VisualARQ is a very useful plug-in tailored for architectural modelling in Rhino 4.
|It has a simple intuitive tool set that once you become accustomed can be rapidly incorporated into standard Rhino 4 modelling to significantly improve work flow.|
|I had my reservations about this review at the outset. This is the first time I had reviewed software that was not a dedicated part of my modeling process.|
As I was already comfortable with my current modeling practices, I felt it may be like forcing a square peg into a round hole, risking my being less than sympathetic to VisualARQ’s modelling approach. Also, as I would be looking at this software through novice eyes, I was a little concerned that my review would not be fully informed as to the software’s strengths and weaknesses.
I shouldn’t have worried.
|In the short time that I have tested VisualARQ I can see that it is |
an excellent tool for streamlining architectural modelling.
|It utilizes |
a straight forward block modelling structure,using standard architectural components, comprising walls, columns, slabs, doors, windows, roofs and stairs. While this type of parametric modelling is by no means a ground breaking technology in 3D modelling, its simplicity and intuitive structure make it a particularly useful addition to Rhino 4.
|Most significantly the |
component blocks can also be individually customized such that elements specific to a project can be built into the block library rather than having to rely on a tightly constrained selection of pre built components. Block items such as windows and doors can be moved or modified within walls without the time consuming process of rebuilding or patching wall surfaces as would normally be the case in Rhino.
The ease of placing and modifying all the primary elements of the building has the potential to significantly reduce overall modelling time.
|I particularly enjoyed being able to |
layout wall lines with a straight forward “click and drag” process. This is particularly useful if you already have an underlying floor plan. This was a real winner.
|However as a new user of this plug-in I did encounter a number of small bumps in the road. Firstly VisualARQ isn’t compatible with all Rhino commands Consequently you need to get familiar with the VisualARQ modelling toolset as much as possible, and break away from some Rhino commands you may be currently using. This is particularly true of Boolean operations. In this case VisualARQ has dedicated wall edit commands to replace these standard functions. This can be initially awkward if you have some ingrained modelling habits. A bit like driving some else’s car. The end result is the same, but the controls are in different spots. |
If you do have to fall back onto Rhino commands, the blocks have to be exploded to edit them. The downside of this is that the wall openings for windows and doors disappear, so I suggest this would be an action of last resort.
In terms of getting accustomed to the program, as a relatively straight forward plug-in the learning curve is an easy one.
While the PDF user’s guide is useful I strongly recommend going to the
VisualARQ website and checking the support area for “Tips and tricks”, and the VisualARQ Youtube page at:
|As a positive side note I must say I love software manufacturers that stand behind their product with good Tech support. I have found Rhino excellent in this regard over the years, on this occasion VisualARQ maybe have even been a little better.|
My inquiry had an overnight response - good, given the international time difference, but nothing to write home about. What “blew me away” was having a new Youtube video with the clear solution to my specific problem online as part of an expanding tutorial database within the same period.
|If this is typical of VisualARQ’s customer support, this is brilliant!|
|While I had no problems embracing VisualARQ’s toolset for walls, windows and doors I struggled a little on their roofs and stairs toolsets.|
| Roofs are currently modelled using a standard skillion roof block that can be effectively duplicated, rotated and trimmed to produce other roof forms. It would be great if the next upgrade could incorporate more complex roof styles, at the very least hip and gable roofs as standard style blocks.|
Given that rapid workflow is the prime focus of this plug-in I think some reworking of the current roof toolset may well be a beneficial.
As for stairs even though the block properties stated an open riser option it currently fails to operate. I have been advised that this is due to be fixed in a forthcoming service release. Also handrails are not currently part of stair blocks, and have to be constructed separately. They are however programmed to be included in version 2 of this software in the future.
|In looking at the material allocations I was unable to get separate wall finishes for the external and internal surfaces on all wall blocks.While the styles menu for walls appeared to allow for this variation it currently isn’t operating on Rhino. I was advised that this was on the program to be addressed in the near future. However for the moment the rule is one wall, one finish. |
|The software is priced at $495.00 USD on the VisualARQ website, but can be purchased via Novedge for $375.00.USD. While this may seem a little high for a mid range plug-in it should be noted that the purchase also includes the Savanna3D model collection priced at $185.00 USD. This brings the adjusted software cost down to a more than reasonable $190.00 USD.|
|In summary, VisualARQ appears to be a very useful plug-in to streamline workflow for architectural modelling that is ideal for the majority of small to medium scale architectural projects.|
At this stage I have been unable to determine if the software has any significant effect on file sizes or stability on larger building projects, however I look forward to any feedback from current users.
While still useful for pure architectural visualization work, I felt its additional documentation toolset made it ideal for firms maintaining a general architectural practice in conjunction 3D modelling and visualization services.
It does have a few bugs that you may need to get used to, however nothing that can’t be worked around using other avenues, or addressed with a future software update. I would definitely recommend testing the trial version via the VisualARQ website as the 30 day test period should be more than enough for most users to evaluate this plug-ins strengths and weakness in relation to your individual needs.
|Nigel Gough practiced as an architect before starting his career as an architectural illustrator. He uses both traditional and digital media in his work. Nigel has taught design presentation at the Queensland University of Technology for the past 22 years, having previously graduated as valedictorian in both the architecture and industrial design degree programs, winning both the Australian Design Institute Prize and the Queensland Board of Architects Prize (a unique honour). He is currently Vice President of the Australian Association of Architectural Illustrators (AAAI) and is co-editor and contributor to the AAAI website.|