By Eric Gilbey, RLA, ASLA, Prof. APLD, Landscape Architecture Industry Specialist at Nemetschek Vectorworks

Landscape designers often feel trapped between a rock and a hard place when it comes to transitioning to CAD software. Drawing by hand allows them to keep the personalized look of their plans and elevations, whereas digital design software makes things faster, easier, and more efficient. What these designers may not realize is that adding personality to their projects on a computer can be easier than assumed, as shown in the four following ways with Vectorworks Landmark’s symbol library features.

Create personally styled plant symbols by modifying default symbols or starting from scratch; change color fills of shapes to emulate ornamental features like leaf and flower color.

2D and 3D Shape Manipulation

Both CAD and hand-drawn designs rely on the use of lines and shapes to produce drawings. Straight and curvilinear lines of varying widths create the basic format, while polygonal shapes allow designers to add a personal touch to a project. Vectorworks Landmark software contains a large library of plant symbols that has both 2D and 3D graphical settings. When a plant symbol is edited in 2D, designers gain immediate access to the lines and shapes that make up the symbol. They can then edit, add, or subtract any part of the object to customize it to their preferences.

Exact Color Creation and Rendering

Object customization isn’t limited to just form. Whether they want to show an exact shade of green for a tree or how a flower garden will look once planted, Landmark users can select the shapes within a symbol, change their “fill” with solid colors, patterns, or a gradient blend of colors, as well as modify a fill’s opacity with ease. Changing the fill’s opacity enables more creativity because designers can add other transparent colored shapes as if they were using markers or watercolors to create layers. With these color layers, users can shadow and highlight symbols to take on visual depth or add brightly colored shapes to replicate blooms, helping the client recognize expected flower colors.

Achieve photo-realistic plan views when using image props of various plant materials along with hardscape and softscape textures.

3D Image Texture Customization

Designers seek ways to give their drawings a more telling 3D look, and sometimes they need something more than color to project their vision onto a project. That’s why Vectorworks Landmark software has a library of material textures that can be used as plant 3D representations, as well as for customizing pavements, walls, and ground surfaces. For example, users can personalize the texture of a certain flower and adjust the hatching on a pathway to represent a specific type of paving stone. With displacement mapping, they can customize these same textures, or even those they have brought into the program, and apply a depth to the surface, giving it added texture with 3D-positioned leaves or stones.

Personalized Library Additions

For designers who are still skeptical about how custom digital designing can change their workflow for the better, remember that all changes made to the shape, color, and texture of objects can be saved in personal libraries within the program. The more the software is used to personalize a design, the easier and more efficient it will become in the future.

For more ways to improve your workflow with Vectorworks Landmark, check out this training video, as well as others like it on our YouTube channel.

We had fun shooting a video interview at our office last night with Donald Holder, winner of two Tony Awards® for his work on The Lion King and South Pacific. Holder shared stories about his journey toward becoming one of Broadway’s best lighting designers, some of his favorite projects and collaborators, as well as his thoughts about the future. Stay tuned for the release of the video!

In the meantime, we’ve published a new Vectorworks User Success Story about Holder’s recent work on The Bridges of Madison County, which earned him a 2014 Tony nomination for Best Lighting Design in a Musical.

“The scenic design was sparse and elemental, conceived to allow light to do a large part of the storytelling,” Holder says. “The lighting was responsible for creating shifts in time, weather, season, location, and interior versus exterior, and there were often multiple locations revealed simultaneously. So the biggest challenge for me was to find the large ‘brushstrokes’ of light via variations in angle and color that could reveal this single space in a multitude of ways.”

The scene and Holder’s communicative lighting design capably suggest the vast Iowa landscape. Courtesy of Joan Marcus, featuring Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale.

Our story describes how Holder and his team addressed these challenges with Vectorworks Spotlight software. For Bridges, Holder collaborated with Associate Lighting Designer Michael P. Jones, who says, “Vectorworks has become such a reliable standard in the theatrical design industry in expressing our theatrical visions into build-ready reality.” Jones notes that that Bridges benefitted from having three disciplines all using the program to execute their designs. Scenic Designer Michael Yeargan’s associate Mikiko Suzuki McAdams and Sound Designer Jon Weston’s associate Jason Strangfeld both drafted their designs using Vectorworks, which Jones says “made the scenic, lighting, and audio integration into the master build schematic easy, as well as updates and revisions simple without having to convert from DWG/ DXF. I am continually pleased with the powerful productivity features that Vectorworks Spotlight provides in helping me draft an aesthetically pleasing light plot out of which became a beautifully realized design element of a wonderful production.”

