We created a Rhino Grasshopper script which gave us tactile control over our massing via a MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) controller and this is the method an architect/electronic music producer approached using it!

The controller enabled me to inject more personality into the massing process in the same way I would design sound. Controllers with buttons, touch pads, knobs and sliders are commonplace in the live performing world of an electronic musician and visual artists. While these controls are usually meant to modulate sound by parameters like volume, frequency and pitch, similar parameters were mapped to our initial massing in Rhino through a Grasshopper script.

Architectural parameters mapped to a MIDI Controller

It would have been a challenge to visualize what forms would be created because of the relationship between each parameter but having this setup allowed me to visualize the complexities in real time. We had free reign over how we wanted to proceed, and I went through the usual routine I go through with new music devices. I spent a little bit of time maximizing each parameter to their maximum to see the limits of what they can do as the building volume, solar performance and layout efficiency indicators on screen informed me what the worst possible result would be.

Electronic musician breaks the script by setting all perimeters to max

I then began cutting back on each parameter to figure out the order of modulation that had the most effect on the results. From there, it was a repetitive process of trial and error until I isolated exactly which parameters gave me the best result, almost always resulting in a slab block, not unlike a HDB flat.

A boring slab block meets all the criteria

The most fun I had did not come in achieving the ideal volume, performance, or efficiency but in seeing the massing morph in real time while I’m modulating two or more parameters at once with my own hands as if I were dj-ing (refer to timelapse at the top!). A visual artist would probably relate to this feeling more, but this effect certainly got my Architecture senses tingling as well. It got me into such a state of flow that the moment I stopped fiddling with the controls, whatever form the massing took, was most certainly, frozen music.

Other colleagues trying their hand at it

Incidentally, we have a 3D printer in our office, and whatever “music” my colleagues and I made in Rhino were printed, layer by layer, into solid PLA, to touch and grasp in our hands.

3D printed models generated from the script