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Designing an installation using computational design tools


In this blog post, we’ll explain how we managed to go from a conceptual design to shop drawings in ten days by relying heavily on to the use of computational design tools throughout the whole design process.

ThinkParametric and Rojkind Arquitectos collaborated on an installation for LENOM-PB, a renowned branding firm, for one of their special events. The design brief consisted of designing an architectural space that would serve as a lounge area to receive over 400 visitors. The area should serve as a space allowing guests to share drinks and relax under and interesting atmosphere.

The project was challenging because of various constraints we had to take into consideration. The main one being a very strict and limited time window to design and build the project. The objective was to come up with a design that complied with the necessities mentioned before and at the same time was able to be manufactured and installed in a simple, fast and efficient way. Another constraint was that the installation needed to be uninstalled easily as the event took place in a television forum where events take place at a regular interval. Finally, the design should create interesting, and elegant spaces for its visitors.

Seating areaSeating area

The result was the creation of a simple constructive system when put in place correctly generates geometrically interesting spaces. If two elements are connected with wires and those two elements are alternatingly rotated, they create a seemingly vaulted space.

Axonometric diagramAxonometric diagram
Design intent explanatory diagramDesign intent explanatory diagram

To meet the tight schedules, special computational tools in the form of several scripts were created to automate all the generation of the structural custom nodes this installation required. All the construction drawing sets were automatically generated from the parametric model that was set up for this project. This allowed the design team to jump from a schematic design proposal to a full set of construction drawings in a span of only ten days and gave the fabrication and construction teams enough time to manufacture and install all the elements in time.

To model the nodes in a fast and efficient way, we first modeled a wireframe model consisting of points and lines. The individual line pieces represented the tubes and the points the connection nodes. These points and lines were used as our input in Grasshopper. Within Grasshopper, we had control over the size of the nodes, various spacing requirements between the connections, the size and thickness of the connection plates and the spacing of the tubes depending on the number of elements coming together at a node.

From the 3D wireframe model to the shop drawingsFrom the 3D wireframe model to shop drawings

Because of the simple geometrical wireframe model, changes could be made fast and because of the use of Grasshopper those changes would automatically update each node, keeping the various requirements and constraints needed for manufacturing. The shop drawings were done manually because of the small number of nodes and also to have an extra check to ensure the nodes were drawn accurate.

The same wireframe model was used to tag each node and element with a unique name. This was done to be able to accurately identify elements during the whole design process from initial design followed by the shop drawings to the manufacturing and installation of the pavilion. The lines were used as an input in Grasshopper to generate the shop drawings of the various tube elements. The most important reason of doing it this way was accuracy. By linking in the line elements, various data was extracted in Grasshopper, like its unique tag, its length, its start and end points and in some cases the number of rings attached to it. The Grasshopper definition generated the shop drawings based on the information extracted from the line elements, eliminating human errors that could have occurred like mislabeling an element or specifying the wrong length.

From the 3D wireframe model to the shop drawingsFrom the 3D wireframe model to shop drawings

Another important factor is the speed of which these shop drawings were produced. We had a total of 82 tube members, which meant 20 sheets of shop drawings. Because of the Grasshopper definition we could spit out the shop drawings with a press of a button. Some changes occurred during the design process due to extra structural restraints we got from the structural engineer, but luckily we could simply adjust the wireframe model and run the Grasshopper definition again to produce the shop drawings.

Diagram of one of the structural nodesDiagram of one of the structural nodes
Image of one of the structural nodesImage of one of the structural nodes

Simple materials that are widely available and easy to manipulate were selected for the installation. Steel tubes were used for the structural elements and were bolted to custom designed structural nodes. For the wire elements, natural fiber rope was chosen. This material is easy to manipulate and gives a warm feeling to the space, enhancing the effect of creating a ‘roof’ that serves well as a lounge area.

View from the bar areaView from the bar area
Connection detail of the ropes and tube elementsConncection detail of the ropes and the tube elements

The installation is comprised of:
– 30 Primary structural members
– 52 Secondary structural Members
– 19 Structural cables
– 38 Custom structural nodes
– 6401 Meter of natural fiber rope

Central areaCentral area
Wireframe physical modelWireframe physical model, to help the installers and manufacturer locate, place and fabriacte the elements more easy
Construction detailConstruction detail
Installation processInstallation process
Central areaCentral area
Central areaCentral area
Vault detailVault detail

If you’re interested in learning more about computational design skills, check out our educational platform at ThinkParametric !

  • Alejandro Gonzu00e0lez

    Nice Job! you guys are great!. I have just one question: u00bfHow intersections is solved in the top nodes?