Read the full story to learn more about how Holder collaborated with the entire design team to create something special, transporting audience members to a magical place each night.

Beware landlubbers; you’ll need sea legs to board a floating office space docked in Penryn, UK. This innovative approach to an office expansion, designed for business space developer RobotMother, is the creation of Michael Hormann and Marraum Architecture, who transformed a World War II ferrocement barge into an efficient workspace that’s moored adjacent to Jubilee Wharf.

“Jubilee Wharf itself is a landmark building because of its sustainable construction, as well as its appearance and function,” says Hormann, a director and architect at Marraum. “It was very important to create a building that would fit into the context. Much of the inspiration came from the location, which I tried to reflect in the space, the atmosphere, and the views of the barge.”

Marraum Architecture designed the interior of the 85×22 foot barge to be a relaxing office space, allowing for natural light and beautiful ocean views while still retaining privacy. “It’s difficult to put into words the distinctive design; you have to see it to understand,” Hormann said.

Though this project required the exploration of uncharted territory for Marraum Architecture, designing outside the box is the norm for Hormann. “I have always been interested in unusual structures and working in different fields. In fact, I previously worked for Baumraum, a tree house architecture firm in Germany, as well as the artist Anthony Garratt on four outdoor painting stands located on Tresco Island, one of the Isles of Scilly.”

Hormann designed the barge with Vectorworks software. “Without Vectorworks, communication would have been much more difficult between the client and the construction team.”

Have you completed any innovative projects with Vectorworks software? Tweet to @Vectorworks and share your story!


By Werner Sabo, FAIA, Esq., of Sabo & Zahn, Attorneys at Law

Architects aren’t the only people who are learning how to operate in a BIM world. Lawyers and other professionals have joined the discussion in an effort to establish legal precedents regarding BIM just as quickly as designers can create their models. However, since all disputes involving BIM in the United States have been settled out of court so far, there has yet to be a groundbreaking case to set a standard. So in the meantime, we need to be cognizant of various legal issues when creating projects that rely on a BIM workflow.

Consider the following case involving the construction of a life sciences building at a U.S. university, and you’ll see what I mean.

Issue 1: Communication Outside the BIM File

The university hired an architect to design the building, and he worked with the MEP engineer to fit the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems into the ceiling plenum. While the architect designed the project using a BIM workflow, he didn’t tell the contractor that the tight fit for the MEP systems required a very specific installation sequence. The building was almost 70 percent complete when the construction team ran out of room. The contractor sued the owner, the owner sued the architect, and the architect dragged the MEP engineer into the lawsuit, all because there wasn’t proper communication outside the BIM file. Traditionally, architects are not responsible for means and methods of construction, but in a situation like this, means and methods were critical.

Issue 2: Control of the Model

While the dispute about who officially controlled the model wasn’t litigated, the mistakes made still resulted in a loss of millions of dollars for the architect, the MEP engineer, and the contractor. Everybody was at fault because there weren’t any defined standards about who controlled the BIM model or who was liable for any errors in its development. Going forward, architects must set up a clear chain of command regarding each BIM model’s construction and know upfront whether there will be multiple, communicating files and whether everyone plans to use the same software.

Issue 3: Ownership of the Design

The case has since settled, but the architect isn’t in the clear from a legal perspective. For example, the building’s design is the architect’s intellectual property unless the contract states otherwise, but the owner and the contractor now have complete sets of information about the project regarding its creation, construction, materials, and use. Questions also remain about who owns the copyrights in the various shop drawings and other documents that are created by parties other than the design team. The contracts should spell out what intellectual property licenses are granted to each party and the scope of those licenses. Determining the proper applications of copyright law is an evolving issue that we all need to pay close attention to as these topics continue to be discussed and argued.

If you have any legal questions about BIM in the United States, email me at or call my firm at 312-655-8620.

It’s time for another tech roundup where we highlight some of our best tech tip videos from our YouTube channel to help designers get the most out of their Vectorworks software.

