Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mocking Up Structures

When I'm trying to figure out the size or shape of a new building, I've got two techniques for prototyping. Sometimes I'll build a model from bristol board, a thin cardboard often used for cardboard models back in the 1950's. I'll sketch out rough dimensions; pencil in windows, doors and other details; then cut it out and fold it together. Cardboard models are a nice way to spend time with the spouse; they're easy to work while watching a movie, and requires only the pad of cardboard, a square, ruler, and mechanical pencil.

My other trick has been to use SketchUp, a 3d drawing program, to experiment with size and window placement. Sketch Up is better when I'm unsure about the rough shape of the building and want to try out lots of possibilities.

I was staying up late last weekend providing moral support for an overworked spouse, and took a look at the last episode's gas station. Some quick pencil sketches and side views on graph paper didn't give me a good feeling for the shape of the building, so I experimented with different wall sizes in Sketch Up. Here's the result.

I'm not sure if I'm going to build a model of this gas station, but at least I've got the rough size and proportion correct now!

If you're interested in building a model of this gas station and want a copy of the Sketch Up file as a starting point for your own model, drop me a line. If a Spanish Revival gas station isn't to your liking, check out these historic gas stations in California, along with hints about common gasoline station brands.


  1. I uploaded the SketchUp file to their 3D warehouse of objects. Check it out here:


  2. You are likely already of a couple gas stations in San Jose on Jackson Street that might be helpful for dimensions, although they are not in the Spanish Revival style. Roy's Coffee, which is very nicely remodeled, is at 5th. At 4th is a service station that has a tiny little building. There are a few others in general neighborhood.

    Some day I hope to model the Allied Container building at Hedding Street and 10th. I drive past it nearly every day on the way to work. So I really appreciate all your posts on this topic.

  3. Thanks for the suggestion, Bryan! I don't visit Japantown often enough, but I ought to check both out.

    As far as rough dimensions, I think there were enough hints in the photos to guess at sizes, and the model seems to hold to the proportions seen in the photo decently. I still need to try using the 3d printer to make the walls for a model of the gas station; the SketchUp models need a bit of tweaking to print properly.