Are (or were) 3ds Max and Rhino a part of your LA curriculum?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums TECHNOLOGY Are (or were) 3ds Max and Rhino a part of your LA curriculum?

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    I have been noticing that a lot of recent job postings list 3ds Max and Rhino as one of the requirements for entry level positions. I wonder how many LA actually know and use these programs, and how many studied it as a part of their school curriculum. Are the very expensive training seminars worth investing into?

    Thank you!

    Thomas J. Johnson

    We never studied 3ds Max or Rhino in school due to a combination of factors. One it’s expensive and two, our professors preferred that we grasp the fundamentals of good design (namely, being able to draw) before getting bogged down in the technicalities of programs. I’m grateful for their approach.

    Now that I have some work experience, I’d be interested in learning more about those programs but not at the expense of designing, I.E. I don’t want to become “the 3ds guy”… he’s not needed all the time…

    You also bring up a good point of accessibility. How is one supposed to learn these programs, which cost several thousand dollars? What good is the “very expensive training” if you are unable to practice when you get home or back to the office…?


    3D programs were in their infancy when I was in school, so they were nowhere to be found in the curriculum. I had a gov’t job that sent us for MicroStation training and then a while later a few of us got to take a 3D class, even though we never got to use it in practice. Ah, government inefficiency, where are you when we need you? I think the 3D stuff is pretty cool, but can also be quite time consuming. I looked into 3Ds Max training and found a local class for around $1600. I could see myself playing with a program like that for hours on end, so maybe it would be a good investment in my mental health as well. I’ve been noticing it called for in a lot of job ads as well. Seems to be the way its going. I saw one recently that asked for Revit, which is more popular among architects.

    Ryland Fox

    You can’t really lump Rhino in with 3ds. It is a drafting program. Anyone using autocad can pick it up pretty quickly. Plus it isn’t expensive.

    As far as learning 3ds, if you are a student Autodesk has learning editions of all their software available on their site for free, many tutorials and curriculum, also there are many tutorials on the internet that will get you started. It really isn’t that hard, just takes a little dedication.


    In my very humble opinion, there is more opportunity to be taken advantage of by learning how to think and draw than there is being a 3D modeler.

    Sure, I feel a little taken advantage of lately being given 4 hours to plan an office park, but I wouldn’t have any opportunity to practice if all I could do was make really radical 3D models. I think it’s important in these times to think about the ROI for an employer and what you bring them in your skill set. Like someone else said. 3D modeling isn’t always needed. Being able to sketch and illustrate ideas in an efficient manner make it possible for managers to make a lot of money off you.

    I think the job postings requiring 3D experience is at least in part a way for the firm to filter responses. Those who haven’t opened Max will still reply because they know they’re smart enough to learn and make the managers money when they’re not modeling–which certainly cant be all the time. Same thing with the Masters requirements.


    I’ve done a bunch of tutorials in Rhino while I was in school and honestly found it fun and fairly intuitive to work with. Now that I have graduated and haven’t found a job yet, I don’t feel like I can afford either the program (and a PC computer since I’m a Mac user) or a class to get some more experience with it. I can’t speak for 3ds MAX, I haven’t played with it enough to form any kind of opinion, it is just another program that is mentioned.
    I’m not in any way against learning these programs, quite the opposite, I think they are great, I’m just not sure how I feel when they are listed as requirement for an entry level position.


    Thanks, Nick. It is a good way to look at it.

    Frank Varro

    I TA’ed an undergrad course in Computer Tech, and most of the 3D time was spent on SketchUp, as that seems like the hands-down industry leader when it comes to ease of use and quick turn around.

    When I was in undergrad I took a computer graphics course at Iowa State that involved Form-Z, and I taught myself 3DS Max, and am starting to teach myself Kerkythea right now. I think the problem with having courses that involve Rhino right now are that programs like it go WAY over the heads of some people who are less Computer inclined, and with the small numbers in LA schools due to accreditation requirements of student/faculty ratios, it seem Rhino, like 3DS Max is the type of program that schools cannot dedicate a class to for the small number of students who would take and enjoy the course.

    I think it may end up being an issue of who takes the initiative to educate themselves in this software, which is always difficult, as what program do you choose? I Picked 3DS Max because I knew it, and it seemed like an industry leader. Did I make the wrong choice? Or does the fact that I am self-taught on 3DS Max mean that I should do well with Rhino?

