Sunday, October 23, 2011


I was going to leave this to the last minute so as nobody else could pinch my ideas, then I thought "why are you doing that ?  If you really believe in open collaboration you need to put it out there and see what happens"  After all this is inspired by Wil from the land of windmills & legalised marijuana who read my "Lunch with the Gods" piece, and took up the challenge to make a parametric Doric column.

I opened this up on Thursday and was truly inspired.  Lots of parameters whose names obviously make sense in Dutch, and formulas that I only half understood, but the result is a doric column shaft that you can resize at Will (as it were)  A great big thankyou to Wil for contributing a family to the Shades of Grey community.

Now it so happened that Wil mentioned that he got part of his inspiration from Zach Kron's blog.  Just about everybody who uses the conceptual massing tools has been inspired by Zach, but this jogged my memory that the 3rd annual pumpkin carving competition is imminent. 

Lightbulb moment.  Wouldn't take much tweaking to make a parametric doric column morph into a pumpkin.

So on Thursday afternoon (in between Revit training with Ignacio, John & cezar and making a door family for Sabu)  I played out another hunch.  David Light posted a while back about using profiles in conceptual massing.  Why couldn't I convert Wil's family into mass profiles nested inside an adaptive component.  3 Profiles with variable radii, (placed on 3 separate workplanes) would surely give me what I was looking for.

The first attempt didn't work because Will had used reference lines (very cleverly) to create the rig for his profile.  That's OK as long as the profiles are created directly in the family. You can select the lines you want to use to create a form. But I thought it would be more elegant to nest the profiles.  Problem is Revit tries to create a form from every line or reference line within that nested family.  Turns out though that you can host points on reference PLANES, and still set up parameters to control them.  You need quite a lot of dimensions, (and to tab them to snap to your points), but it works fine.

HINT: use a mass family to create the profile.  Don't try to use the profile family template like you would for railings etc.  The 3 profiles give me nice entasis on the columns, and I can reverse this to create a stalk for the tops of my pumpkins.  By using a "bulge factor" to set the ratio between the two imaginary diameters, I can reverse the curve from convex to concave.  A ratio of 1.2 is concave and 0.8 is convex.  You are just playing with whether the points for the centres of the curves are inside or outside the end points.

For a proper Doric column you need 20 volutes, but I wanted to test my idea first so I set up 10, which is more realistic for a pumpkin in any case.  So there are still a few days to go before Halloween.  Where should I take this next ?  I am thinking ... OK we have an interesting jump in scale from the pumpkin you buy at the corner shop, via giant competition pumpkin, small column in your garden ... whopping big column at Paestum.  Why not jump again ?  Massing is supposed to be a framework for early design of multi-storey buildings, so why not do Adolf Loos' 1922 entry for the Chicago Tribune Tower competition.

Any other ideas out there ?  We could have a competition within a competition.  How about the carving aspect ?  I haven't done any of that yet, apart from the Cheshire cat grins I faked in photoshop.  There must be a cool way to cut parametric voids into my family.  Remember it would need to scale up with the rest of the family somehow.

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