Seven Simple Layers


Wonders of a Virtual World

“So, what can you do with just seven layers?” Almost everything anyone ought to be doing with layers, no matter how many. Yes, I told you in the “Power of One” that my standard template has twenty-one layers, but for now seven is enough to introduce the principles of my system. Take note: visibility is king. For all that functional tracking stuff see my earlier post “Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Element ID.”

Layer Concept

Begin with the ArchiCAD Layer and reserve it for layout elements. Reassign other elements, such as those from schematic design, elsewhere. The remaining layers are derived from standard orthographic projections. In plans the cutting plane segregates a building’s components into three natural categories: base elements, which fall wholly below the cutting plane; cut elements, which intersect it; and overhead elements, which lie wholly above it. Typical elevations include plan elements plus additional wall-mounted components, like baseboard or trim, that are too thin to show in a standard plan. These components, along with small elements one finds on an enlarged floor plan, constitute the detail for our fifth layer. Typical sections include both plan and elevation elements plus additional components concealed within floor or ceiling assemblies, which define our sixth layer. (See Euler Diagrams of combinations below.)


Regarding visibility, we can manage with just six layers by combining model elements with text and other annotations—until we include an enlarged plan. Why? The text and other annotations we need for it will be superimposed on those for the floor plan when we set up the layer combinations. So our seventh layer is reserved for text and other annotations needed for our base plans for the site, floors, and roof. We’ll find it’s our preferred location for any text or other annotations we wish to add to any drawing except other modeled plan views.

Layer Combinations and Layers

*Layout ArchiCAD Layer
Elevation ArchiCAD Layer | base | cut | detail | overhead | text
Plan ArchiCAD Layer | base | cut | text
Plan ArchiCAD Layer | base | cut | text
Plan Enlarged ArchiCAD Layer | base | cut | detail
Plan Interstitial ArchiCAD Layer | concealed | cut
Plan RC/Electrical ArchiCAD Layer | cut | overhead
Section ArchiCAD Layer | base | concealed | cut | detail | overhead | text
Survey ArchiCAD Layer | [xref]

Modeled Drawings and Layer Combinations

Site Plan Plan
Floor Plan Plan
Roof Plan Plan
Reflected Ceiling/Electrical Plan Plan RC/Electrical
Interstitial Plan Plan Interstitial
Enlarged/Finish Floor Plan Plan Enlarged
Elevation Elevation
Section Section
Interior Elevation Elevation
3D Document [depends on view]
Survey Survey

Tips and Limitations

  • Place site elements on a separate story, generally the lowest.
  • Place electrical objects, text, and annotations on the overhead layer, regardless of their relation to the cutting plane.  By default these will be visible on the reflected ceiling plan.
  • Elements placed outside the 3D model, like those on 2D Worksheets or Details, cannot be used with Interactive Schedules, Lists, Photo Rendering, or Energy Evaluations.
  • Use the interstitial plan to show concealed structural and/or service components.
  • Use Object Settings for 3D Detail Level and Floor Plan Display to prevent modeled plants or furniture from appearing in 3D windows, elevations, or sections. Consider adding vegetation to elevations and sections as 2D annotations.
  • Consider attaching a survey as an xref file, which will add xref layers. Edit layer combinations as needed to show survey data in plan. (It’s just xref layers. Who’s counting?)
  • Provide unannotated presentation drawings by hiding the text layer.
  • Provide other plan views using the 2D Worksheet tool.
  • Provide construction details using the 2D Detail tool. A practical limit for displaying modeled elements is around 1:16 (3/4″=1’–0″).









Plan Enlarged


Plan Interstitial


Plan Reflected Ceiling/Electrical





1 thought on “Seven Simple Layers

  1. Nice, I’m liking the number 7 & it’s multiple of 21 which now link up your first post of the Power of One.
    Number seven means unity, togetherness. It is a very important number in Pythagorean tradition as it corresponds to the final destination of the universe, which is to reunite in the unity, go back to its original condition, ONENESS. All myths of humanity tell this same story, the fragmentation of God and the return to its origin. It appears in theMyth of Osiris, when pieces of his body is scattered in the world and Isis needs to join the pieces together. An interesting fact about number seven is that it is the union of number three, which is associated with the attributes of God — with number four – the material world. Thus, 3 + 4 = 7 or divinity + matter = unity or triangle + square = pyramid. Number seven, then, is represented by a pyramid, symbolizing the universe’s journey towards unity. In Christian tradition, the pyramid became a cross. The vertical line of the cross can be divided into four parts while the horizontal line can be divided into three parts. The cross is the cube disassembled. In Freemasonry, 3 + 4 is represented by the symbol of the Architect’s tools, the Compass & the Square. The compass representing the Triangle but also the Circle for which it can draw & represents 3 or God (Heaven) & the obvious 4 of the Square. This can be viewed in Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man also known as Star Man, which depicts a male figure in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and simultaneously inscribed in a circle and square & which also encodes the (Divine proportion) mathematical Fibonacci sequence more commonly known as the Golden Mean or PI. The drawing and text are sometimes called the Canon of Proportions or, less often, Proportions of Man. The drawing is named in honor of & based on the correlations of ideal human proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius in Book III of his treatise De Architectura. Da Vinci’s drawing & Vitruvius’s quote on proportion, (“Proportion is a correspondence among the measures of the members of an entire work, and of the whole to a certain part selected as standard. From this result the principles of symmetry. Without symmetry and proportion there can be no principles in the design of any temple; that is, if there is no precise relation between its members as in the case of those of a well shaped man.”) Are telling us that The Human body or man is the Temple of God designed by the great Architect himself & where he resides & from the symbols of the circle & square merged together hence the merging of the opposites,Heaven & Earth In the Art of Alchemy, Rebis (“two-thing”) the alchemical Hermaphrodite equals the perfect union of opposites. (Rebis is believed to possess knowledge beyond the mundane realms.) The formula 3 + 4 = 7 appears as the central structural element of the contents of the Alchemical symbol of the Rebis, cosmic proto-egg. Hermeneutic tradition also considered the number 7 as being split into the spiritual three and the material four. This was the basis for the partition of the seven liberal arts, the famous trivium and quadrivium of medieval universities.

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