A monumental milestone was celebrated at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France this spring. On April 9, 2017, a large commemoration was held in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Vimy Ridge battle at the memorial and attended by heads of state and British royalty. The battle of Vimy Ridge was a military engagement fought primarily as part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, during the First World War.

This battle is perhaps the most important military campaign for Canada, and is considered by historians to be their countries’ coming of age. Taking place on April 9-12, 1917, the battle was fought between the four divisions of the Canadian Corps against three divisions of the German Sixth Army, in which the Canadian Corps eventually overcame the German resistance.

You’re probably asking, so why the history lesson? Well, the Military Museum of Communications and Electronics, a civilian branch of the Canadian Army, contracted Vectorworks and Cinema 4D software user Paul Amirault, a virtual environment conceptual designer, to bring the strengths of both technologies for virtual environment creation. Paul’s company, Amirault 3D, is an animation firm that uses a seamless integration of 3D CAD and animation software. His work includes large-scale virtual environments, terrain modeling, CAD model integration/renders, and prototyping.

Examples of Paul’s work. Images courtesy of Amirault 3D.

Examples of Paul’s work that were modeled and rendered in Vectorworks. Images courtesy of Amirault 3D.

Also specializing in historical reconstruction, Amirault was tapped to rebuild five square miles of Vimy Ridge in a short movie. This short film is a synopsis of the planned attack during the 1917 battle and depicts elements that were part of the preparation and planning. A highly-detailed, 100-year-old color battle map, that accurately depicted both the British/Canadian trenches, the German trenches, and the topology, was key in the making of the short film.

A quick glimpse at the detailed color battle map, as seen in the short film from Amirault 3D.

A quick glimpse at the detailed color battle map, as seen in the short film from Amirault 3D.

Amirault has been using Vectorworks software since its first concept as MiniCAD, and using Cinema 4D for over 20 years. He utilized both for the Vimy Ridge film, in which he models primarily in Vectorworks and renders animations in Cinema 4D. Amirault used Vectorworks Designer to model almost everything in the movie, including the planes, tanks, and motorcycles, while the animations, including the troopers and trenching, were created in Cinema 4D. Amirault made sure to model all the animated equipment in the correct material that they were originally made from, such as wood, leather, and copper.

Amirault explained, “All programs have shortcomings, but I have found that Vectorworks’ versatility has given me an edge over my competitors. With respect to Vimy Ridge, being able to do all the work within the program was not only useful, but absolutely key to the project.”

The challenge Amirault faced with this video was creating the data that would be used in the Vectorworks digital terrain modeler, now known as the Create Site Model command. Plus, he was working with a high-resolution scan of a 100-year-old map in which roughly 20 percent of the topology lines were missing. This is where Vectorworks adaptability shined. Once he imported the map into its correct 3D space, he could work on it with 2D tools –first to rebuild missing lines. “This ability to work on a project in both 2D and 3D simultaneously has given me an edge with complex engineering projects,” says Amirault.

Amirault shared how accurately visualizing five-square-miles of terrain in 3D was also a challenge, especially when the terrain has been covered for 100 years. Adding to this problem, Vimy Ridge required several thousand 3D locus points that had to be inputted by hand. “Although a tedious process, Vectorworks’ flexible interface quickened this aspect,” says Amirault.

Once the 3D locus points were in place, the digital terrain modeler in Vectorworks came into play. “I had been working for three days to bring data back from 1917 to plug into the digital terrain modeler. It only took a few seconds, and there it was, Vimy Ridge terrain, something that history had forgotten for 100 years, brought forward in time by Vectorworks.”

Some of the battle elements displayed in the film are the reconnaissance aircraft (a manned military aircraft designed to carry out aerial investigation), cable wagons, dispatch riders on motorcycles, the simplicity of the Morse signal lamp, the field telephone, and “creeping barrage,” which kept a wall of exploding shells landing just ahead of the advancing Canadians.

Two animated soldiers using field telephone and Morse code.

Two animated soldiers using field telephone and Morse code.

Amirault claims that finishing this project would have been more complex if it were not for the unique relationship between Vectorworks and Cinema 4D. According to Amirault, the power to send the model directly to Cinema 4D for further modification with a simple menu command is an amazing leap forward from how the software operated only a few years ago.

All 3D programs are moving toward a more automated process of design, in which the application practically does the design for you. “This is the future,” says Amirault. “I believe that success in the future will still lay with understanding the underlying [old school] technology so that your design has a different feel than that of your competition.”

