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Back in early August, I had the privilege of speaking at USC’s annual BIM Symposium on the topic of visual programming. This post is my attempt at a sort of editorial that follows the narrative of that talk. Along the way, I’ll include a few of the videos that I shared at the presentation which hopefully demonstrate the kind of tool creation I’m talking about. Hope you enjoy.

It’s been 5 years since we officially launched our research program at the Yazdani Studio of Cannon Design. During that period we’ve come to understand that the evolution of our process reflects the larger, changing relationship architects have with their means of production. We’ve always been a profession of hackers. Every building is a one-off made up of countless elegant hacks, each bringing disparate materials and systems together into a cohesive whole.  But when it comes to the software that designers have come to rely on, most of us have been content with enthusiastic consumerism, eagerly awaiting the next releases from software developers like Autodesk, McNeel and Bentley. In late 2007 something changed. McNeel introduced a visual programming plugin called Grasshopper authored by David Rutten, and more and more architects began to hack their tools as well as their buildings. Read the rest of this entry »

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About a year ago I was asked to speak at the University of Oregon’s annual H.O.P.E.S. conference and lead a workshop demonstrating the computational approach to design we promote on this blog and at the Yazdani Studio. The workshop focused on the optimization tools we have been piecing together using Grasshopper for Rhino and its many add ons. Today we’re going to share an updated version of the Gh definition used in the workshop. A video that breaks down the definition and various steps involved is also included below. The goal here is to share a general framework for creating optimization tools with Grasshopper. My hope is that the script below, along with breakdown video, might be a useful guide for anyone interested in developing their own optimizations or tailoring them to specific situations. In the example provided, the definition is used to optimize a building form to receive the minimum possible total solar radiation given only the geographical location, building area, and number of floors.

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It’s been several years now since the Galapagos component was included in Grasshopper for Rhino. Back in 2011 Charles Aweida wrote a blog post that included a proof of concept in which he used this tool to optimize a simple multi-sided form to receive the lowest amount of heat energy from the sun. Since then, we’ve been trying to create optimization tools at the building scale that can inform our decision making process during design. The videos below are optimizations for heat gain and views on a site in Boston, MA. We are actively looking for ways to expand this list to include a wider range of project / site specific design drivers such as daylighting, structure, and wind.

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Part one of this article discussed facade design and environmental analysis. In the second half, we focus on system rationalization and conceptual cost estimating. A more detailed description of real-time scheduling, tagging, and rationalization using Grasshopper for Rhino is also covered.

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This past fall, the Yazdani Studio, along with Gruen Associates and builders Hensel Phelps participated in an invited competition to design a new US Courthouse in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The site for the project is located at the intersection of Broadway and 1st, one block West of the LA times building and a few blocks east of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Read the rest of this entry »

LACH_RADandDL

Last fall a custom data visualization developed by our research team was featured on the information is beautiful website as part of their information is beautiful awards. In this post we discuss why we developed the graphic and how it is used.

Incident Solar Radiation is one of the most common types of analysis performed by architects at the conceptual design stage. Results indicate where solar heat gain might be an issue. These are areas where glazing should be minimized and exterior sunshades should be considered. Unfortunately, Ecotect does not have a way of communicating all of the results of this analysis in a single concise graphic format. As part of the research effort, we have developed a grasshopper definition that generates a graphic representation of both heat intensity and panel orientation in a single frame. Read the rest of this entry »


Developing the kinetic facade on the CJ R&D Center  presented some unique technical challenges in terms of visualizing a range of motion for a mechanical assembly of parts. As architectural designers, we’re accustomed to working with static elements. CJ called for new methodologies that would enable us to easily manipulate hierarchical structures of linked components, allowing us to visualize how a modification to one part would effect the whole system.   To do this, we used a combination of tools (inverse kinematics, wire parameters and animation constraints) originally intended for use in character animation within 3ds Max . Read the rest of this entry »

CJ FACADEAs part of a recent design effort here in the studio we attempted to develop a kinetic facade that could respond and adapt in real-time to both solar radiation and user input. The client, CJ Corporation of Korea, was enthusiastic about the idea as part of their “only one” initiative which promotes unique one-of-a-kind thinking. While this certainly isn’t the only kinetic facade in the world, it presented our team with a new set of challenges.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/19900510 w=460&h=259] Read the rest of this entry »

For many of us, the holy grail of modeling surface detail is the ability to “paint” geometry directly onto a surface in 3d space – being able to generate complex effects, or influence subtle variation with the stroke of the mouse or stylus. Tools such as Mudbox and Zbrush already support this exact mode of working, however combining geometry painting with the parametrics of 3ds Max to achieve responsive panel behavior would be a “best of both worlds” scenario. We’ll test this concept in the video below. Using the new viewport canvas tool in combination with the displacement modifier, we’ll attempt to build and manipulate surface effects similar to the embossed pattern on Zaha Hadid’s footware for Lacoste.

