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Article : LASN Technology June 2011: Vectorworks Landmark 2011: a Better CAD Solution

Vectorworks Landmark 2011: a Better CAD Solution

by Madis Pihlak, Associate Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, Department of Architecture, Interdisciplinary Digital Studio Degree Program, College of Arts and Architecture, Pennsylvania State University




The Existing Tree Tool automatically opens a dialogue box to document existing trees on site, and automatically labels a leader line. Important spatial information (drip line, primary root zone, protection zone) is contained in the dialogue box.
Illustrations: Vectorworks Landmark 2011
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Vectorworks Landmark 2011 is one of the few CAD software programs specifically designed for landscape architects. The full range of the landscape architecture profession's activities is supported, from the ability to import Geographic Information System (GIS) files, to containing the entire Monrovia plant catalogue within the plant data base for detailed planting design.

Other CAD packages are general purpose drafting systems that landscape architects must adapt for their own purposes. This one is also able to produce graphically rich and extremely accurate professional drawings. It is really not necessary to move files to Photoshop for color rendering. Most of the typical drawings landscape architects need to produce to be competitive can be produced right within the program. However, the software has 21 export and import formats for moving the file into many other software programs and for importing files from other software programs.




The Hardscape Tool functions more smoothly than the older software version and has greater flexibility in highlighting data. The tool interacts with the hatches for a greater variety of different paving options. There is also a pathway option.


Another impressive feature is fully integrated three-dimensional capabilities. Retaining walls and shade trees can be located in two-dimensional space, but rendered in three-dimensional space when the symbol is needed in a visualization image or three-dimensional environment. Most of the tools have dialogue boxes to specify if the symbol or graphic needs to be a hybrid of two and three dimensions, or simply remain a two-dimensional symbol.

The rendered quality of the illustrative plan and the ability to produce design graphics are also some of the software's strengths.




The architect's wall tool can create a landscape wall that is stepped at the bottom to deal with a declining slope or at the top to deal with a rising slope. A simple dialogue box allows rapid creation of different step characteristics depending on the slope and design needs. Bezier curve formed landscape walls (right) can also now be easily created. A dialogue box allows the parameters to be changed.


Specific Tools
Retaining wall site modifier: This tool is greatly improved in the 2011 version and can easily be used to visualize rough grading plans.

Create stepped wall command: The architect's wall tool can create a landscape wall that is stepped at the bottom to deal with a declining slope or at the top to deal with a rising slope. The simple dialogue box for the tool allows rapid creation of different step characteristics depending on the slope and design needs. Prior versions of the program required many more manual steps to get close to the same functionality.

Place plant tool: The most significant performance improvement of this new software over other CAD software programs is you are dealing with intelligent objects rather than abstract electronic artifacts. You can place a specific plant or paver. This can greatly simplify professional office workflow. Of course you can also use the place plant tool to place an abstract symbol of a design intention and specify that particular plant at a later point in the design work.

Existing Tree Tool
Saving existing trees is a common requirement for site development. The software has a tool that automatically opens a dialogue box to document an existing tree, and automatically labels a leader line. Important spatial information is contained in the dialogue box (drip line, primary root zone, protection zone).

Hardscape Tool
The new Hardscape Tool functions more smoothly and has greater flexibility regarding what data to highlight. The tool interacts with the hatches for a greater variety of different paving options. There is also a pathway option.




The new grade tool allows rapid calculation of slope across the site surface. Grade objects can be networked together to show slope characteristics across an extensive surface. This tool offers the potential to improve accuracy and limit errors and omissions in grading.

New Apply Saved Hardscape Settings to Existing Hardscapes
Any created hardscape can now be saved for future use. Office paving details can be saved to a sort of kit of parts that allow more time to be spent on design innovation rather than the tedious aspects of basic paving details.

Site Model Improvements
Site modeling has been refined and generally functions more smoothly. The real power comes from the linking of the specific grading of a site with the rich graphic tools to express the grading concept. The new features are specifically aimed at the landscape architect rather than the civil engineer. One significant graphic improvement is the easy mapping of aerial images onto site models. Color can now also be used to illustrate grade changes between contour lines.

Cut and Fill
The ability to display cut and fill can now be controlled with a new display option dialogue box. All of the calculations used in the creation of a site's cut and fill volume can now be displayed in the site model dialogue box. Verification of the landscape architect's calculations is easier to provide to those reviewing the site model.

Grade Tool
The new grade tool greatly aids the grading process. The grade tool now allows rapid calculation of slope across the site surface. Grade objects can be networked together to show slope characteristics across an extensive surface. This tool offers the potential to automate grading, to improve accuracy and limit any errors and omissions.




An impressive feature is fully-integrated 3D capabilities. Retaining walls and shade trees can be located in two-dimensional space, but rendered in three-dimensional space.

Landscape Wall Tool
The landscape wall tool works very efficiently and quickly even on an older computer. Bezier curve formed landscape walls can now be easily created. A dialogue box allows the parameters to
be changed.

The new ability to export to Cinema 4D provides the capability of Hollywood-level visual quality for the typical landscape architecture office. Given the current economic climate there should be time to integrate new office workflows to incorporate new software such as Cinema 4D.

The new and improved text capabilities gives greater graphic control over text changes right within your CAD drawing environment. There is no need to move CAD files into separate publishing software programs to achieve sophisticated type setting quality.

The new software has improved its database capabilities and added Filemaker Pro enabled specialized tools. This ability to generate data fields is important on building projects to interface with architects and engineers during design development. Architects and engineers are rapidly moving toward a Building Information Modeling (BIM) project workflow. If landscape architects do not adopt new information-driven design they risk being left out of the new BIM workflow. Tools> Reports>Create Report can be used to document any site element that needs the information shared with the rest of the project development team.

Vectorworks Landmark 2011 is an improved version of an already multi-featured CAD software program. The price performance value and specialized landscape architecture capabilities make the program a worthwhile competitor to any other professional CAD program.

About the author: Madis Pihlak is an associate professor of landscape architecture, architecture and is affiliated faculty in the new Interdisciplinary Digital Studio degree program at the Pennsylvania State University. Prof. Pihlak has lectured widely and often on emerging digital design media. His research interests include ecological urbanism, design collaboration and the application of Hollywood level animation and modeling software to design projects.


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