Experience the Vimy Ridge battle yourself by watching the historical, short film here.

This video was produced by the Military Communications and Electronics Museum. The historical director was David McCarey, animation by Amirault 3D – Kingston Ontario.

vimy poster

The poster advertising the Vimy Ridge short film.

Does your client’s outdoor living space:

  • Lack privacy and shade?
  • Have hideous eyesores surrounding the house, such as AC units, utility meters, trash/recycling bins, hoses, or equipment?
  • Lack a homey feel, leaving your client reluctant to spend time in it?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, Vectorworks can fix that, which is why so many architecture and design firms choose it as their go-to software for landscape projects. Vectorworks software can spot an issue before it becomes a bigger problem and offers you a quick solution, all while ensuring you meet your client’s needs.

To give you a better sense of what this means, we spoke with three landscape design professionals who shared their experiences with Vectorworks software, and how it easily solved their design problems.

Addressing Outdoor Accessibility and Appeal

Christina Speiden, director of sales and marketing at ProBuilt Construction, knows the ins and outs of residential landscape design and the difficulties that come with it. Her company specializes in outdoor living environments, from design process to installation. Speiden shared a few road blocks she faced during the Maple Lawn community landscaping project in Fulton, Maryland, including difficulties related to a lack of privacy and shade and eyesores throughout the community.

Many of the homes in Maple Lawn have detached garages, which can be accessed through a shared alleyway between houses. When the homes were built, there were no walkways provided between each house and its garage, meaning a homeowner would have to walk through the grass, in rain or shine, to access it. Speiden used the Vectorworks DeckWorks plug-in to design a tiered patio and breezeway roof to connect each home directly to its garage.

Renderings of designs created with the DeckWorks plug-in, utilized in the Maple Lawn community.

Renderings of designs created with the DeckWorks plug-in, utilized in the Maple Lawn community.

This plug-in offers everything a contractor would need to design a customer’s dream outdoor living space in 2D and 3D. It allows you to generate material lists, design to budget, create construction Gantt charts, and professional proposals. It also provides access to the Trex product line as pre-drawn symbols, including materials, furniture, and lights.

Upgrading Outdoor Living Spaces

Matthew Cunningham, landscape architect and principal of Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC, specializes in residential work in Stoneham, Massachusetts.

“We have built just about anything you can imagine with Vectorworks software to solve problems and hide eyesores with our landscape designs,” said Cunningham, echoing Speiden’s experience. Not only does his firm create the landscaping, but they also prepare drawings that “communicate every aspect of our landscapes, from decks, terraces, walls, and grading, to fencing, screens, and planting,” he said.

Cunningham’s team had several problems to solve for one project, the Reservoir Estate. The client had a large family that wanted to make better use of their extensive outdoor space. Some of the solutions the design team brainstormed included the addition of sheds, AC enclosures, trash and recycling enclosures, an outdoor shower, utility screen, fountain, pool or spa, grill, retaining walls, extensive fences and gates, pergolas, and a deck.

In the end, the Cunningham team gave the Reservoir Estate a total makeover, while making sure to satisfy the client’s love of family-oriented activities. So, what did they add?

  • New stone retaining walls that fit in with the house’s aesthetic
  • A kitchen garden and rustic granite fire pit to draw the family outside
  • A fountain to overpower noise produced by the neighbors, maintaining the peaceful atmosphere in the backyard
  • Barely visible drainage solutions to channel storm water
Upgrades designed by Cunningham’s firm.

Upgrades designed by Cunningham’s firm. Images courtesty of Pacific Coast Land Design, Inc.

Without the help of Vectorworks software, Cunningham would have had difficulty creating these stunning additions. The option to draw the designs online first helped him bring his landscaping vision to life.

Preserving Pre-exisiting Trees

Our next Vectorworks success story comes from Eric Berg, CA RLA, senior associate at Pacific Coast Land Design, Inc., a landscape architecture firm located in Ventura, California that specializes in commercial, multi-family housing, and public works-type projects.

Berg’s firm faced a potential obstacle when a client wanted to add a deck to an existing landscape, while preserving as many existing trees as possible in the process. In one corner of the development sat a beautiful rusty leaf fig tree that rested at the intersection of two natural circulation routes. The tree’s canopy was crucial to the appeal of the surrounding space. The only way to preserve existing trees in a construction site as complex as this one would be to preserve as many roots as possible. Typically, the construction of concrete or granite walks/pads—a common practice in the addition of a deck—requires intense excavation.

