Public Spaces of the Future: Grimshaw’s Dynamo-Powered Innovations

Grimshaw is designing for the 21st century and beyond with Autodesk’s Dynamo software.

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Grimshaw architects Greg Smith and Andy Watts were tasked with creating three complex designs that could transform local settings for future use. Massive public spaces in Papua New Guinea, Dubai, and Ireland all called for innovative solutions to create advancements in design and sustainability with international appeal. Smith and Watts were able to easily bring those design innovations into Revit, thanks to Autodesk’s Dynamo software, which brings the power of a graphical algorithm editor to Revit.

“Dynamo is unique because it brings the power of visual programming to a BIM environment,” said Watts.

“We have a strong history of using software such as Grasshopper to generate and manipulate geometry, but Dynamo pushes our capabilities beyond that and unlocks the ability to interact directly with a model’s metadata to produce schedules, drawings, and other documentation,” said Watts.

Dynamo’s programming environment enabled the architects to focus on parametric conceptual designs, visual logic and task automation, helping them to develop designs unique to each city and requirement.

Renderings for Star Mountain, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea: Star Mountain

Next year in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 21 nations from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) will come together for their annual conference. This serves as a chance for Papua New Guinea to attract new international business with a stunning welcome space. Grimshaw chose to incorporate cutting-edge design with traditional architecture to create a conference center that would also leave the city with an innovative new center of commerce. The result is Star Mountain, a mixed-use development that will feature a full conference center, cafés, restaurants, luxury apartments and a Hilton hotel tower.

“This truly unique concept delivers 21st century buildings while incorporating design elements that reflect the rich cultural heritage of Papua New Guinea,” said Watts. In order to forge the connection between a sleek high-rise and local culture, the team designed the convention center to resemble a traditional Guinean long house. Façades for Star Mountain’s towers were also adorned with an intricate pattern created by a local artist. While these two concepts helped to better integrate Star Mountain into the Papua New Guinea community, the team needed an easy way to bring multiple iterations of Rhino and Grasshopper designs into Revit.

“The main challenge of the early stages of the Star Mountain project was to develop a method of taking complex geometry massing from a Rhino environment into Revit as generic models,” said Watts. Any geometries modified in Rhino needed to be quickly brought into Revit to help the team stay on top of the roof’s different iterations. Team member Konrad Sobon created a unique solution using Dynamo and a plug-in that he created called Mantis Shrimp. “A pipeline was set up so that large pieces of complex double curved geometry could be quickly passed from a design software to a documentation software,” said Watts.

Renderings for Dubai World Expo 2020

Dubai: Expo 2020

In addition to Star Mountain, Grimshaw has been designing another space, welcoming an even larger global gathering – the Sustainability Pavilion for the Dubai World Expo 2020. As a centerpiece to a massive event focused on innovation and sustainability, Smith says, “[The Pavilion] will tell the story of the event’s message through its design and contents. [It] represents the opportunity for Dubai and the UAE to lead a new approach to sustainability and conservation.” When designing the structure, Grimshaw chose to highlight innovations and long-term solutions in sustainability, while also creating a new attraction for the city.

Smith calls the Pavilion a “first-of-its-kind demonstration building,” as it will mimic natural processes like photosynthesis through large photovoltaic (PV) panels. The core building at the center of the pavilion will also offer 8,000 sqm of exhibition space and help to educate visitors on the materials and processes within — most notably a system that generates the building’s water supply from humidity in the air. But, creating a functional space using these sustainability innovations required the use of multiple design software and extensive model testing in Building Information Modeling (BIM).

“In order to maximize the PV area benefiting from off-the-shelf modules, it was very important to pack as many rectangular PV modules as possible on the given design surface,” said Smith. Using multiple conceptual design software, his team created a system utilizing three different PV types. With Dynamo’s ability to easily bridge software, they were able to import those designs into Revit for testing and documentation. “Panel construction tolerance in Revit is similar to real-world construction tolerances,” Smith explained, “and Revit was the tool for final component construction, detailing, documenting, and scheduling … Dynamo was a critical part of pulling information, identity, and location from adaptive components.”

Rendering for Curragh Racecourse, Ireland

Ireland: Curragh Racecourse

Against the picturesque backdrop of the Curragh grasslands, Ireland’s world-renowned thoroughbreds and their famous racetrack required an updated look that would preserve the history of the racetrack and the spectator experience. “The integration of the new grandstand into this setting had to be handled very carefully and sensitively,” explained Watts. In order to create a vibrant structure that would not detract from the beautiful landscape, the design team adjusted the size of the grandstand, reducing its perceived mass to accentuate the large grassy expanse around it. “Viewed from afar, these linear planes create silhouettes which emphasize the contrast between the precision of the man-made and the undulating forms of the landscape,” said Watts.

In addition to natural beauty, Grimshaw’s team wanted to retain and enhance the unique experience of visiting the races. “The movement and flow between the parade rings, the betting areas, the champagne bar, and the racecourse track are all intrinsic parts of the race day experience,” said Watts. In order to preserve the intimate scale between spectators, horses, and jockeys, the initial design underwent multiple revisions, adjusting both the central grandstand and surrounding spaces — a lengthy process made much easier and faster using Dynamo.

“Dynamo was used extensively during the documentation stage of the Curragh Racecourse project,” Watts says. Multiple design changes required extreme efficiency. Watts and his team improved their drawing management by automating naming and revisions, removing unnecessary sheets, and making all styles and views uniform. By automating these tasks, the team moved faster and focused on ensuring the best possible experience at the track. “Once the design was finalized,” Watts said, “potentially laborious tasks such as room numbering and renaming were made much quicker by Dynamo, reducing half-day tasks to half-hour tasks.”

For the Grimshaw team, Dynamo makes it possible to easily automate large-scale tasks and bring the benefits of Revit’s modeling and documentation abilities to designs created using multiple software. With these technological tools at their disposal, the architects at this internationally renowned firm can take their creative visions from concept to completion like never before.

Dynamo is available through Revit and as part of the Autodesk Architecture, Engineering and Construction Collection.