    I think for a lot of firms, Rhino and 3DS Max are viewed as the modern day CAD. Meaning that 15 years ago a few people knew CAD, but not everyone did. Being able to be a great Cad Monkey would get you a position as an entry level LA in a firm who would groom you into a project manager. Now, everyone knows CAD, just like 15 years ago everyone knew how to hand draft. The more rare, but advantageous thing to know now is 3D modeling. I think these are the new “Monkey” positions that firms look to fill to bring people in, knowing that their method of design can be taught to the monkey, creating a future project manager who knows design AND 3D software.

    What I wonder especially as someone who models in SketchUp and renders in 3DS Max (and soon kerkythea), is how flexible firms are in the 3D rendering program they name. If I say I can do 3DS Max, is that as good as Rhino, or do they really want someone who knows Rhino?

    Then my head spins off my neck…


    You saw recent job postings? Did you see these open job postings while pigs were flying and hell was freezing over? I have not seen viable job postings in this industry for months.
    As far as 3d is concerned, it is not taught in school because instructors don’t know how to use it or teach it. Most don’t even know Autocad. From what I have seen in most firms, the high end 3d work is done by a graduate of the local Art Institutes. They are not paid well and know next to nothing about landscape architecture.

    Pat S. Rosend

    Microstation. Ugh. I had to learn that at an engineering firm. Hated it. Any program designed by and for road engineers, is just not a good fit for me!

    Pat S. Rosend

    I have never heard of these programs. Just remember that not all places hiring LA’s do all of the fancy modeling. We have 7 LA’s in my office(municipal work) and we almost never 3d model. We frankly don’t have the time to invest in it or the money to purchase it. In our world a strong knowledge of the standards, ACAD, GIS And ADOBE products, is a better selling point. I have been out of the private side for a few years, so it may be different there.

    OTOH…if you are able to get a job in this market by learning these programs, I would go for it. Don’t worry about being labeled a “Cad Monkey”. Sometimes the most important thing is to get a job by promoting any skills you can and building on that experience down the road.

    Chelsea Larsson

    I am in my 3rd year in the MLA program at UT Austin and we use both 3D Max and Rhino in our studios.

    Tosh K

    @UVA the school transitioned from Form Z to Maya to Rhino while I was there. SketchUp was introduced along with AutoCAD and Rhino early in the program to give students a variety of tools to work from (Microstation was also req’d earlier). SketchUp is free and Rhino’s educational copy was $99 for us, so relatively affordable (considering prices of textbooks anyway).

    I’ve used a variety of programs at work including Microstation/AutoCAD (primarily for 2D work) and SketchUp/Rhino for 3D exploration/representation. Hand drawing and modeling are useful too, but for some things its quicker on the machine and some clients are more easily convinced with computer renderings (I find this medium useful for more object level designs).
    What I remember of 3ds Max, it was useful for animations, and walk-thrus, something I haven’t seen a whole lot of in the landscape architecture and as much – it can easily be outsourced, so may not be a “must have.”

    When I was looking for work last fall, many firms asked that I have 3D skills, Rhino was commonly asked about but many firms use other software – particularly the add-ons to AutoCAD.

    I know many firms will cover training sessions – rhino can be easily picked up via the tutorials as well as the online forums, it’s easy learning curve is one of the draws for schools.


    Chelsea, did you have any tutoring on how to use them, or did you just picked it up/figured it out while working on a project?


    I think it’s cool to learn 3D programs like Max and Maya in school, but think it’s kind of a waste of studio time to ‘teach’ to it after looking back a little over a year out of school.

    Several reasons:

    1) The more intensive the 3D program, the less time there will be allocated to thinking about design (ie fundamental design).

    I would liken the surge in 3D as a design medium to the development of ACAD in the 90’s–Everyone THEN thought ACAD was a cutting edge DESIGN tool. We know now that ACAD is mainly a ‘DRAFTING’ tool. Look at ASLA awards from the 90’s and you’ll find cad plans, yes cad plans.

    2) I think our medium (landscape) is inherently ‘loose.’ 3D is great for thinking about objects, and I realize there are ways in advanced 3D software to mimic living organisms (the added dimension of time as some put it in previous discussions), but it’s still too precise imo for conceptual design, which is really what I think students should be thinking about.

    What happened to the notion that school is about learning how to think and see?

    Otherwise, I’m glad it’s becoming the trend for students to learn 3D..more support staff ; ) kidding.

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