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Product Review: Vectorworks Architect 2011

In this feature review Architosh editor, Anthony Frausto-Robledo, with contributions from architect John Helm, takes a thorough look at Vectorworks Architect 2011

Released this past Fall, Nemetschek Vectorworks’s latest CAD/BIM program Vectorworks Architect 2011, built on top of Vectorworks Fundamentals 2011, offers some excellent new technology and features. This review was authored with the assistance of architect and Architosh contributor, John Helm, NCARB. John recently reviewed Cameramatch 2011, an add-on application for Vectorworks 2011.

First a Few Notes About Vectorworks

Vectorworks is the all-around CAD program for architects, landscape architects, civil engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers, theater lighting designers and design in general. From the standpoint of graphics, Vectorworks can be a one stop shop for an architectural office.  It’s a design tool, a production tool and a rendering tool that can also be used for most of the graphic layouts an architect might need.


Vectorworks is well regarded for its short learning curve compared to other CAD programs. Design can be done all in 3D and those 3D drawings will be or can be the same drawings that become the 2D drawings making up the production drawing set.  Client presentations can be rendered printouts, animations, walk-throughs, or even real time views of a 3D model taken on one’s laptop to a client meeting.  And if one needs to do a graphic presentation, a competition board for example, pictures, text, 2D and 3D drawings can all be composed and printed right in the program.

Vectorworks 2011

Nemetschek North America changed its name last year to Nemetschek Vectorworks. Most in the industry, including its users, saw that as a good sign–a sign that they really want to identify with it (the Vectorworks brand) and thus make it the best they can.

The biggest bit of news in Vectorworks 2011 is that they have replaced the rendering engine in Renderworks with the Cinema 4D render engine.  And they have created an easy integration with the actual Cinema 4D program.  This is a really big improvement especially for anyone wanting to take their models to a very high level. The company claims a 5 to 7 times increase in speed. However, we did not verify this in any tests in this review.

The other big feature change is what they call 2D/3D integration.  Vectorworks has for a long time been a very flexible program allowing one to create just about any 3D form.  But now with this integration of 2D and 3D the program is even more flexible and easier to use for preliminary design.  I know there are people who design in SketchUp and import into Vectorworks. Vectorworks’ new modeling technology, with its improved Push/Pull tool, will begin to enable experienced SketchUp and Vectorworks users to simply model all in Vectorworks 2011. We will spend some time digging into the new 2D/3D integration and modeling features as well as many other improvements in the full review.

New Improved 3D Environment

There are some stunning improvements to the new unified 2D/3D environment in Vectorworks 2011. The most important is the way 2D objects can now be drawn in 3D views, complete with text creation and editing abilities.

Most experienced Vectorworks users will delight in the ability and flexibility to manipulate planar objects in various 3D views. Architects and engineers for example might develop connection details in axon views complete with dimensions and extruded connections and members. (see images 01 – 03)

01 - The new unified 2D/3D environment allows all 2D objects, including hatches, fills and gradients inside objects to be planar objects which can be displayed in 3D.

02 - In order to maintain associative dimensions one must associate the dimension to the 2D planar object prior to it forming the basis of a 3D object.

03 - This axon view was actually rotated. Notice how the text and leader lines exist in 3D. They were drawn on the workplane which was set to the face of the column.

Vectorworks 2011 allows you to work with text blocks in 3D just like in 2D. One caveat however. If you create a viewport of a 3D view or 3D object, you cannot place text in 3D in the annotation layer of the viewport. Therefore, you must first add that text on a design layer prior to the creation of the viewport. That is the method for establishing a detail like above. (see third image above).

Vectorworks 2011 now allows you to utilize, view and edit fills, gradients and hatches in isometric views. This will greatly expand the possibilities for presentation drawings.

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