Creating With SketchUp – Interview With Nicolas Rateau

contributing_authors_mainCreating With SketchUp – Interview With Nicolas Rateau

This article is part of a series of articles about the contributing authors in the joint book “Créer avec SketchUp – 16 projets, de l’architecture au théâtre” published in French.


Click on the image below to enlarge an excerpt of Nicolas Rateau’s case study published in the book:

Extrait de l'étude de cas de Nicolas Rateau publiée dans le livre Créer avec SketchUp

French landscape architect Nicolas Rateau graduated from the Institut Superieur Industriel Gembloux in Belgium. He has been practicing his business since 2004, first in Belgium and more recently in Lyon, France.

His areas of activity are:

  • Projects for development of public spaces
  • Projects Planning and Territorial Planning
  • Landscape and Urban Studies in the context of impact studies on plan, historical studies and Phytosanitary
  • This is a brief description of his contribution to the book “Creating with SketchUp”

    Project 4: Develop a site

    In this case study, Nicolas explains the creation process of the proposed development of a site for Van Zeeland City, Soignies located in Belgium, within the design office ‘Poly’Art’. Using basic functions and the Sandbox tools in SketchUp, Nicolas also uses a wide range of plugins which meet his specific needs as a landscape architect and planner.

    Here is the interview I conducted with him:

    What brought you to participate in this work?

    I started using SketchUp in a hurry to replace another program that was not at all suited to my needs. I learned the software on the job discovering its opportunities and tools. I improved my method of working with time and with the emergence of new plugins offered by the SketchUp community. Writing this article enabled me to review the way I used this software, and helped me in my modeling procedure. In a professional context, lack of time spent on one project continuously, and external constraints do not always have the back and think time that gave me writing this article. Finally, the exchanges I had with you in the corrections section made me discover some great functions of SketchUp that I did not know and showed me where I was going wrong, so a big thank you!

    How has SketchUp changed the way you work?

    After two days spent on a plan when I started my first 3D modeling, I immediately sought an alternative for my work. I needed a program to produce 3D models quickly. I had already moved to 3D in my spare time but I did not know about Sketchup. In browsing the forums, I then downloaded version 5 from @ Last ( software company that created SketchUp before Google took over) and I was amazed by the easy learning curve, and “field” capabilities  of SketchUp as an essential tool for outdoor work. I convinced my boss at the time to purchase the software and I have never looked back. Initially I used it only for completed model projects.  Since then we incorporated it into the design process for projects of urban development and urban sketches. SketchUp has not really changed my way of working, it has revealed to me  that it is just a tool that integrates the best of my approach and my professional constraints.

    What other advice can you give that has not been published in the book?

    SketchUp is disconcerting when one has tried other 3D software before. As said simply: “Finally 3D made easy!”. In a sense it is quite true because anyone can draw in SketchUp with no pre-requisites for 3D modeling. But this facility can also be a trap into which you can fall. The fact that we modeled as patterns on paper is a reality but also something to avoid, because it can be tedious. I believe we must strike a balance between “free drawing”  and SketchUp where you can draw everything line by line, and the main principles of polygonal modeling (which share a basic polygonal element, usually a plane or box to arrive at a complex model using a combination of reflective operations polygonal based: extrusions, revolutions, deformations, etc …) which can save much time. Ease of SketchUp may tend to exclude the user of these principles and give him bad habits that can make him lose time. I also recommend to follow tutorials on SketchUp and other programs, which are full of good tips and tricks that can sometimes save you hours of work!

    Anything else you would like to say about SketchUp?

    One thing I have never tired of saying is thank you to the SketchUp community. If SketchUp is now experiencing such popularity it is due to all enthusiasts who work daily to enhance SketchUp and for the sole benefit of giving SketchUp such great acclaim. In the world of 3D, free is not always a good image, although it is quite valid. Like many users, but also individuals, I hope that the development of Google SketchUp in the coming years, continues to bear fruit and make this a little gem.  @ Last had made a real professional tool offering all the capabilities that can be expected today with a 3D modeling software. I would also like to thank the whole team who worked on the implementation and development of  the standalone renderer Kerkythea, which was essentially an additonal necessary aspect in my project, and has never ceased to improve, both in its capabilities and in its integration with SketchUp.

    Some achievements:


    Competition for the renovation of the highway rest area in St Ghislain (Belgium). Client: Trièdre SCRL (Binche), BP


    Redevelopment of the site Mansart in La Louviere (Belgium). Office Poly’Art in Mons, Project Mr Hugh Sirault

    To learn more about Nicolas Rateau, visit their website:

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