Project by : Spiros Koulias

I designed this project when I was still studying in College, and it is one of my favorite projects, that I have done in SketchUp because it was the first time I experimented with the design of an organic form. I wanted to create an exterior shell that would cover every side of the building, but it would also allow the sunlight inside it. So I thought the curved shell, had to be perforated, and that’s why I opened some round holes in different shapes. And just like that, a pattern was created on the exterior of the building. SketchUp may not have all the tools that you might need to design something like this, in its basic version, but through certain plugins, you can design anything you want.


Further down, I will show you how I designed this project in SketchUp, and especially the design of the building with the exterior shell. It is much more simple than it seems.

First of all, we need to start from the base. This building already existed, so I had to re-design it, and with the help of the building plans I found, I began designing. I started with the walls and the columns and then went on with the floors and the ceilings. It is easier to work like this when you already have the building plans, because most of the times, each level is different.

The next step was to design the interior walls, in order to create 8 student rooms. I wanted each room to have two floors, and that’s why there are so many interior staircases. Then I put all the objects and decorations in the rooms, bathrooms, and kitchen. Finally, I covered all the exterior surface of the building with glass, and above it and am about to place the curved shell.

Having completed the main design of my building, I will continue with the construction of the exterior shell. As you can see in the image above, we have to create a perforated pattern. The hard part here was to draw the holes in the perfect scale so that they covered the interior of the building, but at the same time, allowed sunlight inside it. After many experiments and test, I ended up with the form you see above.


The exterior shell design was a lot easier than it seems in the images. In SketchUp, in order to something complex, you need two things. First of all the right methodology, and second, the proper Plugin. I started off by drawing in 2D, in Top View mode, the curved line that I wanted, and then did an offset of 30cm.

With the Push/Pull tool, I extruded the exterior shell until the point I wanted it to cover the building. As you can see in the image above, the model I designed is pretty simple.

In order to design the pattern on my model, I had to draw it in 2D first, just like before. So I measured the length of the curved surface, and the height of the model and I drew a 2D surface in these dimensions.

Then I created the pattern I wanted. To create it, I drew first a small piece of the shape I wanted, and then I drew more right next to each other in different sizes, and I even drew some really big ones. After many copy/pastes, and a lot of effort, I managed to create the pattern I wanted.

The easiest way to make the exterior shell in diamond shape was to select the whole surface with the pattern, make a group, and then rotate it 45 degrees. Next step, was to select the 2D surface I drew earlier, in the shell’s dimensions, and place it on the pattern.

Once the pattern print is ready, I begin editing it. First of all, I must open all the diamond holes. The fastest way to do this is to select only the surfaces inside the diamonds and delete them all with one move. That is the reason I painted with a different color the interior of the diamonds, from the rest of the surface.

By right-clicking on the interior surface of a diamond, a pop-up window appears. We go to Select -> All with same Material, and then every surface with the same color in the model is selected. Then we just press Delete and all the selected surfaces are gone.

I will use again the Push/Pull tool, in order to give the exterior shell the volume that I want it to have.

And now it’s time for the Plugin «Shape Bender» to work its magic. It only takes one move to make the straight wall into any curve we choose, in just a few steps. Step 1: I select the «Shape Bender» tool. Step 2:  I select the group of the wall.

Step 3: I select the line that is parallel to the wall, and has the exact same length with it.

Step 4: Then the words Start and End appear on the line, which means that the Plugin has recognized the length and the direction of the wall.

Step 5: I select the curved line, basically showing the Plugin the form I want my wall to take. I remind you, that the straight line and the curved line have the exact same length. In case their lengths are not the same, then the model that we will have, as a result, will be distorted.

Step 6: The construction of the 3D model is in progress. The exterior shell has taken its form and appears with a green wireframe.

Step 7: Once I saw in the green wireframe that my model’s shape is correct, I press the Enter button to give the order for the construction of it. The time that it will take to finish the construction of it, depends on the complexity of the model. It also depends on how strong the computer is. The only thing that’s left now, is to place the shell on my model.


Leave a reply