Berg and his team quickly solved this issue by using Vectorworks design software to design and propose the construction of a large deck that would only minimally affect the fig tree and allow them to use its splendid canopy to bolster the appeal of the surrounding open space. The design team used the 3D modeling capabilities of Vectorworks for the design and rendered the design with Lumion, which aided in the overall representation of the proposed deck and preserved fig tree. The design even offered a planter opening for if/when the client wished to plant an additional tree.

Rendering of the deck buit around the fig tree. Image courtest of Pacific Coast Land Design, Inc.

Rendering of the deck buit around the fig tree. Image courtesty of Pacific Coast Land Design, Inc.

As evidenced by Speiden, Cunningham, and Berg, Vectorworks Landmark software offers creative solutions to streamline everyday tasks with industry-leading tools that enhance workflows. Visit our website to sign up for a free 30-day trial or continue learning about Landmark.

When Michael Todoran, executive producer of the Landscape Architecture Podcast received an email from Braulio Gutierrez, one of his former Ohio State University peers, about software recommendations other than AutoCAD and Adobe Suite, he knew he needed to bring in another expert. Vectorworks’ Product Marketing Manager for the landscape industries, Eric Gilbey, PLA, ASLA, Prof. Member APLD, was ultimately interviewed by Todoran, so his podcast listeners could learn more about our software capabilities, and why it should become Gutierrez’s new preferred software.

A Little Background on Eric Gilbey
Another Buckeye, Gilbey received an AAS degree in Landscape Contracting and Construction and a BS degree in Landscape Architecture from The Ohio State University. His unique experience as a practicing landscape architect and user of various CAD programs allows him to help landscape architects and designers develop best practices including sustainable site design. Specifically, Gilbey utilizes his experience to assist in the development and training of Vectorworks Landmark software. He writes and speaks for several green industry associations about the advancements and efficiencies found with design technology.

Eric Gilbey, PLA, ASLA, Prof. Member APLD

Here are some key highlights of the conversation between Todoran and Gilbey.

NOTE: This is not an exact transcript, but a paraphrased narrative.

Todoran: Please share some background information about Vectorworks software.
Gilbey: Vectorworks has several industry-specific modules, such as Landmark, Architect, and Spotlight. The Landmark module is focused on site design, and it is good for land planning or site-related work that we see in CAD and Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM is more of a process, in which one can design objects and scenes in 2D and 3D. This is intuitive for site designers because 2D and 3D images have meta data attached to them. Plus, the BIM project is intelligent. Site objects are specified with information attached to them, a virtual recreation of the objects are placed within the site, and designers can create objects of their own. Users can design a record format to give them more data. Additionally, the information attached to the objects can always be updated as needed.

Todoran: How did Vectorworks start?
Gilbey: It started as MiniCAD in 1985. In the mid-nineties, it became a cross-platform product. Then in 2000, miniCAD was renamed as Vectorworks. In 2001, we introduced industry-specific modules. Those are probably the biggest milestones for the company. Also, in 2008 we started using Parasolid modeling, 3D modeling, rendering capabilities, and visual enhancements. Any style you want is facilitated in the software.

Todoran: What is the learning curve with this software for those transitioning over to it?
Gilbey: We recommend training resources to be involved in any learning process to ensure that workflows are as efficient as possible. It will most likely take users a month or a month and a half to feel confident with basic Landmark workflows within our software, and there will always be continued learning, even after you get used to the certain processes. 

Todoran: Does the Vectorworks software have a command line?
Gilbey: Vectorworks is different from typical CAD drafting routines in that it does not use command line operations, however, key shortcuts are provided as default functions and can be modified to be the letter or symbol the designer prefers. This will shorten workflow time since users don’t need to type out the whole command.

Vectorworks 2017 Keyboard Shortcuts

Todoran: Tell me about the software’s construction details.
Gilbey: There is a library of construction details available within the Resource Manager to the users, in which they can pull in details created through the CAD system. With this same library feature, you can save and reuse other library objects of your own created details. If the designer is wishing to create a 3D modeled site, from which they want to have updated details of the objects designed, a section viewport of just the designed element can turn into such a detail. You can put in labels and dimensions in each section viewport for each detail, and as the designed element changes, the section viewport detail keeps up with the changes.

Todoran: Does the software have any sort of sheet set manager in which users can utilize shortcuts, organize information into layouts, and eventually export their work out?
Gilbey: Yes, we call it sheet layers. There are tabs to help users organize the sheet ordering. And when publishing or printing, it lets you choose which sheets to send out or print. 

