Author Archives: sergeykahn


Sergey’s E5


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A short few decades ago, there was only one way to visualize ideas and inspirations: with a pencil and paper.  Were that still the case, I would probably not have gone to architecture school.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy drawing, I am merely too slow and inaccurate with hand drawing to express what is in my mind with any efficacy.  Fortunately for me, and others in the industry, the development of CAD and BIM software has greatly enlarged our toolbox in both visualization and design.  For me, these tools are like giving a voice to a mute.

An idea is limited by our capacity to express it.  Last August, I was introduced to my first 3D modeling software, Rhinoceros, in Visualization I, and 3DS Max a bit later in the semester.  At the same time, our studio class professor had tasked us with modeling a blob-like supple form, which we had previously made by hand, using this software.  It quickly became apparent for us that expressing this idea which came so easily by hand, was much more difficult in Rhino.  As I progressed through three semesters and multiple software programs I learned that each software had a different approach towards modeling and visualization.  The more I learned the easier it was to combine these tools to accomplish my goals in each project as we progressed.

As I see it, there are two approaches to design.  The first is to identify the tools that you have and come up with the best design within those limits.  The second is to come up with a design then seek out the tools and knowledge to accomplish it.  The goal, in my opinion, is to reach towards being able to do both by becoming as knowledgeable and well equipped from the beginning of the design process as possible.  After three semesters I’ve my software knowledge has increased greatly, but the more I learn the more there is yet to learn, which is as exciting as it is daunting.

The breadth of software available to the student is not without some disadvantage.  While visiting several practicing architectural firms during the summer semester, I quickly learned that the not all software is available to use and that, for financial reasons, each firm picks about two programs to be used by the whole office, which generally tend to be the cheapest and not necessarily the best.   For this reason, it’s important for me as a student not to pick my favourite program, but to master all of the programs I can.  Fortunately, we have had the opportunity to work in depth with several programs throughout the year in our Visualization courses, but it’s hard not to pick a favourite.

The most challenging aspect for me in using these different programs is not the design but the final visualization.  Of course, a design is only as compelling as your ability to make it look attractive.  Much like a fashion model is nothing without her wardrobe, makeup and the skills of the photographer, a 3D model requires the right materials, textures, lighting and even camera lens in order for its full expression to be realized.  To do this well can potentially take as long as the modeling itself.  For most programs, the efficacy of our choices aren’t apparent until after we render, which can take a lot of time depending on the complexity of the materials and lighting options.   Personally, I find the time spent visualizing less rewarding than the time spent modeling, however it is just as vital.  So much so, that I feel there should be a course devoted entirely to visualization.

Our final assignment in our Visualization course was in working with augmented reality and real-time rendering.  The real-time rendering helps eliminate the wait time that normally gets in the way between making a material choice and testing to see if it works.  Augmented reality is an exciting field that helps further the realness of a project before it has begun.  By allowing a client or architect to virtually move around a space it allows them to test out some of their theories about how the space performs.  During a lecture done by a Disney Imagineer last spring, they showed us how they used augmented reality in designing a kitchen. The chef was able to walk around the virtual kitchen that was proposed by the architects, and give feedback on issues that would normally be missed until the kitchen was actually built.  For a student, this could be an incredible tool.  We rarely get to see our designs become reality, so the ability to experience the spaces we design, even if only through augmented reality, will give us invaluable feedback that will only improve our abilities as designers.

E4[1] Writing

In this assignment we were to use a combination of digital tools to assess the solar exposure of a given surface and create a paneling system in response to the climatic data collected.  The surface is modeled in Rhino and the climate performance is analyzed in Ecotect.  Geco, a Grasshopper plugin, is used to connect the data directly between the two software programs.  Using the data once it’s brought back into Rhino, a flat, greyscale image is created with the help of Photoshop, which then creates the logic for the paneling system.  A woven pattern created in Maya was chosen and the Paneling Tools plugin for Rhino was used to map the panels onto the surface using the greyscale image.

When using seven different software programs to complete one task there are bound to be challenges.  Firstly, this strategy only works with simple surfaces or meshes.  Importing multiple surfaces together into Ecotect, or even neighbouring buildings, does not compute properly.  Secondly, it is necessary to monitor the UV directions of the data image throughout the process, making sure that the rotation of the greyscale image corresponds correctly to the surface and that this relationship isn’t lost when mapped with Paneling Tools.  The correct panels must also be chosen to correlate with the “white” or “black” on the image map.


There are additional challenges that would be associated with physical production.  Paneling Tools distributes the panels smoothly which, although esthetically attractive, would make mass production challenging since the panels would all be different.  Also, the solar data is quite basic and does not calculate important factors, such as the shading provided by the panels in their open position.  For this strategy to be most effective it would need to be integrated with a dynamic paneling system that can change its state depending on onsite data collection.  In which case, the software would be most useful in creating rendered examples for presentations, but not for physical design.


Unfortunately, Ecotect is no longer being developed, so it is unlikely that we will see improvements there or in Geco that can help improve this design strategy.  However, there are other plugins for Grasshopper, such as Ladybug and Heliotrope, that use climate data within Rhino itself.  With continued development and further research, these programs can be used to aid in environmental design by computing and applying data faster and more accurately than can be done by human hand or mind.

Sergey’s Final Board

Sergey towers

Tower Renders

E2 Clay Model




P1 Concept Development