This video shows how to decrease the file size of complex geometry by converting 3D objects to generic solids and reducing the 3D Conversion Resolution setting.


The following video covers the fundamentals of resolution and DPI, as well as tips for setting the DPI.


Subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on the latest tips and tricks in Vectorworks software.

Designers who use Vectorworks Spotlight software can now export their lighting designs to the grandMA2 console, removing tedious duplications and allowing the console’s built-in visualizer and patch to use the project data from the light plot. This new, free plug-in works on both Mac and PC platforms and was one of the most often cited requests by Spotlight users, according to Peter Neufeld of Limelight Lighting Design and OzCAD, the Vectorworks software distributor in Australia.

“Pre-programming is essential due to the expense and time it would otherwise take to program from scratch once the rig is set up,” said Neufeld. “This pre-visualization/pre-programming allows more time at the end of a production week when the pressure is really on to have the show already ‘in the can,’ and thus be able to finesse and detail the lighting onsite during last rehearsals.”

MA Lighting, an international leader in computer-controlled lighting consoles, networking components, and digital dimming systems, is one of the biggest names in lighting design. This new plug-in will turn the integral pre-production part of a lighting designer’s craft into a simplified, virtual process. Some of the other features that support the transfer of show files include:

  • The device locations in Vectorworks Spotlight carry over to MA3D and the stage view environment in grandMA2.
  • Patch, fixture/channel numbers, gel color, and many other Vectorworks fields are converted to grandMA2 console fields.
  • Vectorworks symbols are converted to MA fixture profiles and MA3D fixture objects.
  • Updates only need to be done in Vectorworks Spotlight. User can quickly export the updated information into grandMA2.

“The new plug-in from Vectorworks and MA Lighting has streamlined my workflow in preproduction and visualization,” said Lighting Programmer Benny Kirkham of Overnight Production. “Before this plug-in, my drawings couldn’t communicate with my control system. Now, turnaround times are smaller, control patches and show files are going together more quickly, and data miscommunications between design and construction phases have almost disappeared.”

Customers in the U.S. and Canada can download the plug-in from the ACT Lighting website. Other locations can download directly from the MA Lighting site. Watch this instructional video to learn how to install and use the plug-in.

Also, be sure to visit our Vectorworks Partner Community webpage to learn about other solutions that can help make your design process easier.

Did you know that we support the academic community through a Conference Pass Giveaway program? We do! Winners of this essay competition can attend a major industry conference without worrying about registration costs or hotel fees. Students get the chance to interact with experts in their field, and we help them to reach their professional goals with Vectorworks software.

We recently took two winners to the Broadway Lighting Master Classes (BLMC) in New York City and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention in Chicago. Read on to learn about their incredible experiences.

BLMC Winner Kevin Vasquez

Kevin Vasquez is a theatre major at California State University, Northridge, who became passionate about lighting design while in high school. Today, he considers lighting an art and form of expression. “To be able to evoke peoples’ emotions with lighting is the best part of this art,” Vasquez said.

After his lighting professor told him about our contest, Vasquez submitted an entry with hopes of gaining a deeper understanding of his industry. “One can only read so much about lighting before it becomes repetitive, and BLMC is a great source of networking and making new friends who share the same love for theatrical lighting,” he said.

Vasquez was excited to meet so many professionals who taught him about technical skills, as well as the mentality that great lighting designers need in the workplace. He is applying his newly gained knowledge to a musical he is lighting with Vectorworks Spotlight on his campus. Attending the event also gave him the confidence to begin improving his Vectorworks skills in lighting plot design and rendering. “Ultimately, I would like to light a Broadway musical and become a speaker at the BLMC one day,” Vasquez said. “I want to be a source of inspiration just as the people at the BLMC were for me.”

AIA Convention Winner Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee is an architecture major from Norwich University, who jumped at the chance to travel to Chicago and see its famous architecture for herself. “Learning from professionals in a city with prominent architecture helped foster my understanding of both modern and traditional concepts of design,” Lee said. While visiting the Windy City, she learned from “incredible people who have made their mark in the architecture industry” and who inspired her to continue working toward her goal of becoming an expert in green design. She also said that the speakers at AIA taught her to not shy away from an idea for a design just because it has been done before because every architect can offer a unique approach to a project. “I want to thank all the great people I met from the Vectorworks community who made my experience at the conference the best it could be,” Lee said.

