Space Colonies... and more


My quest has been to make a fully realized space colony in SketchUp. I’ve made dozens of models over the years to varying levels of completion. I’ve been using SketchUp since version 4.

I don’t often make use of extensions or plugins (aside from Podium, for renders). Most of what I do is simply using the default tools in SketchUp. I suppose the reason for this is that I’ve been through plenty of Windows and Mac installations over the years, and I never felt like re-installing plugins.

Heck, I don’t even use dynamic components; it’s the one thing I’ve done a bit of work with but I have yet to really learn well. I’ll get to it sooner or later.

I’ll start this thread with one of my better models: a Stanford Torus. (Click here to see nice pictures and renders) This concept was the result of a design study in the summer of 1975. The ring, one mile in diameter, built from material mined from the Moon, consists of an inner torus, with habitable areas and agricultural areas, and a massive outer torus, which is a radiation shield made from compressed lunar soil. A system of windows and mirrors lets sunlight in.

This project is in hiatus; I started work on the interior, but I never finished; this was for a variety of reasons. Pictures of the interior can be found here.

Chevron mirror system diagram (these are built into the outer torus):


Looks interesting! And it sounds like you and I are on the same level. Been modeling in SKP for years with defaults, no plugins, never got around to DC and only hotkeys…:smile:


Thanks Henry!

As for the unfinished colony models I’ve done, I’ll post a couple more examples which should mostly summarize things.

Sometimes, I’ll create a structural model, like this, from over a year ago:

I’ll build the structure from the ground up, and then I’ll build around it. I’m well aware the structure here is lacking any cross bracing or diagonals. In my most recent design, I’ve resolved that issue, although you’ll have to wait a while to see it, since it’s not done. Of course, the model I’m making now probably won’t be the final one…

Often, I’ll make several iterations of a design, and I’ll discard a model when I realize there’s a problem where I’d need to make significant changes, to the point where it would be quicker to restart. This multi-model process may or may not culminate in a final model, which may or may not get finished. Despite all this, I still treat each model as if it is the final model.

Other times, I’ll make a model which is purely conceptual:

Read the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Space Station 5 has spiral arms. As you travel through them from the center of the station, the centripetal force gradually increases until you’re at the edge.

“I’m totally going to model an O’Niell Colony, and I’m not going to settle for mediocre levels of detail. I’m going to make it as detailed as possible!”

I applied my usual methods; I’ll make a tiny part, and duplicate it, and make a component, and duplicate that, and make another component, and so on. It’s really not very complicated, even if it looks that way. I abandoned this model because I didn’t want to devote time to it (my time is limited with schoolwork, and work) and it was slowing down my computer like crazy. It’s a problem easily solved through the proper use of layers, and by taking time to plan things out more. In this case, the model was something I did all at once, like a spur of the moment sketch in a sketchbook… hence the title of the program. That’s why I love it; I can do so much in so little time.


Its great, i definitely agree with your method of recreating a model rather than trying to fix one that is not where you want it to be. That sometimes is the best method to discover a better iteration of your design. Very cool stuff. I imagine you are using Components for the section you create and then copy them radially? I’m sure the models can get quire large but nonetheless it would be interesting to see what you come up with on the smaller scales for this concept. Very cool!


Basically. It’s not quite that simple though. The key is creating a large, manageable hierarchy of components, and to maximize modularity. Things can get out of hand really fast if you’re not careful or thoughtful about how you approach the process.

Nope. Inefficiency is what usually makes a model large.

When expressing an idea, my philosophy for detailing it has always been to rely purely on geometry (as much as possible). Textures are a nice coat of paint, but the body of a car should speak for itself. I make modest use of textures. Often, this is taking textures from the default library and getting creative with changing colors and scale. When you start adding larger images, the file size starts to go up.

When you are efficient, and make good use of components, your model stays really small. That gigantic complicated looking Stanford Torus model is 1.43MB, without textures. The textures themselves add only 160KB.

Just for fun, I tried an OBJ export; it was almost 1GB.