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Many of us have struggled with incorporating analysis data from energy consultants or software like Ecotect and Energy Plus into the the early stages of design. This is largely due to the cumbersome process of moving models between design and analysis software, or worse,  the necessity to completely rebuild a model to suit a particular type of analysis or tool.  To complicate things further, the result of such efforts isn’t easily incorporated back into the design process, because the data harvested is usually output in a static format such as a chart or two-dimensional graphic.  A large part of our research is focused on discovering methods of improving the design/ analysis workflow so that that analytic tools can inform decisions made in the early stages of design. In this post we demonstrate a workflow for moving  3d geometry from our design tool, 3DStudio Max  through Rhino/ Grasshopper, into our analysis tool, Ecotect. After gathering data, we import a 3-dimensional representation of that information back into Max to help shape the design.  This process is also compatible for use with Maya or any other 3d modeling tool that can work with vertex colors (known as false color in Rhino) such as Blender or Unity.

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This article is dedicated to buildings that incorporate adjustable/ movable  technologies that can adapt to variations in climate and the position of the sun.

Jean Nouvel’s Arab Institute completed in 1987 is among the first buildings to employ sensor-based automated response to environmental conditions.  25,000 photoelectric cells similar to a camera lens are controlled via central computer to moderate light levels on the south facade (1).  Now famously frozen in place, the apertures are commonly referenced in cautionary tails used to warn designers of the perils of developing kinetic facades.

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UCLA, SCHOOL of ARCHITECTURE and URBAN DESIGN
PERLOFF HALL
DECEMBER 6, 2010

TRANSFORMABLE DESIGN: ICONIC TO ENVIRONMENTAL

Inventor Chuck Hoberman spoke about his work in the field of Transformable Design. He started the talk by discussing one of his earliest installations, the Hoberman Sphere.

A few years later, he launched a line of toys focused around the now infamous object.

He went on to show how his work has evolved into a wide range of objects from stage installations for U2 to mechanisms that enhance building glazing performance such as his adaptive fritting and tessellate projects.

In 2008 Hoberman Associates teamed up with the engineering firm Buro Happold to form the Adaptive Building Initiative (ABI),  “dedicated to designing a new generation of buildings that optimize their configuration in real time by responding to environmental changes.”  http://www.adaptivebuildings.com/

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FACADES CONFERENCE 2010
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE
GIN D. WONG, FAIA CONFERENCE CENTER
NOVEMBER 19-20, 2010

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: Integrated, High Performance Facade Solutions

Introducing the appropriate tools, tests and methods early in the design process can lead to more successful building facades.  The speaker, Eleanor Lee emphasized the importance of balancing HVAC loads, artificial lighting and day lighting to achieve optimal performance. She introduced several freely-available analysis tools that can be used at different scales of facade analysis to alert designers to potential human comfort issues (glare, solar heat gain, etc.)  Among these where COMFEN, a front end for Energy Plus;  BCVTB, a middleware used to integrate Energy Plus and Radiance; and DAYSIM, a Radiance based analysis program. More detailed descriptions of these tools can be found in the analysis tools blog entry here.

Eleanor also described research and testing performed through a partnership between LBNL and the New York Times on the Renzo Piano designed headquarters building in New York. LBNL performed extensive computational analysis and built a full scale mock-up in order to advise the client on the selection of appropriate automated interior sun-shading systems and optimal calibration.

Interior view looking west from within the daylighting mockup of the NYT headquarters building. Mockup of the NYT headquarters building elevation with exterior shading provided by ceramic tubes.

The results of their research can be found here.

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The original research proposal and supporting diagram are available for download here>>
Responsive Skin Research Proposal-2010

Research Methodology Diagram