Vectorworks also assisted in the manufacturing and assembly of the box truss, tubular structure, flooring, rails, ladders, ramps, and finishings, as well as the detailing during the pre-assembly and manufacturing stages, simulating in 3D all the details of the metalon boxes with all the mechanical parts of the curtain systems and what could happen to the parts during construction and assembly.”

According to Muro, with the high volume of work and the tight schedule, another important point was the software’s short learning curve, meaning that the trainees and architects who had never used it before could learn the software very quickly. “In less than a week they were already drawing and detailing in Vectorworks,” explains Muro.

1_fabrica 14_m

Júnior assisted every minute of the assembly process, from initial studies to the final delivery. “One of the biggest challenges at Box City was combining an artfully conceptualized design with the reality of manufacturing,” explains Júnior. “The convenience and productivity of being able to model in 3D and getting detailed technical drawings without having to change programs was an essential factor. In the specific case of Box City, due to the complexity of the project and the interferences, both with the architecture of the stadium, as well as with the scenic elements, it would have been impossible to work without a perfect 2D/3D integration.”

“Taking into account schedule, budget limit, zero tolerance to errors and inaccuracies, intuitive 3D modeling technology, and even standardization between different file types, Vectorworks was essential at every stage of the process,” concludes Júnior. “Using Vectorworks, we achieved greater agility from the beginning of the design to the generation of the documentation for manufacturing.”


Abel Gomes, an experienced set designer, director and founder of P&G Cenografia, and president of the consortium Cerimônias Cariocas 2016, recalls the success of the opening. “As of midday on Friday, August 5, twelve thousand tickets were sold per day for all events,” says Gomes, who also served as Artistic Director General of the four ceremonies. “After the opening, from Saturday, this number passed to one hundred thousand tickets. With 516 years of history, it was the first time that Brazil communicated with the whole world at the same time.”

From left to right: Leonardo Caetano (Cerimonies Director Rio 2016 Committee), Lee de Castro (Engineer P&G), Fernando Sousa (P&G General Director), Carlos Arthur Nuzman (Rio 2016 committee and COB President), Abel Gomes (P&G Founder and President | CC 2016 - Partner, President and Artistic General Director), Omar Muro (P&G Architect and scenographer), Marcelo Braga (P&G - Assembly Coordinator), Reginaldo Nascimento - (P&G - Assembly Coordinator), Flávio Machado (SRCOM - Associate and Vice-president | CC2016 - Executive Producer of Paralympic Cerimonies Rio 2016), Altamir Jr (P&G - Box City assembly and production coordinator and scenographer).

From left to right: Leonardo Caetano (Rio 2016 Committee – Ceremonies Director), Lee de Castro (P&G – Engineer), Fernando Sousa (P&G – General Director), Carlos Arthur Nuzman (Rio 2016 Committee and COB President), Abel Gomes (P&G – Founder and President | CC 2016 – Partner, President and Artistic General Director), Omar Muro (P&G – Architect and Scenographer), Marcelo Braga (P&G – Assembly Coordinator), Reginaldo Nascimento (P&G – Assembly Coordinator), Flávio Machado (SRCOM – Associate and Vice-President | CC2016 – Executive Producer of Paralympic Ceremonies Rio 2016), Altamir Júnior (P&G – Box City assembly and production coordinator and scenographer).

The opening of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was an unforgettable event, and as Gomes notes, “The success of the opening ceremony is a determining factor for the success of the Games. In other words, if the opening ceremony is good, the Games are good!”

And indeed they were, and will certainly be remembered in the history of the Olympic Games.

What happens to your project files and data after you complete a project? Are they copied to durable media? Sent to the cloud? And how do you confirm long-term access to your firm’s project and client history?

Hosted by Vectorworks Senior Architect Product Specialist Jeffrey Ouellette, Assoc. AIA, IES, our Project Digital Archiving Best Practices for Security & Posterity webinar will walk you through what it means to, and how to, archive data. In just 45 minutes, you’ll learn the limitations of saving project files to durable media or cloud-based storage, common data security deficiencies, and discover technology, tools, and best practices to help your firm create a digital archiving plan to keep your records safe and accessible for the long haul.

 Afterward, make sure you test out your knowledge to earn one AIA LU. Plus, continue increasing your skill set with more webinars on our Inspiration page.

When we think of Vectorworks software users, we typically picture design professionals or aspiring university students, but in Ladue, Missouri, Sharrie Cognac is working with an unlikely group: middle school students. Since 1998, Cognac has been teaching the seventh and eighth graders of Ladue Middle School how to design and draft using Vectorworks software as a part of her Industrial Technologies courses.

When Cognac, officially trained in AutoCAD, wanted to introduce CAD into the Industrial Tech program in Ladue, a Mac platform district, she had to look for an alternative software to match her school’s operating system. Eighteen years after the switch to using and teaching Vectorworks, Cognac is still shocked by the software’s ease of use. “It’s unbelievable the difference in how quickly you can learn to utilize the tools, as opposed to using AutoCAD,” says Cognac. “It’s really intuitive — just so easy to pick up.”

The software is so intuitive that within two or three days of teaching the tools to her middle school students, they’re using Vectorworks on their own. For the seventh grade curriculum, Cognac starts her students off by asking them to draw anything they want, so long as they make use of ten different tools.

 Plan of proposed house designed by one of Cognac's eighth-grade students.

Plan of proposed house designed by one of Cognac’s eighth-grade students.

“My complaint with middle school drafting has always been that it’s hard to get kids to be passionate about drawing a machine part, or a screw, or a gear; it just bears no relevance for them,” Cognac explains. “So I have them make something that actually interests them using the tools they need to learn. If they know how to use those tools to draw a panda bear, for example, then they know how to use those tools to draw their CO2 cars and clocks.”


One seventh grader chose to draft a panda as their first assignment with Vectorworks software.

After learning the basics in seventh grade, Cognac teaches the students the full architectural design process in eighth grade. The students work on a simulated project with teachers volunteering to be “clients” in need of a new home. After the design teams interview the teachers to understand their needs and budgets, they get to designing and drafting a home with Vectorworks.

The students then go on to price out the construction by using measurement tools in the software and applying those results to local material costs. “It’s an all-encompassing project that incorporates so many of their core subjects into Industrial Tech,” explains Cognac.

Cognac says that her programs have received praise and support from all around. “The teachers like it, the parents are impressed by it, and the students are learning so much more than they would just pick up out of a textbook,” states Cognac. During the school’s open houses, she often hears from parents about their excitement at their child’s opportunity to learn a professional design software and the potential benefits of the curriculum.

CO2 Car

CO2 car that was drafted in Vectorworks software before building.

“I have kids that are interested in studying architecture after taking my class,” says Cognac. “But I also have students that may have come into the program interested in the field and they start to rethink. It gives them a kind of real-world taste of what is truly involved in design, so they can better judge their interest.”

Eighth Grade Project

Eighth-grade project presentation board including Vectorworks drafts of a proposed house.

Back in her high school days, Cognac fell in love with drafting and interior design. Today, she feels that same passion for teaching her students about CAD and design. “To see the looks on their faces and hear the sounds of, ‘oh, that’s so cool,’ just really fulfills me,” Cognac reflects. “To get kids to be as excited about working in the computer lab as they are in the shop, that’s the reason I enjoy doing this so much.”

If you agree that school is cool, check out our academic newsletter, For the Love of Design. And if you need any help incorporating Vectorworks software into your educational curriculum, email our academic team or visit our training page.