Todoran: Does your software have 3D capabilities?
Gilbey: Due to the intuitive nature of the software, Vectorworks Landmark provides object-specific design features that are automatically using 2D and 3D settings that produce hybrid landscape features like plants, hardscapes, landscape areas, walls, terrain models, and many more. Designers can also utilize free-form modeling processes, including the fairly new subdivision modeling tools to create unique forms and sculpted elements to be as creative as they can imagine.

Todoran: What support does your company offer? Can people take advantage of video tutorials online? And how deep does your support go with the software?
Gilbey: Anyone who has the software has access to technical support services, in which they can call or email with people directly. Users can also access community forums to get feedback from other users. The idea of working with other people is often enticing to users because they can recognize other opportunities that they didn’t even know were necessary. We also have learning services on the website, within our training offerings, and on our YouTube channel. Virtual training sessions can be accessed online through web conferencing, or users can schedule one-on-one training to be taught something specific in their own firm’s location.

Todoran: Are there trials available for the software?
Gilbey: Yes, we offer a 30-day trial. Or, if you are within the academic market, or are a faculty member or student, you can get a one-year trial. Since we mentioned the educational license, we should mention that we also offer a competition to win a Vectorworks Design Scholarship.

Todoran: Tell me more about your attention to students, as well as the design scholarship.
Gilbey: We love to see as many students using our software as possible, which is why we offer the option of a one-year trial for them. You can access information about the scholarship through vectorworks.net/scholarship. The deadline to apply is July 15, 2017, and it is worth $10,000 USD. 


A past submission to the Vectorworks Design Scholarship.

Todoran: What have been some challenges Vectorworks has faced when trying to make its way within the landscape/architecture market? And what have been some successes?
Gilbey: A challenge is recognizing that some firms are comfortable designing with a certain type of software. So, it’s sometimes hard to convince them to switch over to Vectorworks and learn a whole new system, even though it will create better workflows for their firm. But a success is that once the firms do switch over, they all voice how they can’t imagine why they didn’t make the change sooner because the software is easier to use than AutoCAD. Making the transition is not necessarily ideal for everyone, but once they are pulled away from general CAD workflows, they will be happy that they have made the change.

Todoran: What are some of the company’s goals for the future?
Gilbey: We are going to continue to recognize the importance of resilient design, and we will make sure our tools are designed with that in mind. We will always strive to help a site designer do their best to plan for a better performing landscape, so we expect to expand on the features that promote sustainability.

Todoran: So, how can people reach you or Vectorworks?
Gilbey: You can visit our website, vectorworks.net, the global-facing website. You can also email landmark@vectorworks.net, and your questions or comments will be forwarded to me or directed to the sales team, depending on the subject of the inquiry. My twitter handle is @EricGilbey, so feel free to reach out and connect with me through that medium!

You can listen to the full podcast between Gilbey and Todoran and other landscape architecture podcasts on Stitcher or iTunes.

This summer, take a break from the pool and dive into the next five videos of our Remarkable Renderworks tutorial series, created to further develop your design and rendering skills. In these installments, architect and rendering expert Daniel Jansenson of daniel jansenson architect covers textures and how to create sunlight in Renderworks, the fully-integrated feature set in Vectorworks 2017 software. If you missed the first 15 episodes, you can catch up on the videos here.

In this episode, learn the ins and outs of associating a surface hatch with a texture for hidden line renderings.

Download the project files here.

Discover how to apply and adjust textures on the surface of 3D objects with this next tutorial.

Download the project files here.

You won’t want to miss this video, which takes you through adjusting scale, location, and orientation of applied textures on 3D objects.

Download the project files here.

Learn how to add realistic sun rays and shadows to your design in this next tutorial.

Download the project files here.

Grab your shades. This last video invites you to explore how to simulate sunlight in your renderings with the assistance of the Heliodon tool, which boasts a wide array of light settings.

Download the project files here.

As you work through these videos, remember if you have any questions, email us at tech@vectorworks.net or tweet us @VectorworksHelp.

Ryan Dunbar, freelancer and former designer for events service provider Gearhouse South Africa (GHSA), has been drawing and conceptualizing stage and visual concepts for the live entertainment industry for over ten years. He has designed a wide range of events including televised awards shows, outdoor music festivals, Bollywood concerts, corporate launches, and professional conferences.

Image courtesy of Ryan Dunbar’s Instagram Page

Image courtesy of Ryan Dunbar’s Instagram page.

