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AIA: Rhiknowbot for Rhino

Rhiknowbot is one of the coolest third-party plugins for Rhino around and it specifically addresses the architecture market. In this report we take a look at where generative design is getting very specific to the architecture market with Rhiknowbot.


Our AIA reports continue by looking at a promising plugin application for Rhino. And while this current version does not yet support the Macintosh version of Rhino (for multiple reasons we’ll touch on a bit later in our wrap-up of the McNeel booth) there is clearly an interest on the part of the developer for eventually taking this software to both platforms.


In short Rhiknowbot is a third-party plugin software application for Rhino (it works within the PC version of Rhino) that offers the user sophisticated parametric development of facade options for architectural modeling. The software was quite impressive and I had the chance to speak at some length with its young creator, Shouheng Chen, a graduate of MIT’s graduate program in architecture and former employee of Cesar Pelli’s office–a firm where he did advanced Rhino modeling.

Chen is right that “automation” is an opportunity. I wish more architects would actually think that way. There seems to be an assumption that such notions threaten the architect’s visual and intuitive options during the creative process but that’s false. Rhiknowbot sharpens architectural knowledge and expands design options by greatly facilitating iterative design options for facade and roof design.

01 - Rhiknowbot for Rhino. McNeel's Rhino booth area was one of the best attended at the show. There were a good half dozen third-party software add-on (plugin) developers and 3D printer companies showing off their wares to architects.

With Rhiknowbot an architect would work on a facade design at a more component level, addressing the primary elements of a facade, such as its openings versus the surface from which those openings are cut. The assumption of a degree of “repetitiveness” is essential in the use of Rhiknowbot.

Rather than model out by hand all of the various components of a larger building’s facade an architect would use Rhiknowbot to quickly define and map out the facade using parametrically-controlled components. Such components consist of: structural frames, curtain walls, windows within walls, double-skin curtain walls, and miscellaneous wall assemblies.

02 - Rhiknowbot for Rhino. A Randomize button can produce various iterative options for evaluation and comparison. The chart above shows a 2D array of the various generative output from Rhiknowbot.

A generation function can quickly construct, replace and randomize the application of entire parametric assemblies of components to a building design (see image above). A generation map can show the application of such components scheme-wise in 2D. And A line to solid function can generate very sophisticated 3D forms.

Rhiknowbot is available from the developer’s website. The cost is approximately that of Rhino itself, said Chen. As for a future Mac version? We hope that Mac users of Rhino do not have to wait too long to see this terrific third-party plugin go native on Apple’s platform.  Let’s hope!

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