This project involves a multi-week series of exercises. The focus of the project is the development of spatial design. Space becomes visible when illuminated. You will be setting up cameras and lighting conditions, and you will be making renderings of those views.

In Part 1 you will begin with the generation of a floor plan. You will be extruding the rooms in you plan. The volumes will then be subtracted from a larger mass so that the room volumes become hollow spaces.

In Part 2 you will be adding openings and a pool. The objects in the model will receive materials. You will be setting up camera views and rendering scenes. 

In Part 3 you will be adding a stair and rendering new views.

In Part 4 you will be generating a series of screens in order to study the effects of shadow.




Objectives/Outcomes and Assessment Criteria

Students will acquire and demonstrate: 

1. technical competency in file management, 3D modeling, working with materials, setting up views and rendering. 

2. sense of craft through modeling precision and care in the presentation of the work, 

3. design aptitude in the ability to solve an organization problem in a manner that is innovative and exploratory.

4. judgment in the selection of dynamic views, clarity in the arrangement of spaces, sensitivity to the nuances of shadow and light. 

5. consideration of limitations and constraints in the problem solving process.

Design Principles

1. Architecture is light. Without light there is nothing.

2. Space can be sculpted by carving into a mass.


SL.1. Create a new file and name the new file with your name followed by Shadows&Light. Pat Smith would name the file PatSmith_Shadows&Light.

The video below will walk you through the first exercise.

SL.2. Set your units to Architectural.

SL.3. Create the following layers. Mass, Limits and Water. You may assign any color to these layers.

SL.4. On the layer called Mass draw a rectangle from coordinate point 0,0 to coordinate point 100',100'. Use the Rectangle tool for this.

SL.5. On layer Limits draw a 50'x50' square centered in the larger square.

SL.6. Make an arrangement of spaces inside the smaller square having approximately the square feet listed below. Spaces may be rectangular, circular, polygonal, irregular or any other shape you can imagine. Leave a minimum of one foot between each of the rooms. You can check the area of a shape using the Properties window, but the objects must be closed forms. Use the Polyline Edit tool (PEDIT) to join them if they are not closed.

    1000 (square feet),

    500 s.f.

    200 s.f.

    150 s.f

    60 s.f.

SL.7. Draw openings and hallways to connect the spaces to one another. Allow the connectors to overlap the two spaces that they are connecting. A connector is shown in green below. Connectors must be at least 3' wide, but can be much wider if desired. Connectors also need to be closed shapes.


SL.8. Verify that all spaces and connectors are closed polylines. If they are not, use the Polyline Editor (PEDIT) to join the lines. They need to be closed polylines so they can be extruded into solids. Once you have completed your plan, you are ready to begin modeling in 3D. Change your Workspace to 3D modeling. See image below.


SL.9. Extrude the largest rectangle that is 100' x 100'. Give it an extrusion height of 15'. 

SL.10. Go to the Front view and move the solid that you created 3' down. In 3D the Move command works similar to the way it does in 3D. You will be carving the smaller spaces into the mass. By lowering the mass you will have some ground mass beneath those spaces.


SL.11. Make solids out of the spaces you have arranged using the Extrude tool. Extrude the two largest spaces 15'. Extrude the remaining spaces 10'. Extrude the connectors somewhere between 7'-0" and 10'. Extrusions can be straight up and down or tapered. Note that the shape, size and arrangement of spaces in the view below may be different than your model.


SL.12. Subtract the smaller solids from the large solid using the Subtract tool. To complete this operation select the large solid first. Then begin subtracting the smaller solids.


SL.13. Save your file. It is always a good idea to do this periodically. Upload the file to your Google Drive folder.

SL.14. Create at least one opening in the ceiling of each of the three smallest spaces (the ones that are below the roof plane). Each opening can be no larger than 10 s.f. You might begin by drawing the shapes in Top view. Then extrude the shapes higher that the top of the mass and subtract. The video below will walk you through the steps.

You may later find that additional openings are needed if the spaces are too dark. More openings can be added later. You can also fill spaces and union them to the mass if you would like to eliminate them.

One thing that you may discover is that an opening in the middle of a room does little to illuminate the space. Openings along walls have the effect of illuminating the walls. 



Click here to see the work of Louis Kahn.

Click here to see the work of Claudio Silvestrin.

Click here to see the work of Le Corbusier.

Click here to see the work of Luis Barragan.

SL.15. The largest space will be open to the sky. In the part of this exercise you will be adding a raised portion of roof to the second largest space. There will be space between the roof and the top of the existing mass so light can enter from above. The section of the room is illustrated below with a green rectangle representing the roof. 

