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ARCHI 136 - 1795: Digital Tools for Architects - Syllabus

Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill campus • 321 Golf Club Road, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

Associate Professor:

  • Grant Adams
  • Email:,
  • Phone: (925) 456-4355
  • Office Location & Hours: ET104B, M 6:55-7:55am, W 2:15-3:15pm


Required Text

Recommended Text

  • There are a number of helpful guides to the software we will be covering in class that are available in local bookstores, but no specific book is recommended. I will point out additional resources as we go along and post them to the resources page of the class website. Searching Google for help is also highly recommended.

Class Schedule

Monday and Wednesday

  • 11:10 – 12:10 am Lecture
  • 12:10 - 2:15 pm Lab

2 hours of lecture, 4 hours & 10 minutes of lab each week

A schedule of course assignments & exercises will be posted on the course website as they are assigned. Please visit for more details. You can also subscribe to a feed of the calendar. Please visit the tutorials section of the website for help setting this up.

Course Description and Objectives

This is an introductory course that focuses on using computers and software (Rhinoceros, Photoshop & V-Ray) to create three dimensional representations, graphic presentations and layouts. The emphasis is on establishing basic and intermediate level skills for architectural designers to utilize computer software to produce architectural designs and presentations. Students will also work to build physical models from their three dimensional computer models using the laser cutter.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Create digital models that explore complex geometries and forms in Rhinoceros 3D modeling software.
  • Create digital models that explore non-orthogonal shapes, point clouds and nurbs.
  • Translate three-dimensional digital models into two dimensional patterns and drawings for fabrication.
  • Construct architectural elements and forms using CAD-CAM manufacturing techniques for laser fabrication.
  • Render architectural models utilizing materials, lighting and camera settings in V-Ray.

Software covered in this class will include:


The class will have both lab exercises and assignments. The lab exercises will be worth 20% of each student’s overall grade. The exercises are designed to be completed in the lab portion of the class and focus on building fundamental skills.  Exercises are graded on a pass/no pass basis.  If you complete the exercise, you will get credit.


The assignments are larger projects that will often require work outside of our designated lab time. These assignments will collectively be worth 40% of your overall grade for the course. The assignments will combine multiple skills and investigate methods of 3D representation, presentations, layouts, and modeling.  You may elect to improve your assignments and submit one re-grade for each assignment.


You are allowed to submit 1 regrade for each assignment. This regrade must be posted on the last day of the semester (the day of the final) and should have the assignment number and “Regrade” in the title of the post.

Course Participation (5% of your overall grade)

After each exercise and assignment, you will be required to give constructive feedback to three of your classmates using the course website comments. This is required to help each student grow and mature in their design process and abilities. This will be part of your participation grade for the course, worth 10% of your final grade.

Roll (5% of your overall grade)

On the second day of class, you will decide on an assigned seat for the remainder of the course.  To ensure that you are on time each day and stay in class for the duration of the lecture and lab, I will take roll at a random time during the class period.  I will also mark students late who are not in their seats with their computers logged in 10 minutes after the “official” start of class.

Please note:  It is acceptable to leave for a break during class (bathroom, coffee, etc.), but these breaks should not be long.  (I will mark your attendance when you return if I happen to take roll while you are on a break.)

Grading, Midterm & Final

There is no midterm or final test in this class, however, you will be asked to put together a portfolio at the end of the semester (see description above). Below is a breakdown of the grading for this course:

  • Exercises: 20%
  • Assignments: 40%
  • Final Project: 30%
  • Participation: 10%
  • Total: 100%


You will be required to use a USB flash drive to store your work for this class. The drive MUST be a 32GB (gigabyte) or larger drive. Please be careful to safeguard your drive as losing your drive (and consequently your assignments) is not acceptable. You will also need physical modeling supplies (and tools). Requirements will be given out with each assignment/exercise.

Participation & Professionalism

Since many of the problems are worked on in class/lab, in participatory lectures, and drafting studios, it is important that you attend every class. Participation is important because the software will be demonstrated in class and computer processes will be explained in each lecture that will apply to each exercise and assignment. Attendance at each lecture is necessary so that you will have the appropriate skills to complete each project you are assigned. Class will start promptly at 11:10, students who are not in the class with their computer on (booted up) and ready to work will be marked late.

Professionalism means that you are expected to present yourself, your ideas and projects in a manner that reflect positively on your ideas towards the academic environment and the future expectations of the architectural working world. This includes respecting basic working world values such as punctuality, organization, and commitment to work, but also the opinions of others, respect for other students and faculty in the class, and respect for tools and facilities. These expectations also include understanding and following values related to the production of high-quality work, upholding standards of craftsmanship and presentation, and respecting standards of academic honesty and integrity.

Letters of Recommendation:

Each year a number of students ask for letters of recommendation for scholarships and/or applications. If you wish to have me write a letter on your behalf, you must do all of the following:

  • Receive an A in one of my classes.
  • Send me a written request by email 3 weeks prior to the due date of the letter and
  • Send me a digital portfolio of your architectural work that includes work from outside of my classes and
  • Send me an outline of your qualifications for this scholarship/application.
  • Send me all required paperwork for scholarship/application, filled out & signed.
  • You must waive your right to view your letter if possible.
    •  I ask this because it is my belief that letters of recommendation should be addressed and delivered sealed to the evaluation/selection committee. I believe these committees respect sealed letters and give them a higher value than unsealed letters.

You will then be responsible for reminding me on the following schedule by email or in person. 2 weeks, 1 week, 5 days, 2 days. I will send you a confirmation that I have sent the letter once it is done.

If any of the above conditions are not met, I will not write your letter. Scholarships and applications are serious and should not be taken lightly, you should prepare in advance and not rush them at the last minute.

If I have already written you a letter and you wish to have an additional letter (or have it addressed to someone else) I would be happy to do it with only 1 week of notice. Requirements 2-4 (unless you want the body of the letter changed) do not need to be met.

General Guidelines for Class

  • All students who miss two weeks of class or more will be withdrawn from the class at the discretion of the instructor. If you will be absent from class, you must inform the instructor prior to the start of class by emailing: or calling/texting (925) 456-4355.
  • If more than three assignments are not completed within the whole semester you may be dropped from the class.
  • Assignment due dates will be announced in class. Assignments will be due at the start of the lecture on the day they are due. Work not posted on the website or handed in (when indicated) by the start of the lecture will be marked late.
  • Late assignments and exercises are graded down by 10% (one full letter grade) per class. Assignments/Exercises turned in after 4 class days late will receive a maximum of 50% of the value of the assignment/exercise. Assignments/Exercises not handed in will receive a 0.
  • While I will be available for 1 on 1 or small group help during lab time or during office hours, please consult with written tutorials, other classmates or friends first if you have difficulty on exercises or assignments.
  • All work completed during the course will be posted on the course website under a Creative Commons “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported” license. If you have questions about this license, you may speak with me during office hours.


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