Thursday, October 17, 2013


This is the first post of my 2013 Parametric Pumpkins Series (PPS)

So let's start in the middle, where else ?

Which is to say, I've been working on this for a while, but let me show you something I did on Tuesday.  It's based on a print by Maurits Cornelis Escher and it touches on a number of themes that overlap with my previous pumpkin explorations.

Reality & Illusion, Infinity, Biomimicry ... Escher was an artist craftsman.  Where does techique end and imagination begin?  Why is the intersection between 2 dimensional images & 3 dimensional reality so fascinating ?  Last year I took the renaissance painter Archimboldo as my point of departure.  This yeare it will be 20th Century Escher.  Both dealt with ambiguity in a big way.  Both used plants & animals, mimicry, metamorphosis.  Let's start with the fish.

My 2011 entry featured pumpkins that morph into doric columns.  Then last year I broadened the field to all manner of fruit & vegetables.  In both cases almost everything was based on conceptual massing.  This year I am driftng into the animal kingdom, and I am making a deliberate effort to make more use of vanilla Revit modelling.

The eyeball is a nested component I had already made. (Part of the main thrust of my work, but more of that later)  It has been set up so that everything scales with the radius of the eyeball itself.  The origin is intended to be the centre of a skull.  The eye is attached to a reference line which will sweep it along an arc of variable radius using an angle parameter.  There is an iris and a pupil.

We've been using a lot of repeaters of late, but vanilla Revit has fantastic dynamic array tools.  Start off with a linear array. You can adjust the spacing and number of elements at any time. Pick one member of the array and "select all instances"  Now you have the whole array and you can array this in the other direction.  Use the same trick to select this 2 dimensional array and array again into the 3rd dimension.

Place a camera, look around, looking good, let's try a render, maybe a bit of post-processing.

But how do I get that "fading into the background" look. I tried the haze setting in the render dialogue.  You'd think that would make thing's fade more with distance.  Doesn't work for me.  Never seen the point of that setting actually.  Probably I should learn to use Max, but for now my simple workaround is to place some sheets of glass in the model.  Works pretty well.

While REVIT is busy rendering I'm doing a bit of free association on Notepad, thinking about the themes that will be interwoven into this year's exploration.

The images are blended from 3 jpegs, all saved to the same resolution.  The render, a hidden line with ambient shadows, and a realistic view.  The hidden line goes on top ... with the layer set to "overlay".  In between goes the realistic, set to "colour burn" and about 50% transparency.

Cook up a couple of custom materials, tweak the view a bit, not bad.

Maybe I should back up a bit.  How did I get here?  Let's rewind through the day.  The previous image (before I went fishing) was an assortment of Escher ideas thrown together.

We're gonna skip over the tesselation for now.  Also the various beasties scattered around.  (That's the main theme for this year actually)  But the diversion of the day was "Distorting Mirrors".

The mirror is a double-nested family.  All the geometry is in one family, which is nested into another just to rotate it through 90 degrees.  That's how you get the two versions in the image.  It's all vanilla again.  Just an extrusion and a sweep, but quite interesting.  Actually I didn't realise you could do sweeps as 3 dimensional as this in vanilla.  There should be some mileage in that later.

Also the control of the curves is quite neat.  The idea is to get an S curve with fixed width and variable curvature.  Just lock the ends of the arcs to ref-planes and the radius parameters will float around (ie the centre points will drift freely)  Started with a simple circle, then elaborated the profile.  Because of the non-planar path the mitred corners are a bit twisted, doesn't break though.

Before that I had been playing with convex lenses.  This is another Escher theme, but it doesn't quite work the way I hoped.  Actually I had to use mirrors.  Tried a solid glass lens, but didn't pan out.

There are several Escher pieces that use one large convex lens/mirror centre stage.  I got into the multiple copies because my single circle image was a bit boring.  You can see my beasties fairly clearly though, and what about that weird looking tower in the background?

That's quite a long story.  It dates back to my second spell at architecture school, as a 40 year old in Joburg.  I was examining the idea of an African style of architecture.  What did that mean in today's world ?  We all know that many people in many places resent the cultural domination of the west.  You know the syndrome, tin-pot dictators erecting bizarre, mis-scaled versions of vernacular motifs in the belief that they are upholding national pride.

It's easy to poke fun, but actually the problem of identity is a serious one in today's globalised world.  There is a viewpoint that architecture is like a mirror, reflecting the values of a society.  Looking around at most global cities today you would have to say that our values have become pretty confused, or maybe scrambled up and homogenized.  Hence the distorting mirror idea and the link back to Escher.

As an aside ... I took a shot of my chair.  People talk about a "home from home"  Well I'm an economic refugee living in the desert and my apartment is more like an "office from office"  Of late I've been making a big effort to go touch-screen.  I bought a surface earlier this year.  I liked it from day one, but as with anything new it takes a while to acquire fluency.  I'm starting to use One Note more and more.  Great little programme, and nicely adapted to touch.

I also have a touch-screen laptop now, and used Sketchbook Designer for the ANC HQ image. Good to get some value from the design suite.  I suspect that is also under-used.  Not sure why ?   Don't know why people are knocking Windows 8 either.  Yes it's a bit disorienting at first, but didn't take long to get hooked.  I can draw on the screen !  The same screen that I use for Revit.  I can flip to metro & swipe through my images full-screen.  I can re-render a scene, export to jpeg, drag it into Sketchbook, sketch over by hand ... but back to the ANC HQ.

Mass family (I want to place floors later so generic model adaptive won't do.  Place a point, work plane visible, set, place another point on top, set offset, parameterise, spline through points.

Host points on spline. Host mass profiles on points.  (I borrowed one of the profiles I made last year)  Just in case you hadn't noticed I'm making a multi-storey office tower inspired by an african round hut.  It needs to be irregular and organic.  Give it a bit of a twist, vary the curvature, vary the diameter.  Curtain System, Floors, Roof ... by face.

Notice the parallel to the Adolf Loos tower from my 2011 pumpkin posts ?  Chicago Tribune Competition in shape of a Doric column.  Actually that one kind of worked.  Irony, but not slapstick.  Maybe I could work up the ANC concept into a serious architectural proposal too ... not now though.  For now it's just an interesting detour on the way to infinite fishing space.

More to come.  Pumpkins 2013 ... let the (whatever) begin.

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