In the Top view trace the profile of the space to make a closed polyline. Offset the polyline 1’-0” so it overlaps the walls (Notice how the green roof plane is wider than the room). Extrude the polyline to give it a thickness of 1’-0”. Move the volume so there is 2’-0” between the top of the mass and the bottom of the volume. The green rectangle below is this volume.

Make square columns at the corners to support the roof and anywhere you have more than a twenty foot span. Use the Box command for this. Columns should stretch between the tops of the walls and the bottoms of the roof plane.


SL.16. Make a pool in your courtyard by drawing it in Top view. The pool can be circular, rectangular or some other shape. Set you layer to the Mass layer. First draw the perimeter of the pool. If you are making the profile out of separate objects (lines, arcs, etc.), you will need to join them as a polyline using the JOIN or PEDIT commands. 

SL.17. Once you have a closed object, make a copy of it and put the copy on the Water layer. Then extrude the object on the mass layer -2 feet (negative two feet). Extrude the object on the Water layer -1'-6". Check from a side view to see that the top of the pool is at the level of the floor. If not, then move the pool so that it is.

SL.18. Subtract the mass layer from the big mass. 

SL.19. Load two materials to your drawing. One will be for the mass and one for the water. 1.) On the Visualize ribbon you will find the 2.) Materials Browser on the Materials palette. 3.) Search for water. 4.) Load the Water Bubbles material to your file. 5.) Search for stucco. Use the Fine - White stucco, and load it to your file as well.

SL.20. Assign the materials to the layers you are using. Drag the material to the layer.


SL.21. Set up five cameras. Keep in mind that the best way to manipulate the cameras is from the Top view with the Visual Style set to 2D wireframe. Type CAMERA at the command line. Click at the camera position. Click at the target location. 

If you click on the camera glyphs (blue camera images) and you open the properties dialog box you can change many of the settings.  The Preview window will show you how changes to the Properties affect the view. You can change the Visual Style in the Preview to get a better sense of how the view will render.


SL.22. Set your view to Top View. Create a distant light by going to the Create Light icon on the Render Ribbon. When prompted, turn off the default lighting and allow distant lights. Specify light direction from 50’,50’,500’ and specify light direction to 50’,50’,0’. This should put the light directly above your model. This type of light will cast a general illumination in addition to the sun.

Adjustments to the light settings can be made to the placement of the light by opening the Light List on the Lights Palette. For more information on distant lights click here


SL.23. Go to one of your camera views. 


SL.24. Check to see that the Global Illumination is on. The image may be dark if it is not. 


SL.25. On the Render ribbon, turn on Full shadows, turn on Sky Background and Illumination, and turn on the sun.


SL.26. Render at the Low quality setting first. Alter the date and time of day as necessary to generate dynamic shadows. Run final renderings on the Presentation setting. Check to see that Global Illumination is on when you change the rendering level. To render the view click on the teapot.


Visit the SunCalC app to see how the sun's path changes depending on the time of year, time of day and location on earth.

SL.27. Generate renderings for each of the camera views. Verify shadow, sky, and sun settings prior to rendering for each view. Adjust the sun location to enhance the placement of shadows. Name the views with your name followed by the exercise name and Camera number. Pat Smith would name one of the views PatSmith_Shadows&Light_Camera1. Choose the jpg format.

See this link for an explanation of file types: Digital Image File Types Explained 

IMPORTANT: The bmp file type should be avoided.


SL.28. Save your drawing file. Always save files before uploading. Upload the drawing file and the five image files to your Google Drive folder. 

SL.29. This next sequence of the carved space project extends the use of three-dimensional editing tools. In the first part you are asked to add a stair. The stair can be located outside of your 50’ x 50’ limits line, but it cannot touch the edge of the 100’ x 100’ mass. It must connect the courtyard space that is open to the sky with the ground above. A straight run without turns is the simplest, but you are encouraged to think about alternate arrangements and consider what you will see as you move into the space. You may want to plan the stair with pen/pencil on paper before working in the AutoCAD model.

To see a stairs designed by Luis Barragan click here and here and here and, lastly, here

To see stairs designed by Carlo Scarpa click here and here and here and, lastly, here.

SL.30. Open your Shadows and Light file.

SL.31. Measure the rise from floor to floor. Type in MEASURE or DIST at the command line.

SL.32. Convert dimensions in feet to inches. For example, 8’-6” would be converted 102 inches.

SL.33. Calculate how many risers your stair will need. The riser is the vertical portion of a step. For initial planning purposes it is recommended that you begin with a 7 inch riser. Divide the vertical rise from floor to floor by 7. In the example below the floor to floor height is 108.

