Orthogonal Composition Generator in GH


Continuing my line of research into automated morphogenesis, I decided to create a new “form generator” in Grasshopper, this time limiting myself to purely orthogonal geometries. This self-imposed restriction appealed to me for a number of reasons.

Firstly, a technical one: limiting my geometries to boxes means that grasshopper can handle more operations without failing – there are no trims or complex curves to worry about. I can also do things like thin and thicken volumes that I couldn’t do without significant distortion if I were working with more complex geometry.
Secondly, I’m interested in the concept of an “aesthetically restricted medium,” as discussed by Douglas Hofstadter in “Le Ton Beau de Marot,” a marvelous book on poetry, translation, and creativity that has had a large impact on me. Hofstadter holds that the imposition of a restricted medium – a particular meter, register, or language in the case of poetry, for instance – is often a more productive territory for creative thought than the wide open field, free of restrictions.
Thirdly, there is a long heritage of architectural composition that is limited to the XYZ planes. From Van Doesburg to Rietveld to Eisenman (to name just a few) architects have explored the expressive possibility of planes, volumes, and lines oriented to the cartesian spatial grid. Even today a large percentage of the so-called “dwell modernism” is limited to more or less orthogonal geometries, and I will admit a certain visceral partiality to this (easily reproducible) aesthetic, even while I appreciate the more flexible and unique geometries of Thom Mayne, Zaha Hadid, Neil Denari, Daniel Liebeskind, and so on.

Technically speaking, the large algorithm that generated all of these forms is an (arbitrary) sequence of formal operations operating on BReps. Each operation (create random plane surfaces, thicken all planes uniformly, thicken a random subset of planes into volumes, split volumes by planes, to give a few examples) takes BReps as both input and output, allowing me to link them in an arbitrary sequence. The final step separates the generated volumes into four groups that constitute varying proportions of the total set, and applies four different surface conditions to those pieces. It’s essentially a brute-force attack on the problem of 3-dimensional composition, allowing a designer work in an evaluative rather than generative mode.

The surface conditions were modeled after a particular axon of Eisenman’s House X, which was perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek, given Eisenman’s stated disdain for parametric methods. While the algorithm I produced was by no means reproducing the process of his early “syntactic” explorations of form, there is a certain kinship in the application of rigorous geometric processes, independent of function and semantics.

It’s important to me that parametric process be recognized as independent from any particular aesthetic or style. Because novel modeling tools enable complex, curvaceous geometries, mass customization, voronoi, progressive differentiation, and every other techno-fetish you can think of, it’s easy for the critics of computation to dismiss it on the grounds of this very fetishization.

See all 200 variations produced by the first run of the algorithm


11 Responses to “Orthogonal Composition Generator in GH”

  1. 1 Artitecture


    very interesting job..it reminds some experiments I did during graduation thesis!!!
    Would be nice to share the work with you.
    About your algorithm….how does it work?



    • 2 heumanndesigntech

      Thanks! I would be very interested to see the work you did for your thesis, and I’d be happy to share this definition with you if you’d like. Send an email to andheum@gmail.com and I’ll send you my definition – it is built in version 0.70014, just so you know.

    • 4 heumanndesigntech

      cool! that looks like a very sophisticated script!

      • 5 JF

        Hey, I’m currently woring on something similar would it be pissible to see that script, or if not, to get a rundown on how you approached this. Very impressive.

        My email is jean_jacques_13@hotmail.com

  2. Hi
    I’ve come across your blog the other day and found your work very impressive. I am studying diploma architecture and have recently been exploring digital methodologies. This particular orthogonal composition interests me very much. I want to explore with this as a form finding process for my project. It’s going to be a market and its all about spatial/social/cultural interactions.
    I was originally looking for orthogonal fractal (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_jZakIM3iFNc/TMh8sqRi2nI/AAAAAAAAA7s/lTCI55fiOgE/s1600/fractalarch.jpg) but I am intrigued to see the potential for this on GH. I would much appreciate to hear back from you. Thanks.
    This is my blog. I’ve been documenting my process. Early stages at the moment.

  3. 7 YEOH

    That’s an impressive work. Thanks for sharing.
    Apparently, we are doing our degree project of the parametric architecture. We have come out with the basic ‘boxes’ of the layout, however we do not manage to have the boxes place randomly cause we do not familiar with the ‘random’ command.
    Would it be possible to see your definition, or if not, it will be very appreciated to see how you approached this.

    My email is yeohcl02@hotmail.com



  4. 8 Yeoh

    Hi, this is interesting. Thanks for sharing.
    We are currently doing our degree project about the parametric architecture. We have come out with a series of ‘boxes’ layout; however we couldn’t manage to place the ‘boxes’ of layout randomly because we are not familiar with the GH.
    Is it possible to see your definition, or if not, just to get a rundown on how you approached this? Thanks very much.

    My e-mail is yeohcl02@hotmail.com

    Thanks again,

  5. Hi,
    This looks awesome, I am very interested in the principles of mass-cutomisation in housing and user controlled form generation providing them with an interface that allows them to design their own home.
    I was wondering if it would be at all possible to see this script or an explanation of how it was generated?

    Kind regards, Tim
    Email: tlmarjot@gmail.com

  6. 10 Borja Gancedo

    hi My name is Borja Gancedo Im from Spain, Im finishing architecture, and im starting in grasshopper like a year ago, and is one of the most impressive definition I have seen,,,, Its amazing … would you mind sharing the definiton, but if you whant me to be honest I dont know if Im going to be able to make it work but It would be veryu nice becouse i can study the aproach to de definition and try to understand it… thank you I can share my definition to, but I think they are not so impressive…
    my mail is


  1. 1 Recent Work – Part 2: Pre-thesis « Heumann Design/Tech

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