A Vectorworks software user, Dunbar takes advantage of its capabilities to transfer his rough ideas and sketches into a 3D space, complete with important structural components and surrounding set elements. Dunbar claims that these functionalities allow him “to do things quickly and with ease.” In addition, Dunbar notes that the Vectorworks software also allows him to “draw realistically to accommodate the venue’s limitations.”

“From past experience, it can be very frustrating and time consuming when you produce a wonderful looking stage design and then you have to go back and redraw your model, set, and trim heights,” Dunbar explained. “For example, if the ceiling height is lower than you anticipated, then what you have designed will not fit in the venue!”

Before Dunbar starts work on any project, he likes to go through his personal arsenal of resources first. “I like to keep a library of images on my PC from anything I stumble across on the web. Anything interesting – ranging from modern and unique architecture, industrial machinery, abstract shapes, and textures,” said Dunbar. “I also keep a folder of previous events that have happened over the years to review what other designers are doing or have done.”

Although Dunbar admits that his ideas sometimes “don’t make sense in the beginning!”, his extensive knowledge and expertise awarded Dunbar the opportunity to design for the 2015 Vodacom Durban July. This highly sought after event takes place on the afternoon of the first Saturday of July and is home to one of South Africa’s most prestigious sporting events – a horse race at the Greyville Racecourse that is now known to cure “July Fever” since its inception in 1897.

Constructing the Jack Daniels BOOMTOWN stage. Image courtesy of Ryan Dunbar.

Constructing the Jack Daniels BOOMTOWN stage.

For this spectacular event, Dunbar was tasked with the full show and concept design for the Jack Daniels BOOMTOWN stage, the space that houses an exclusive line-up of top artists and is equipped with premium lounges and exclusive views of the racetrack. As the venue where Vodacom Durban July sells its most requested tickets of the entire event, BOOMTOWN was a tall order for Dunbar, so he immediately turned to Vectorworks software to help him conceptualize the end product.

“Once I’ve drawn my basic model in Vectorworks, I’ll rotate the model around in the 3D workspace and carefully observe what the stage will look like from all angles,” Dunbar explained. “I’ll also start to add colors to the solids to show the separation between all the different features, stage tiers/levels, and the set pieces. I’ll start to play with color combinations during this phase, too.”

Dunbar’s rendering of the BOOMTOWN stage, daytime side view. Image courtesy of Ryan Dunbar.

Dunbar’s rendering of the BOOMTOWN stage, daytime side view.

Having a variety of color and lighting options to present to the client was important for Dunbar, as “this gives a good understanding of how all the features will synchronize together.” This is particularly important for a space like the BOOMTOWN stage that guarantees audiences 11 hours of non-stop entertainment through a revolving line-up of artists.

When further asked how he conceptualizes the lighting part of the process, Dunbar states that he first “adds the primary lighting to the model. This is all the key and ambient lights for bringing out the image props (in this case, people), walls, and general atmospheric venue lighting. The musicians and their instruments, performers, and lectern positions with speakers all need to be lit with key lights. I then proceed and add lighting fixtures at a high level out of the main model work space; these fixtures will project gobos and textures onto areas in the model where I am looking for a textured or shadow effect.”

Dunbar’s rendering of the BOOMTOWN stage, nighttime side view. Image courtesy of Ryan Dunbar.

Dunbar’s rendering of the BOOMTOWN stage, nighttime side view.

Next, Dunbar relies heavily on the Renderworks feature set within Vectorworks software to fully illustrate his concepts for the client. The resulting 16-meter-wide dome roof and side-flanked LED fingers that spanned the length of the stage were the outcomes of this very thorough process. “Since this event was happening outdoors, I used the Renderworks backgrounds and tweaked them accordingly,” Dunbar shared. “I added one Renderworks camera to my workspace; I do not set it to any height or specific position, as long as it is directly positioned in front of the model. I then view the drawing through the camera and use the mouse to rotate and zoom in and out of the drawing.”

Dunbar continues, discussing how using the Renderworks feature set specifically has been helpful. “I like the freedom of moving the camera around the model until I get to a camera angle that I like,” he explains. “I believe it’s very important that you spend time on your camera angles to get the very best view from your design. I used Fast Renderworks to continuoully check my render and tweak the colors, textures, and reflections until I’m happy with the final product.”

Dunbar’s rendering of the BOOMTOWN stage, daytime birds-eye view.

