Some of the projects we develop in enzyme are large-scale master plans, urban design projects and big architectural developments. These types of projects have specific presentation rules and particular materials that architects and designers have to provide in order to explain the global strategies before jumping into detail.
In our profession, we know and admire the power of communication through diagramming. Offices like BIG have created a trend on how architects think and explain their architecture, getting inspired by the simplicity and power of communication with diagrams of various kinds.
Large scale projects need to use this type of documentation to explain concisely the ideas driving the project before getting into detail. Parameters like Circulation, Sunlight Strategy, Flow Analysis, Shape and Form exploration…

Both images courtesy of BIG Architects.
Usually, the workflow to produce these documents would be to create a 3D file in softwares like Rhino or Sketchup and send the images into Illustrator or Photoshop to add colour, arrows, express the line weights, etc. The result is amazing but is quite laborious. This process has a lot of manual steps; if the project changes , then the process needs to be re-started.
We produce this documentation inside ARCHICAD. Yes, ARCHICAD.
Most of the people think that a BIM tool can not be used for concept design, but today I want to show you how you can do it and how easy it is!
With a proper set of layers, few graphic overrides and a pen set prepared for it, it is easy to reproduce similar effects as softwares as Illustrator or Photoshop would do. The huge benefit here is that most of the process remains parametric and linked to your model. Changes on the model will update our diagrams, and will minimise the work we need to do every time there is an update in the model. We save time and our documentation is more accurate.
The first thing to do with the model is to keep the level of detail low for diagramming. We usually use a set of layers for this task. We don’t use the zones at this point yet because the display in section is not very customisable and are a little bit harder to use, but for the purpose of the 3D diagrams, Zones could work as well. I would say this is a user choice.

Use one group of layers for diagrams and Graphic Overrides to play with the look.
One trick we do is to use a “composite slab” with the full height of the story that has two layers: one layer for the structural slab (concrete or white at this stage) and a layer of a building material displaying a particular function of our project. This allows you to give just the right amount of detail to create at the same time 3D diagrams, Floor Plans and Sections from the same diagrammatic model. Yes, ARCHICAD allows you to do all this with a very smooth process.
One last benefit of using this “trick” is that while giving you a great control of the graphics, this composite slabs can create automatic schedules of areas, total gross area and also a breakdown of the different building categories.

There are many ways we can create these type of images, today we are going to explore the simplest one.

In order to create the 3D diagram, we are going to use 3D Documents. 3D Documents are like a 2D line work “photograph” of the 3D, but still linked to it. If the Model changes the 3D document will adapt. But at the same time it is a vectorial “flat projection”, like a plan or a section. That means that you can program the 3D document with Graphic Overrides (3D doc settings has its own set of overrides as well) to get the look that you want, but also you can work in 2D on top of that vectorial “photograph”.

You can add colours, you can add people, arrows… anything you want in order to achieve the look that you want!
In this example, I drew a “3D arrow” with a fill using the gradient type fill.

One more thing, 3D documents are alive! That means that if you change the layers, the pen set, or the override it will affect the 3D document. The good news is that you can save views of them as well. So you can alter the view settings as in any other viewport of ARCHICAD. You can create a layer combination, a graphic overrides set and even a special pen set with the adequate line thickness and colours for your diagrams and save them all together as view settings.

Combine the different views in Layouts and draw on top of them.
And the last thing, you can create various 3D documents and combine them together in the layouts to give different effects. The possibilities are endless! Combine your BIM model and your creativity drawing in 2D inside the 3D document or directly on the layout. Use different degree of detail in 3D and different views in the layouts.

Try and be creative!


We will explore another type of diagrams and strategies for concept design in the next posts!
Hope you liked this one and Stay tuned!