Importing Terrain from Google Earth

by GRAPHISOFT, Katalin Götz and Katalin Borszéki · updated: 01.29.2013

It is possible to import both the terrain and the texture information from Google Earth to ARCHICAD 16 through the free version of Trimble SketchUp.

You will need to install:

Note: The current functions of the 64-bit Google Earth Connections Add-on (SKP and KMZ file import/export and the upload of your model from ARCHICAD to Google Earth) will be integrated in the next version of ARCHICAD. See GoogleEarthConnections.

1. Launch SketchUp and Grab the terrain

  • In the pulldown menu, go to File / Geo-Location / Add more location:…and type your site selection. When prompted, select the region you would like to import. You can zoom in and out before settling on the right area.


  • To display the terrain information, go to File / Geo-Location / Show Terrain. A terrain mesh with textures is created, you can toggle on or off its elevation data.


  • Save the file in .skp format.

2. Launch ARCHICAD and import

  • File / Open, select .skp format. A GDL object is created. In Archicad 16 terrain objects are not visible by default, so you have to select the object and change it’s parameters.
  • Select On for Show Terrain and elevated for Terrain type



3. Convert object to Morph

This single GDL object can be converted into a morph for further editing.

  • Advantages:
    • You get both elevation and texture information
    • The terrain model can be further edited
  • Disadvantages:
    • We still depend on a third-party software that is not from Google
    • The process is not yet integrated into ARCHICAD

4. Remap texture on Morph

Upon converting the GDL object to morph, the texture mapping of the Google Earth imagery is unfortunately lost. The Google Earth snapshot remains in the library available to use, so the mapping can be restored in two steps:

  • Adjust the size of the image to the full dimension of the morph object under Options/Element Attributes/Materials

    mat setting2.png

  • Align the origin and direction of the 3d texture in Design/Align 3d texture


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