Dunbar’s rendering of the BOOMTOWN stage, birds-eye view.

It appeared that attendees of the event were happy with the final product, as well. South African media outlet Times Live reported that the weekend drew over 50,000 visitors to Durban and helped drive the economic impact of the event to more than R440-million. Thanks to Vectorworks software, Dunbar had the ability to accurately present his vision and design to a client for a prestigious South African event. Not only was Dunbar successful in making this vision a breathtaking reality, but he also created an amazing standout feature that is part of a rich historical legacy that will surely be discussed for years to come.

Jack Daniels BOOMTOWN stage, day of event.

Jack Daniels BOOMTOWN stage, day of event.


Jack Daniels BOOMTOWN stage, day of event, night view.

Jack Daniels BOOMTOWN stage, day of event, night view.

Want to learn more about Dunbar’s projects? You can check out his portfolio here.

A huge congrats are in order to our Senior Landscape Product Specialist Brian Nicholson for passing the Sustainable SITES Initiative accredited professional exam. Nicholson is among the first group of SITES Accredited Professionals (APs) to pass the exam and receive the resulting designation.

Brian Nicholson, Senior Landscape Product Specialist

Brian Nicholson, Senior Landscape Product Specialist at Vectorworks

Administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the SITES AP exam uses the expertise of leading practitioners to assess a candidate’s competency in sustainable landscape design and development. The SITES AP exam was first announced at the October 2016 ASLA Annual Meeting in New Orleans. For the expert professionals who successfully pass the exam, this new designation allows them to exhibit their knowledge and commitment to the profession, promote the value of landscape architecture, and educate the public about how SITES can play a role in a more sustainable and healthy environment.

The Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES) is the first program of its kind to offer a systematic comprehensive rating system that proposes to define thoughtful land development and management. SITES aligns this process with innovative design—by outlining exactly what a sustainable site is and, ultimately, elevating the value of landscapes in the built environment.


The four overarching goals of the SITES rating system are to create regenerative systems and foster resiliency; ensure future source supply and mitigate climate change; transform the market through design, development and maintenance practices; and enhance human wellbeing and strengthen the community.

“It’s an honor to be in the first cohort of landscape professionals to earn this important and distinguished credential,” said Nicholson. “By being a newly minted SITES AP, I’m looking forward to developing tools and workflows within Vectorworks to help streamline SITES documentation on projects for landscape architects.”

Not only has Nicholson earned the SITES AP designation, he also holds multiple landscape architect licenses in multiple jurisdictions and is an accredited Green Roof Professional (GRP) and LEED accredited professional. He also serves as the ASLA Colorado chapter president, where he develops value-added programs for chapter members and advocates at a national level.

Green Roof Professional logo

Since their release, our product specialists have worked with users to recognize and facilitate design workflows that adhere to the design and performance standards set forth in LEED and SITES. With Nicholson becoming an accredited professional for both of these rating systems, those using our Landmark software for their own site design projects will continue to see more SITES supported features and workflows to ensure their project documents meet or exceed these standards.

For all other aspiring SITES Accredited Professionals, visit their website to see how you can register for the exam.

Each year, hundreds of people head to the capital of the United States for a glimpse of the cherry blossoms famous to the region. This year, Ed Libby & Company Events, Frost Productions, and 4Wall DC collaborated to create an exhibit for the MGM National Harbor that payed homage to this natural display of beauty.

An outside view of the MGM National Harbor.

An outside view of the MGM National Harbor.

Hired by MGM to provide an artistic touch to the 15,000-square-foot conservatory, Ed Libby & Company Events is slated to create a series of seasonal displays that will greet guests upon arrival. The Spring display captures the beauty of the cherry blossoms with its sparkling pearl white, pink, and lavender floral décor. To accentuate the fixture, Libby entrusted Frost Productions with delivering a lighting proposal befitting for his sculptures.

A side view of the cherry blossom themed display at the MGM National Harbor.

A side view of the cherry blossom themed display at the MGM National Harbor.

Frost Productions is a national events services company that creates production design for events of all varieties and sizes. The team handles lighting, audio, video, and digital décor, as well as staging, renderings, videography, and editing.

“Ed Libby provided us with [the design] layouts that were imported into Vectorworks,” said Frost Productions Project Manager Niklas Andersson. “From there I could calculate the placement, angles, and distances needed to select the right fixtures.”

Ed Libby, brainstorming ideas for the winter conservatory display.

Ed Libby, brainstorming ideas for the winter conservatory display.

