Interview with Ryan Deane from SLAM

Ryan Deane, ASLA, is my co-tech-editor-at-large for Landscape Architecture Magazine . A techie nerd and obsessive 3D modeler, Ryan is a landscape architect who’s been lucky to work on some phenomenal projects. From campus design to master planning, Ryan is always trying to push the limits of his work (and his computers).

Here are some of Ryan’s thoughts on 3D and tech, and some of his amazing models are sprinkled throughout this post – enjoy!  


Tell us who you are? What you do? Background? Something funny about you?

I am the chair of the Digital Technology PPN at ASLA, and a contributing editor for “Tech” at Landscape Architecture. I am an associate with The SLAM Collaborative, and the senior technology leader in SLAM’s landscape architecture studio.  

I have 11 years of experience in master planning, sustainable design, and construction administration. I enjoy working as part of a multidisciplinary firm, integrating different software programs and consulting skills. My passion within my landscape architect role is creating 3D visualizations that are focused on campus planning and design for public, corporate, and collegiate clients. 

Ryan Dean Capri SMALL

I sometimes wonder how I got into landscape architecture, when I really just like being a techie. Sometimes I think I should have gone down the video game design path, with no clients or budgets to impose boundaries on my designs. Same kind of work, just way cooler.  

Also, my wife makes fun of me every time we do a home improvement project, and I model the entire existing and proposed condition with accuracy down to the tile jointing.


How does SketchUp fit into your work?

My experience has involved using SketchUp within many different workflows, to provide high quality design renderings to clients.


When did you first hear about SketchUp? Do you remember your first SketchUp project?

I started using SketchUp at SLAM,  after I graduated from UMass Amherst in 2004.  My first SketchUp-heavy project was a dormitory design for Mount Holyoke College.  It was a very complicated site design with lots of sculpted topography – the kind of project you would never recommend for anyone just starting their SketchUp career. 


What do you find frustrating with SketchUp? What do you enjoy?

There are glitches and quirks with any program, and I used to think SketchUp was the worst of all of them. My frustration subsided after I started understanding SketchUp’s limitations with large scale projects, and how to break down projects to work with the hardware I had.

The one command that saved me so much frustration is the Drape tool. Even better is Super Drape by TIG, which works on large, smoothed-terrain models without crashing.


I use other 3D programs, and the simplicity of the SketchUp interface is what I enjoy most about it. The extensions are easy to find and install, and the 3D warehouse is an amazing way to populate models with realistic objects, without having to create every detail yourself.


What other 3D programs do you use? What about rendering?

I currently use AutoCAD Civil 3D, Rhinoceros 5, and 3DS Max. For rendering: Lumion, VRay, and LumenRT.

The majority of my work starts with Civil 3D or SketchUp, is supplemented with building design from Rhino, and gets rendered in Lumion.


Where would you like to see SketchUp go? In what direction do you hope your design services will go?

In a perfect world I see my SketchUp work going onto a virtual reality platform. I am already exploring the ways I can use the Oculus Samsung Gear VR to relay my design ideas to clients, but would like to have a more seamless output into the stereoscopic renderings.  I am really hoping for Lumion to get on board with this, or for a third party add-on to extract a 360 spherical fly-through with head tracking capabilities.


You already mentioned a few extensions you like, do you have other favorites?

As any SketchUp expert would agree, you’d be nuts not to use extensions! Here are a few that I couldn’t live without:

Ryan Dean Samara SMALL


If SketchUp could incorporate features from other programs, what should those be?

Importing radial geometry from CAD into SketchUp should produce smooth curves, like in Rhino. Users should at least be able to adjust the number of faceted edges on a radius, prior to importing.


Any last words? What did we not ask you that you want to share?

I think that more people should be testing out a two-handed approach to working in SketchUp. 3DConnexion and Razer make some great “left handed” controls that streamline the navigation in any program, with customizable macros.  I have both products, and feel at a disadvantage when using SketchUp or Lumion without the Razer Tartarus and all my customized macros.


Thanks, Ryan!


About Daniel Tal

Daniel Tal, ASLA, is a professional speaker and a registered landscape architect with over 17 years of experience. He is a 3D modeling and visualization expert, has authored two books with Wiley and Sons: SketchUp for Site Design and Rendering in SketchUp and is the tech-editor at large for Landscape Architecture Magazine. Tal runs a 3D modeling and visualization studio for Stanley Consultants, a 1,000 person multi-disciplinary engineering firm. Read more about Daniel.


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