Space Planning with Realtime Physics

// nfo

NBBJ research project

2010-2011 (9 months)

// role

idea guy

one-man production machine

// tech

Rhino, Grasshopper, Excel

// description

This reinterpretation of the traditional bubble diagram allows designers to rapidly conceptualize complex architectural programs in 3d space using simulated gravitational forces.


The user defines adjacency requirements in a GUI, and masses representing the required floor area are connected by springs that simulate gravitational pull. The simulation resolves adjacencies in real time and offers a number of manipulation and output options, including properly sized program footprint curves in 3d space. The resultant diagram becomes the basis for a parametric massing tool for further refinement with real-time feedback.


I built the prototype and demo video for this system in three days -- it had an immediate impact within the firm and created a substantial amount of buzz.  The video was played in studio and firm meetings in our offices worldwide.  Word reached the managing partnership quickly, and as a result of this and other parametric design work over the next year, I was moved into a position to lead the design computation initiative at the firm.