When it came to selecting fixtures, a roadblock arose due to the conservatory’s glass atrium. “To compete with daylight and having the rig suspended at 80′, it was necessary to install fixtures with enough output,” explained Andersson.

To make this possible, Frost Productions turned to the Martin by Harman company, a world leader in dynamic lighting solutions for the entertainment, architectural, and commercial sectors.

To counteract the light from the sun, Frost used MAC Viper Performance fixtures, which have an output of 26000 Lumens, and MAC Viper Wash DX fixtures, which outputs at 33000 Lumens. Viper Performances luminaires were used for gobo textures and slow movement to add life to the fixtures, while Viper Wash DX luminaires provided a floor wash and gave an overall base color to both the sculptures. Additionally, Frost incorporated RUSH MH 7 Hybrid fixtures to light the décor and pools. These small, but powerful hybrid units delivered the punch needed to stand out when competing with the Vipers.

The Lunar New Year display from the MGM National Harbor.

The Lunar New Year display from the MGM National Harbor.

Mounting the units is where 4Wall Entertainment came in to play. 4Wall is a full-service lighting company that specializes solely in providing entertainment lighting systems. Along with the Martin by Harman fixtures, 4Wall installed 30 Elation Professional Area Par Zoom luminaires to illuminate the ceiling. “The sole purpose of the Elation Pars is to provide a ceiling wash to create a sky-like atmosphere in the space,” explained Andersson.

Here is a view of a past display, which was enjoyed throughout the winter season.

Here is a view of a past display, which was enjoyed throughout the winter season.

Overall, the collaboration of these six companies resulted in the creation of a striking lighting design. Check out other compelling conservatory displays from the past and look out for future ones here.

*Some of this content previously ran on Lighting and Sound America’s website on April 4, 2017.

Birds of a feather flock together is a proverb we’ll soon see in action through urban planning firm McGregor Coxall’s upcoming project, “Bird Airport.” With construction expected to begin in Tianjin, China in late 2017, and slated for completion by 2018, the project aims to decrease the number of endangered bird species by providing a safe place for migrating birds to access shelter and food during their long journey across Asia.


McGregor Coxall’s rendering of a planned observation pod.

Every year, more than 50 million birds migrate from the Antarctic to the northern tip of the Earth across the East Asian-Australian Flyway (EAAF). By the time the birds reach the Port of Tianjin, they have already traveled for more than 6,000 miles for 10 days non-stop. This arduous journey makes the Bird Airport a crucial stopping point to ensure their survival.

Adrian McGregor, founder and CEO of McGregor Coxall, shared his excitement about the project, saying, “The Earth’s bird flyways are a wonder of the natural world. The proposed ‘Bird Airport’ will be a globally significant sanctuary for endangered migratory bird species whilst providing new green lungs for the city of Tianjin.”

With enough capacity to support the needs of more than 50 species, roughly six miles of forest will surround the sanctuary and protect the birds from nearby urban developments. Additionally, the Bird Airport will include a wetland park and bird sanctuary, incorporating various water habitats such as an island lake, a reed zone, and mudflats. The eco-friendly and innovative project will incorporate green infrastructures, including constructed wetlands, parklands, and an urban forest. To ensure eco-friendly regimens, the design will use renewable energy in the Bird Airport to move recycled waste water and harvested rain water through the wetlands.


Bird’s-eye view of the proposed “Bird Airport” in Tianjin, China.

Visitors and locals will also be able to enjoy McGregor Coxall’s bird sanctuary by taking advantage of the design’s wetland trails, lake loop walk, cycle circuit, and forest walk. In total, there will be 4.5 miles of recreational nature trails to appreciate. Plus, a high-tech visitor education and research center will help accommodate the high influx of visitations per year. The center will give visitors access to cameras in 14 bird hides, allowing them to get an up-close view of bird life while not intruding on the animals. There will even be an observation walkway with observation pods, offering sightseers a chance to watch the birds as they take to the air.


Visitors and locals will be able to enjoy the high-tech education and research center.

To complete this upcoming project, the McGregor Coxall firm relies on the 3D modeling and site design tools within Vectorworks Landmark software, which offers tools geared toward streamlining landscape-specific design and BIM workflows. In reference to Landmark, McGregor says, “the software we use has to be intelligent in terms of our carbon footprint modeling. With intelligent BIM, smart symbols, and coordinated worksheets, Landmark gives us the ability to make this happen.”

