Posts Tagged ‘sports complex design’

Stadium Elastique

Breathing Room: The gill-like openings of this stadium development model are adjustable within Grasshopper, as well as the slopes of its roofline and walls. Using parametric modeling <a href=

Studio Mode discovers working model flexibility in Grasshopper

by Brett Duesing, Obleo Design Media

Populous, a New York-based firm specializing in stadium design, recently entered its development phase on its winning concept for a soccer stadium in Monterrey, Mexico. Because of the continuous curves of the stadium, even minor adjustments in the form demanded a wholemonterrey02m1 series of changes throughout the model.  For example, a re-articulation of the exterior roof line might also affect the width of the gill-like openings on the sides.   With over a hundred slits, it’s a lot of tweaks.

“If they decided that the width of all the gill openings needed to be just slightly wider, they would have to spend four days revising the model,” explains Ronnie Parsons, principal at Brooklyn’s Studio Mode, a computational design firm that consulted with Populous on the project. “At this schematic stage they were experiencing a lot of design changes.  They wanted to be able review to refine the model, but not have the overhead of rebuilding the whole thing.”

With over a decade of combined experience in advanced scripting, Parsons and his partner, Gil Akos, have found their niche where digital design and programming intersect.Many of their clients are other architects who need to automate some of their processes to allow for more time to design. Their solution for the Monterrey stadium was to build parametric features into a NURBS model.In Mode’s parametric concept model, the user can make one modeling action and create global changes throughout the design.Raise the stadium dome, and it ripples with varying curve differentials; extend or compress the skin, and all the gills breathe in and out, all at the same time.

“At that point there were a range of acceptable solutions for the stadium’s form,” explains Akos.“We weren’t enlisted to make a final model, rather to develop a custom design tool.”

Akos and Parsons employed a new strategy on the Monterrey project that is proving to make project-specific design tools more effective and easier to use than ever before.

Tweak Machine:   By varying a few values in Grasshopper, architects at Populous can manage subtle changes to the articulation of the stadium’s curves.

Tweak machine

Ordinarily, Akos and Parsons could achieve a flexible Rhinoceros model through programming alone.  This time, however, they tested out the newly released parametric module for Rhinoceros called Grasshopper.

“Whatever we can do in Grasshopper we could have easily done in RhinoScript,” explains Akos.  “The difference is that Grasshopper now gives us something we didn’t have before.  Grasshopper is operating within a visual programming paradigm, where you can see the logic of the relationships all at once.  The speed and fluidity of engagement with Grasshopper becomes very interesting for a designer.  You have this quick visual feedback of each programming action that you don’t have with code.”

Insider's View: The visual interface in Grasshopper allows designers to change the model’s programming without knowledge of scripting.

Grasshopper creates a middle ground between the 3D model and the logical rules that describe it.  The Grasshopper interface, which resembles a 2D wiring diagram, displays each individual modeling action as an object (a flowchart-like rectangle), linked to other objects containing parameters, like widths, heights, and radii.  Users can change the shape of the 3D model by locating a parameter object in the diagram and typing in new numbers.  Or, as Mode did for Populous, a user can add in graphic sliders for a range of values, or toggle-switches between two fixed parameters.
Because of this interface, parametric features in Populous’ stadium design tool are intuitive to locate, understand, and operate.

“Most offices we work with professionally are already using Rhino, so we can bring them into an environment with which they are already very familiar,” says Parsons.  “Grasshopper is great for clients because it gives them multiple ways to interact with the metrics.They can choose tools in the 3D scene to change forms, or they can adjust values through the diagram.”
Just by spending a few minutes playing with the variable features, Populous’ designers were able to identify which objects controlled which curves on the stadium’s surface.  “They can see in real time how different changes are trickling down through the design and re-organizing other features.  They can sense the different relationships and associations in a very material way.”

A new approach to parametric modeling

There have been of course 3D software centered around parametrics.  A major problem with these parametric modelers was they didn’t particularly lend themselves to intuition.  If you did not build in the parametric controls yourself, it was hard to figure out which features were adjustable, and how to access them.  To make matters worse, if you wanted to adjust a feature that was outside the parametric scheme, you might lose the time-saving advantage by having to deconstruct and reconstruct the model.

With a visual layout of the parameters and more user-friendly controls, Grasshopper manages to sidestep these old problems, opening up new collaborative possibilities.

“Grasshopper allows access and a level of understandability that we have not found in any other software in our field,” says Parsons.“It is very different from much of the parametric software that is out there because of the visual programming environment.”


Custom design tools for development and analysis

According to Parsons and Akos, Populous has used their flexible concept model through four months of development work, varying the stadium’s form to match up against the matrix of real-world constraints.

“The stadium was the first application of Grasshopper on a real building-scale project.It was a bit of trial and error,” admits Akos.  Much of Mode’s time on the Monterrey project was not so much building the model, but assessing the needs of the client and determining what variable capabilities the model needed.  As the stadium development goes on, he sees even more potential for shortcuts than he did on the outset.

“Another useful application for the same model is to program it to generate drawings in real time,” he says.“For example there should be a section drawing at every rib; there are 72 ribs of the stadium roof, so if that could be automated, that would greatly simplify the job.”

Meanwhile, use of Grasshopper has entered into many other new Mode programming projects.

“One thing we are looking into now is actually building some analysis into a Grasshopper model so we can work through surface subdivision, planarization, analysis in terms of color shading, and such things as solar gain,” says Parsons.

Given the fact that the first draft of concept rarely is the one that is actually built, custom design tools may soon become a more common occurrence, now that there is an accessible platform to support them — and a design office that specializes in creating them.

About Studio Mode

Mode is a design office that leverages computational expertise through design research, teaching, and consulting.Mode utilizes diverse methodologies including code, associative and relational strategies, as well as digital fabrication in the production of material organizations and the formation of space.Mode is located in Brooklyn, New York.For more projects, please visit:

About Grasshopper

For designers who are exploring new shapes using generative algorithms, Grasshopper™ is a graphical algorithm editor tightly integrated with Rhino’s 3-D modeling tools. Unlike RhinoScript, Grasshopper requires no knowledge of programming or scripting, but still allows designers to build form generators from the simple to the awe-inspiring.For more information, please visit: