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Rhino Grasshopper VS Generative Components

(A canopy design created in Generative Components by Elif Erdine)
This is the Second Guest post from Mark Loomis I would like to thank him for taking the time to share with us his findings regarding different generative design platforms,hope it serves to start an interesting conversation with our readers and followers.
I’m Mark Loomis, a landscape architect who is guest posting on this blog. As promised in my previous post, I’m going to compare GenerativeComponents to Grasshopper. I also want to propose a way to explore them both by reading the book, ‘Elements of Parametric Design’ by Robert Woodbury and using the GC and GH pattern tutorials websites that accompany the book.
I’m not going to try to compare these products myself since I’m just now learning how to use them. Instead, I asked two experts, Robert Woodbury and Lars Hesselgren, what they thought about both of these generative design platforms. Their insights will be included in this discussion.
If you studied the table in my previous post you probably noticed that out of all of the choices only GenerativeComponents and Grasshopper offer both object based and scripting capabilities. Here’s the same table condensed to just GC and GH:

There are two main differences between GC and GH:
1. GC uses a scripting language while GH uses a visual scripting technique that employs a set of linked DLL’s (Dynamic Linked Library).
2. GC is a completely free stand-alone application. GH is a free plug-in to Rhino that requires Rhino 4.0 or better to run it.
What are the pros and cons of each product? Which product should you use? I asked Robert Woodbury these questions and his response was, “The pros and cons of each package are largely best understood on context. For example, Grasshopper is easier to learn and harder to use powerfully than others. GC has a steep learning curve and great power. You largely have to explore in your own context.”
Why is GC easier to use in powerful ways? Lars Hesselgren offered this explanation, “I agree with Rob Woodbury – and indeed Hugh Whitehead, head of SMG at Fosters – Grasshopper is easier to use and a great way into that world. GC has the great strength that is language based (Grasshopper is a set of linked DLL’s, not the same thing) which means there is more depth to GC.”
My take on it is that it would be best to learn both products so that you could use the most appropriate tool for each particular project. Each platform has its strengths and online medicine without prescription weaknesses so the demands of each individual project would dictate which tool is best for the job.
How will these tools evolve over time? In Lars Hesselgren’s opinion, “My guess is that in another 5 years both tools will be integrated into the normal CAD environment and then it will be a discussion about which platform you use, Rhino or MicroStation.” I agree, but I would also add AutoCAD to the mix. Autodesk is currently playing catch up in this arena but in my opinion it’s only a matter of time before all three developers become the major players in this new industry.
I also believe there are four main challenges facing the future of generative design adoption in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) industry:
1. Interoperability
2. Integration with BIM (Building Information Modeling)
3. Integration with digital fabrication techniques
4. Promoting third party plug-in support
In recognition of the fact that no one tool can be the end all solution for every design problem, generative design software developers should strive for interoperability between their programs to encourage workflows that can take advantage of the best aspects of each package.
Along similar lines, each developer should endeavor to make their GD product as tightly integrated with their BIM product as possible. BIM is the future of the AEC industry and generative design needs to be a part of that equation. Bentley currently gets the nod in this department.
One thing I’ve discovered as I’ve learned more about generative design; it’s one thing to use these tools to create geometrically intricate designs and quite another matter to take it to the next step where the design is fabricated and assembled. Future GD packages should attempt to streamline the digital fabrication process.
Finally, all three vendors need to promote third party plug-in development for their GD products as McNeel is currently doing with Grasshopper. This will accelerate the development of GD technology.
What do you think? How are you using GC or GH in your projects?

  • Ani

    Hi, I have used GH a bit and have seen GC being used, even sat through the scripting part for it. Both have very high learning curve in my opinion. The issue for me is to find an optimal BIM software that works on composite structures. I have used Visual Arq, Rhino BIM, the landscape plug in that Rhino came up with, Revit and played a little with Catia.