Thanks to McGregor and his firm, not only will there be an innovative Bird Airport providing a safe environment for endangered birds, but also a popular attraction will be established where visitors can observe a range of bird species in a natural habitat, allowing them to truly connect with nature.

If this innovative project grabbed your attention, read our case study for an in-depth profile on McGregor Coxall and learn more about their work and design philosophy.

As a shared knowledge resource, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is meant to cross physical and industry boundaries in order to bring professionals the information they need to work together. However, in an industry constantly growing in best practices and technology, and as competitive as it is creative, creating standardizations to make these resources work isn’t always simple.

In his presentation at the BIM World Implementation Strategies Global Online Symposium held in Barcelona, Spain, Jeffrey W. Ouellette, Assoc. AIA, IES, chair of the buildingSMART International Implementation Support Group and senior architect product specialist at Vectorworks, explored the past and future of BIM standards in the United States. Organized by Zigurat, BIM Freelance, and BIMCommunity, the symposium was an online and on-site event that focused on the implementation of BIM in different parts of the world, including the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

In the video below, watch as Ouellette examines how moving forward in BIM means that we must move together. He also discusses how sharing information is the key to improving the standardizations for BIM. Specifically, Ouellette outlines how working for the customer, those who use the buildings daily, is the only way to uncover best practices that will benefit the whole.

After you watch, you can learn more about our BIM philosophies and support here or check out the National BIM Standard-United States (NBIMS-US™) on their website.

From a young age, Natali Arco was drawn to the stage. Growing up she dreamed of becoming an actress and being in the spotlight, until she realized she was more interested in being behind the scenes, rather than at center stage.


Arco, now a recent Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate from The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University in Webster Groves, Missouri, first discovered her interest in lighting design through the required tech courses at her arts high school, Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts. Throughout her coursework, she encountered more and more opportunities to dabble in lighting design, so when she was forced to choose between performing in a show or doing the lighting design her senior year of high school, the former aspiring actor chose design.


A scene from “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” a production that took place at The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University. Photo courtesy of Eric Woolsey.

“That was a real turning point for me,” says Arco. “It was then that I realized that I had found lighting design to be more challenging and fulfilling. There is something really gratifying about seeing the whole process of a show through from the very beginning to the end and seeing your product being executed. It was a kind of feeling that I hadn’t achieved through acting.”


Another production at The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Photo courtesy of Eric Woolsey.

Since then, Arco has been committed to pursuing lighting design in both her studies and work experience. After two successful and enlightening internships with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Arco snagged an internship that most can only wish for – one with The Walt Disney Company.

Upon starting her internship, Arco realized that the lighting design team did not use her preferred software: Vectorworks Spotlight. Their hesitation to use the program stemmed from the misconception that they wouldn’t be able to get Vectorworks files to communicate with Revit, which surprised Arco. She recalls, “I took it upon myself to prove to the team that the programs can work perfectly well together.”

While completing her extensive projects, which included creating a 3D model of the EPCOT American Garden Stage for the Candlelight Processional, Arco kept in close contact with the team at Vectorworks who helped her along the way. “I feel like I am on a first name basis with the entire tech team now,” jokes Arco. “But really, they were so amazing in helping me figure out how to best have the files communicate between the two programs.

On her most recent project, designing the main stage production at Webster University, the feat of modeling the lighting is even more stunning when you learn that Arco had only designed her first project in 3D less than one year prior to tackling the task. “It’s amazing to see my progression,” says Arco. “I do all my drafting primarily in 3D now, and it’s because Vectorworks makes it incredibly easy. At first it was challenging because I was doing a lot of self-teaching, but the awesome thing is that there are so many YouTube videos, specifically ones posted by Vectorworks staff, that cater to Spotlight users. They provide you with exactly what you need to know to get rolling.”

But it’s not just the tutorials that are making Arco’s life a little easier, it’s also the tools themselves. On her new projects, Arco notes that the new cable tool suite available in Vectorworks 2017 is “a lifesaver.” She also claims that the new Resource Manager nearly brought her to tears of joy. “Vectorworks makes 3D modeling particularly easy with all of its resources,” says Arco. “With the Resource Manager you have access to an innumerable amount of lighting fixtures that you can use in your drawing in 2D and 3D.”

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The Resource Manager feature, which first appeared in Vectorworks 2017.

As far as Arco’s plans for the future, she has accepted a lighting design internship with Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Following the internship, she plans to move to New York and begin working as a freelance designer, associate, and assistant. One thing’s for sure: the Vectorworks team can’t wait to see what she does next!