From TOI-Pedia

Sketching in Rhino

There are a range of options for making fast sketches in a 3D environment. These techniques are widely used in the automotive and product designproces. It has several advantages to sketch in a 3D environment. The model can not only be used for communication purposes but also for preliminary analysis. It further allows exploring various formal languages before defining the grasshopper model, which can have by itself a substantial influence on the formal design.

There are a range of options, we will look at 3 of them.

Mass model


This methode is simple to apply and will allow for fast exploring a range of variants. It is similar to the traditional mass models made from foam, the difference is that with this option the variants can be made much faster.

Sketching a mass model

  • We start with setting the viewport to rendered. This will give a better visual feedback of the design.

Viewportrendering Sun.jpg
  • To avoid to much visual information only the sky dome will be activated not the sun. This generates a soft white image.

Make base .jpg
  • First we make a plane to build the mass model on. We are sketching so the actual size doesn't matter in this stage. We will look primarily at proportions and overall functional distribution.

Make simple model .jpg
  • Now we can start sketching. The simplest option is to generate the model through a series of primitives which are moved and scaled to make a simple 3D sketch. This is similar to what you would do with a simple foam model. This form the basis for a quick exploration of the refinement of the floorplans and façade.

Make floorplans .jpg

Refinement of the mass model

The method of modelling has a profound impact on the formal translation of your design. The use of primitives will produce a specific formal language. However the model can be used for further refining the design. In this case we shift from the use of 3D geometry to define the overal design to a more refined form based on extracted 2D information of the base model. This refinement can be a result of a functional, structural refinement or a preliminary refinement due to climate conditions.


How to make this additional step?

  • The volumes are defined, however not the floorplans.
  • For this option we fast extract and further design the floor plans.

To extract the floor plans we use the option: Curves > Curves from Objects > Contour. This will make sections at the defined height.

  • The floorplans are selected which are different from each other. These will be refined. The new floorplans will form the basis of the new facades of the building. Use the standard surface creation tools for the facades, like Loft, Curve Network, Sweep 1 and 2 rail etc.
  • Don't select to many floorplans, to generate the surfaces only a few lines are necessary.

Analysis Sketch.jpg

With the help of Ladybug in Grasshopper it is possible to make a quick assessment of the climatic conditions of the location. Adaptation in the early stages of design can be useful due to the importance of form in relation to performance of the building.

Complex structures1.jpg
Complex structures2.jpg

A result of the refinement can be that the complexity of the geometry increases. Traditional construction techniques may not suffice. There are a range of construction techniques applied which heavily rely on digital design and manufacturing techniques to support the complex form. The chosen technique will have a substantial influence on the architecture.

The techniques are:

Designing and constructing “complex” forms Architecture, structure and digital manufacturing:

  • Contouring
  • Slab support system
  • Tessellation
  • Shell
  • Tensile structure
  • Pneumatic
  • Solid

3D sketching


This technique is called patch modelling and is widely used in car design and industrial design. It looks similar to traditional sketching. The edges of the building are defined and drawn in an elevation. These curves form the basis of the 3D model. By distorting the curves in depth the model becomes a network of curves which can be used to generate surfaces.

The process is simple:

  • Design the façade by drawing a set of curves which define the edges in the façade. This process is similar to traditional hand sketched facades.

  • This can be done for each elevation or for a single one, depending on the difference between the facades. For the example we only use the front elevation to keep it simple.

  • The next step is to define the depth of the curves. To make it simple we use the outer edges first. These can be used to snap the curves on. The curve can be distorted by moving the knots on the curve.

  • Deform the rest of the curves. Make sure that they are snapped to the other curves. This will be essential for making a closed network of surfaces.

  • These curves form the basis for the geometry. There are a wide range of tools which can be used to fill up the areas between the curves.
    • Surface > Curve Network : for surfaces between 3 or more curves or edges of surfaces.
    • Surface > Edge Curve  : for generating surfaces between 2,3 or 4 curves.
    • Surface > Loft

  • A good closed overall surface is supported by using the same curves for multiple surfaces. This allows effective editing later on in refining the form.

  • Because this design is symmetrical (to keep it simple) a mirror action will finish the 3D sketch.



Quick panelizing the façade


Not only the concept sketch design can be quickly defined in 3D and tested taking into account the climate conditions, it can easily refined to take a preliminary design of the façade into account. For this we can use the Paneling tool for Rhino and Grasshopper ( )

This app allows a quick way of panelizing surfaces with 2D and 3D panels. Because of the ease of panelizing the surfaces, variants can be quickly investigated, simulated, tested and applied to the whole design.

Setting up the size of the panels

The proces makes use of a grid defined by the user or based on the UV coordinate system of the surface. Between the grid point the panel will be placed. If the grid is distorted, for example if the grid is based on the UV coordinates of a curved surface, the panels will be distorted and follow the surface. In this short introduction a basic setup is made based on the previous discussed design.

There are few simple steps to panelize a surface:

Lets get started:

  • Draw a rectangle. This rectangle will be the basis for the panel.
  • The panel can be defined by 2D or 3D objects.

  • Define a grid on the surface.
    • Select the surface to be panelized.
    • Go to Paneling Tools > Create Paneling Grid > Surface Domein Number. This option makes use of te UV coordinate system of the surface.

  • Define a grid on the surface.
    • Define the grid size in the command line, by changing the amount in the U or V direction the amount of grid points will change.

  • Define a grid on the surface.
    • For a 3D panel we need a height reference, so we offset the grid: Paneling Tools > Grid Utility > Offset Points. Check the command line for the settings.

  • With the grid correctly defined we have to select the panel which we are going to use. For this example we will use the 3D custom panel.
    • Go to: Paneling Tools > Paneling from Grid > Panel Custom 3D and select the panel you made. Check the command line for the correct steps.

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