p3_Kevin Donovan

Presentation PDF

My Grasshopper Defnition

I began project three with the simple idea of developing a new, dynamic ventilation system. For form, I looked at forms ranging from the natural, such as how the spines of a beaver work, to existing precedents of roof systems like those of world cup stadiums. I took cues from Alienware’s Area 51 Desktop and its active mechanical ventilation and began contemplating how I could improve upon the design in both efficiency and stylistic response.  I eventually recalled an image of a type of steel cladding that consisted of a field of interlocking diamonds, which set the direction for my actual form.

When I initially began building the actual panel that would come to be replicated across my “field,” I did not specifically know which program I would be doing my final version, so to develop exactly wanted it all to look like, I did study iterations of the diamond panel in SketchUp in order to determine the size and proportioning.

I experimented a bit with translating the geometry into Maya, but found it too hard to control from a precision standpoint, so I turned to Grasshopper/Rhino. As my first time working on my own with no real direction in such a fairly unfamiliar program, I began with a simple starting point on the origin (0,0,0). From there I executed a series of movies to build the other points which would create the surfaces. These movements were all controlled in proportion by functions so that regardless of how big the initial length of the panel was, it would maintain its shape and depth. Once I had the points, I created surfaces using the 4-Point Surface command. In order to save myself some time, I only created surfaces for half of the panel and then simply mirrored that half about the YZ axis (I will come back to this soon enough)

The definition for my diamond panel.

The finished diamond panel.

The Grid.
In order to have a surface that could be completely closed off, I had to develop a grid system that allowed my panels to interlock. I started off with a simple surface that I could control the size of, once again, in functionally constrained proportions with incrimentation based off of the panel sizes so that regardless of either the size of the panel or the size of the grid, all would fit and function. To allow the panels to interlock, I culled the number sets coming out of the surface grid and shifted every other row half the width a panel. When my created geometry was applied to the grid, however, I discovered that it would still mirror my panels based on the global ZY axis as opposed to that of each local panel. This was remedied by defining a vertical surface in my panel with already existing points and then using that as the plane of mirror.

The definition for my interlocking grid.

Image Reaction.
The final and possibly most important function of my project is the reaction to “heat,” interpreted in the form of an image file. In order to develop the ventilation of panels, images were imported into the file and inherently overlaid onto whatever the current size of the grid was, with each pixel of the image porting out a value of color value from 0.0 to 1.0. This value was multiplied by a factor of 90 to determine the rotation for each individual panel which grasshopper did a surprisingly great job distributing the values back over the grid. This allowed any panel in a zone with a white, or hot, value to self-adjust as open to ventilate, and vise-versa for any panel sitting on a pixel with a black, or cool, value. The result is a kinetic composition with potential response to a number of conditions such as sun exposure, programmatic light issues, and ventilation necessity.


Finished definition.

My fabricated version.

p3_Proposal_Kevin Donovan

For my project 3, I propose that I will develop, in Grasshopper, a system of independently adjustable, interlocking panels that will operate based on thermal radiation of a source on either a large scale (such as a building roof system) or smaller scale (such as ventilation for a computer case).

Alienware 51 Desktop Vents

Alienware desktop computers are already employing a method of self-ventilation, but this solution is not area or zone-dependent, simply opening or closing as a whole unit as a whole, much like many retractable roofing systems.


To begin my the design for my screen I looked through a myriad of images online to develop the direction I wanted to move in. I came across an image that piqued my interest and began developing an irregular fractal geometry to base my production off of.

This image was the starting point for my screen design.

From this image I created the base geometry through a series of plane cuts, triangulations and quadrangulations.

I then keyed this framework through a series of super extrusions based on the plane’s position in the y-axis. I chose three of the snapped panels and used these as the basis for my three screen panels, smoothing the end panel post-production for a unique look to backdrop the two initial angular panels.From there, the geometry was ported to Rhino to develop the plans to be lasercut. I took sections from each of the three panels at their midpoint and then proceeded to clean up much of the smaller geometry that the laser would not be able to accurately reproduce due to the scale.

And after an oddly long wait from the RPC…


p1_Kevin Donovan_#001

With the ever-accelerating world that we live in, we are nearing a unique point in the human history where we are encountering a shift from the the past that is compiled of products, thoughts, and manifestations that are created directly by our bodies and hands to an age where creation is beginning to transcend our understanding. Until recently, humans have prided themselves on what they could create, whether it be a hand-carved wooden table or a an ingenious thought conceived through years of research. We are nearing a plateau, however, where at some point, the material properties of our own creation will begin to buckle under their own weight, leaving us only with the option to seek methods of creation that would allow us to build beyond our conception.

Computer programmers such as Michael Hansmeyer possess a unique understanding of the gravity of such a concept and the oncoming future it heralds. Combining both past (traditional architecture derived through mathematics and proportioning) and future (mathematics and physical manifestation derived through the second-hand creation of a computer program), Hansmeyer has begun to uncover a perplexing and entrancing direction for design. With physically understood forms that are given birth through algorithmic computation, these 2.7m high columns that were eventually fabricated from 1mm thin sheets of material “recursively optimize output on both a functional and aesthetic level.” as a result of the evaluative functions used to develop them.

This project is a beautiful example of the possibilities that lie within program-driven design, and demonstrates what the future may eventually unlock for us. While some may argue that these processes detract from the purely human input of creation and design, it is not hard to see that the synthesis of human input and complex programming can be a beautiful evolution towards design that we never could have comprehended in the past.

A video demonstrating the effects of a similar process on a 3-dimensional sphere:

Michael Hansmeyer / Computational Architecture / The Subdivided Cube