She currently uses Vectorworks Architect software and is proud of a recent design she created with the program for a multipurpose center in Reykjavik, Iceland. She said the program allowed her to break from traditional design and truly experience different parts of her building as she was making it.

After all that Vasquez and Lee learned at these events, we can’t wait to see what these growing designers will create next using Vectorworks software!

Follow @Vectorworks on Twitter and like our Vectorworks Facebook page to stay up-to-date on our next Conference Pass Giveaway. Also, check our Academic Community webpage to learn more about our educational initiatives.

As BIM continues to evolve as an important part of the design process, finding ways for project teams to effectively and securely collaborate becomes equally significant. That’s why we’re excited to announce a new partnership with Asite, a UK-based developer of cloud-based collaboration tools, through which Vectorworks Architect software users can achieve digital interoperability through IFC with Asite’s Adoddle platform and its collaborative BIM application called cBIM™.

In essence, the partnership promotes the automation of workflows throughout a building’s lifecycle. Vectorworks users can connect product and process information with their building information models, enhance coordination processes, and maintain clear audit trails on project updates. The platform also allows them to selectively and securely share designs and individual BIM worksheets with various project collaborators using their authoring tool of choice through an IFC or COBie output and a cloud-based model.

“Nemetschek Vectorworks is committed to promoting open BIM workflows, so we’re excited to bring Asite’s capabilities to our users, giving them the best way to coordinate the processes associated with design review, construction management, and facilities management,” said Jeremy Powell, director of product marketing at Nemetschek Vectorworks. “Such coordination through Asite’s industry-leading cloud platform takes geography out of the equation for designers who work with various project consultants, facilities managers, and building operators. It also reinforces our commitment to improving communication and project coordination among design and BIM collaboration platforms, as well as our support for IFC interoperability.”

Construction documents for The Design Büro’s Ysbyty Glan Clwyd Hospital project as shown in the Asite platform

Since Adoddle cBIM connects model data with a commercial management system through a Common Data Environment (i.e., a centralized and federated BIM system), designers can achieve interoperability while reducing errors and on-site problems with design review and tracking features. In addition, shared information models will have greater visibility and control among all the parties involved.

“Using Asite, we are able to share our Vectorworks models [via IFC] and other data with the rest of the project team,” said Neil Marshall, director at The Design Büro, a medium-sized architectural practice operating in England. “What I particularly like about the Common Data Environment is the trust you can place in it as a single source of information. The whole team benefits from a reduction of wasted communication.” Marshall devotes a lot of time to the rapid adoption of BIM because the UK government’s BIM mandate stipulates that all centrally procured projects must be designed using BIM workflows by 2016.

The hospital project’s overall 1.50 layout as viewed in Asite

You can learn more about Asite and other partners that support our BIM and design workflows by visiting the Industry Partners section of our website.

We’ve always known that Nemetschek Vectorworks is a great place to work, but now you don’t have to just take our word for it. Our company has been selected as one of The Washington Post Top Workplaces in the Greater Washington area for 2014. Only 150 companies achieved this distinction.

“Our employees do great things, and we have an exceptional Human Resources team and event staff that provide them with a great environment in which to work,” said Sean Flaherty, CEO of Nemetschek Vectorworks. “As we continue to grow as a company, this accolade will help us to attract the best and brightest minds to be a part of our team.”

In the past few years, our business has grown rapidly, and we are always on the lookout for talented, motivated individuals to come be a part of our team as either full-time employees or as paid interns. Check out our jobs board to explore our current opportunities.

Step inside the offices of M Group Architects & Interior Architects as Michael Timchek and Karen Lewis share the firm’s philosophy and scope of work, discuss how their workspace enables collaborative design, and reflect on how they create spaces that elevate how their clients do business. Timchek also describes how OpenGL walkthroughs, workgroup referencing, and working in 3D with BIM in Vectorworks Architect software informs the firm’s designs and leads to a better result.

After watching the video, read M Group’s Success Story on our web site, or visit our Success Stories YouTube channel to watch other Vectorworks users share their insights on the future of design, projects they love, and more!