108 inches / 7 inch risers = 15.43 risers. 

Then adjust the riser height according to the number of risers. If the result is not a whole number it must be rounded to a whole number.  If the number is rounded up, then the riser height will be smaller than 7 inches.  If the number is rounded down, then the riser height will be larger than 7 inches.

108 inches / 16 risers = 6.75 inches

108 inches / 15 risers = 7.2 inches


SL.34. Calculate the dimensions for your treads. Keep in mind that you may have landings that occur at any changes in direction.

One rule of them is that 2 risers plus 1 tread should equal between 24 and 25 inches. These dimensions are based on convention and human anatomy.  Following that rule, if the riser height is 6 inches, then the tread should be between 12 and 13 inches. Building codes and other mandates will specify more requirements.  The relationship of tread to riser depends on the use of the stair too.  Formal stairs tend to have smaller risers and larger treads.  The experience of ascending and descending a stair is greatly affected by this relationship. For initial planning purposes it is recommended that you begin with an 11 inch tread.

For 15 risers: (2) 7.2 + 11 = 25.4   NO

This value is not between 24 and 25 inches.  The tread size should be adjusted. 

For 15 risers: (2) 7.2 + 10.5 = 24.9     OK

This value is between 24 and 25 inches.  A 10.5 inch tread is acceptable with a riser that is 7.2 inches. 

For 16 risers: (2) 6.75 + 11 = 24.5      OK

This value is between 24 and 25 inches.  An 11 inch tread is acceptable with a riser that is 6.75 inches. 

SL.35. Calculate the run of the stair. The run is the full length of the stair in top view. In a run of stairs, the number of treads will be one less than the number of risers.  If we choose to have 15 risers, then the number of treads will be 14.  If we choose to have 16 risers, then the number of treads will be 15.

14 treads x 10.5 inches = 147 inches or 12’-3”

15 treads x 11 inches = 165 inches or 13’-9” 

SL.36. Draw the stair as a two-dimensional drawing. Set the visual style to 2DWireframe. You may want to generate a layer for this and turn off other layers. The minimum width of the stair must be 3’-0” but it can be wider. If the number of stairs is a decimal, you may want to take advantage of the DIVIDE command which divides an object into segments. The command places node points at the beginning and end of each of the segments. To snap to those node points be sure to turn on Node in your object snaps. If you do not see the node points, change the value of PDMODE to 3 and the value of PDSIZE to 3 or so. PDMODE changes the graphic of the node from a point to a plus or an X. The image below shows the side view construction lines for a stair. The horizontal line represents the run. The vertical line represents the rise.


SL.37. Set your later to the Mass layer. Begin building the parts of your stair. You can draw a profile from the side and extrude the stair. You can also construct each stair and extrude each stair to the height required.  

SL.38. If you are cutting into the mass to place your stair, you will need to create a void space first. 

SL.39. Generate two new camera views. One must be looking up the stair and one down the stair. Carefully compose your view and adjust shadow settings to generate a dynamic composition.

See this link for an explanation of file types: Digital Image File Types Explained 

IMPORTANT: The bmp file type should be avoided.

SL.40. Save your file. Upload the drawing file and the two image files to your Google Drive folder. 


SL.41. In the next series of steps you will adding screens to your model. The idea is generate shadow effects. The following photographs may give you some ideas. 






SL.42. You will be generating three camera views showing screen elements. Look for images on the web showing screen elements. Choose one or more images to model your screens. The screens can be in the ceiling, in wall openings or they may serve as room dividers.   

SL.43. Create new layers as needed. 

SL.44. Step 1 is to measure the necessary dimensions of your screen. Off to the side, draw your screen in 2D. If it is a repeating pattern, you can create the base module and then array the pattern. All components within the screen must be closed shapes like circles, rectangles, and polygons. Any individual lines must be part of a closed polyline. Use the PEDIT command to join objects into a closed polyline. 

The process is similar to how you would make doors. Refer to the video below for guidance with generating doors and frames.

SL.45. Once you have constructed the 2D drawing, you can extrude the closed lines so they have thickness. You may find it helpful to make a block out of each screen and then move the screen into place. 

SL.46. Load materials as needed. Attach the materials to the layer or layers of your screen.

SL.47. Set up at least three new cameras or adjust existing ones to include your screens. Select positions that allow you to see the shadow effects.

SL.48. Save before the next step. It is always wise to save your file before rendering, especially as the model gets more complex and the size of the file gets larger.

SL.49. Render the images using the Presentation render preset.You may want to test the rendering at a lower quality preset first.

SL.50. Upload the drawing file and the three image files to your Google Drive folder.