Structural Composites in Art, Architecture and Infrastructure by Brian A Nelson [PCDG #3] by Daniel Giuffre

We are happy to announce the third Perth Computational Design Group event, with two excellent speakers doing some amazing things!

Please RSVP via the meetups page to stay up to date with future events.

** Apologies about the terrible audio - the shotgun mic ran out of battery.

Meet the speaker..


Brian Nelson is a founding director of CHA (Consulting Civil & Structural Engineers).

Over the past decade, he has researched and applied the use of FRP composites to a range of over 30 varied structural applications, from fine art pieces to bridges. Primary drivers have been the objectives of achieving large scale, high-quality surfaced structures. These have been achieved through radically differing manufacturing approaches. Significantly, many solutions have arisen out of the conversion of projects, originally conceived of orthodox materials, to FRP. 

Technical, commercial and industrial interfacing between designer-engineer-constructor-client have required development of approaches unique to the medium.   

More recently, to further benefit from the many inherent attributes’ and efficiencies that composites offer, projects have centered on taking a mass production approach to manufacturing. 

Cecil Avenue Masterplan Paving Pattern: Design Assist with PLACE Laboratory by Daniel Giuffre

Scope: Design assist, computatational design, shop drawings, visualisation

If/LAB were engaged by PLACE Laboratory in a Design Assist role to develop up and detail paving patterns for their Cecil Avenue Masterplan.

The masterplan proposal includes a unique and eloquent paving pattern that spans approximately 380m along Cecil Ave, from Albany Hwy to beyond Pattie Street. The design intent by PLACE Laboratory was to emulate the effect of water or tides, similar to the way the ocean’s tides interacts with the shore.

Concept Image.

Concept Image.

We were provided with the overall surface pattern masterplan, a paving sample drawing and pattern details that identified the paving mixes for each zone.

By using computational design tools such as Grasshopper, we were able to extrapolate the information provided to visualise the paving pattern across the entire masterplan. This enabled the designers at PLACE Laboratory to tweak the patterns, by moving the curves that define each of the paving ‘zones’. In addition to refining the overall paving pattern across the site, the custom tool allowed for fine tuning of the paving distributions, with a live feed of quantities for each paving type.

Sketch to Code: Digital Drawing

An interesting challenge was liaising with the designer, to get inside their mind and try to understand what they are thinking, in order to translate their design intuition, into a series of rules that could be coded.

In our initial briefing meeting with PLACE Laboratory, the designer instructed us to distribute the selected paving types randomly. Upon meeting again at the next design review, we quickly worked out that the way they ‘sketched’ out the paving distribution was not entirely random.

‘Although what you think you are doing is random, there is a good chance subconsciously you are applying rules and logic to each and every line you draw.’

When you ask the machine to do something random, it is truly random, when yourself as a designer tries to do something random, random your intuition takes over subconsciously, applying some form of logic to your design.

Deliverables: Output

As part of our deliverables, we were asked to deliver detail layout plans and quantities for Lighting Brick, who are contracted to install the pavers. The grasshopper code allowed for the nominated gap between pavers, with each and every single paver constructed – proving us with an accurate and automated material takeoffs, which would otherwise have been guesswork.

 A suite of drawing and layout tools developed in-house was used to automate the production of the drawings, which consisted of 32 detail plans at 1:50 on A1 Sheets. These drawings will then be used by Lightning Bricks for install.

Paving Quantities: Live update from digital sketch

Paving Quantities: Live update from digital sketch



In addition to assisting PLACE Laboratory in design, and providing the shop drawings for install, the detailed 3D model was used to produce accurate visualisations of the final pattern distribution to share with the clients and stakeholders.


PCDG #2 - Erica Brett: SUPERSPACE (Woods Bagot) + Charlie Boman: Roland Snooks Studio by Daniel Giuffre


We are happy to announce the second Perth Computational Design Group event, with two excellent speakers doing some amazing things!

The event was hosted at AUDRC on Tuesday 10th Sept, 2019 with a turn out of 58 attendees.

Charlie Boman - Roland Snooks Studio

Charlie Boman is graduate architect at Roland Snooks Studios and a research assistant and sessional tutor at RMIT.

Studio Roland Snooks explores the complexity of the contemporary social and natural world through the creation of objects, installations, public art and architectural projects. This work draws on an understanding of the underlying processes of formation that give rise to these contemporary conditions. The studio redeploys these processes through algorithmic techniques in the creation of highly detailed and intricate forms.

At RMIT, Charlie is involved in a body of research that explores advanced manufacturing processes. such as innovative ways of 3D printing. Charlie is currently researching cmt welding as a means of metal printing.

Erica Brett - Woods Bagot (SUPERSPACE)

**Talk is not publically available online

Erica Brett is Design Researcher with the SUPERSPACE team at Woods Bagot, where she specializes in analysis-driven design of workplace interiors. Her current projects are in developing and utilizing computational tools to evaluate and inform workplace design. Her past experience includes: creating bespoke computer applications for spatial data visualization, parametric model manipulation/fabrication, and browser-based scripting environments, as well as generative design and user-centered design research.

Erica holds an M.Arch from the University of California, Berkeley, and a BS in Architectural Design and a minor in Computer Science from Stanford University.

Implementing GIS Workflows for Architectural Visualisation by Daniel Giuffre

{Figure 1: Workflow Diagram}

{Figure 1: Workflow Diagram}

Previous Post: GIS meets Architecture - why?

In Western Australia, there is a wealth of geometric data collected on everything from landscape topography, building footprints, road networks to seasonal flood mapping. This powerful repository of data is mostly made available to the public through open data initiatives like

At ifLAB we work with GIS data within Architectural modelling environments to assist in both decision making and visualisation processes. Our GIS software of choice, the open source QGIS has some 3D capability, but compared to 3D modelling software, it is not a productive environment to work on new designs. We prefer workflows that utilise each software package for the task it best suited for, so while QGIS is excellent as aligning different types of Data, when it comes to 3D modelling, Rhino is our tool of choice.

An example of how we are using GIS data in practice is generating an accurate topological mesh with a high-resolution texture generative from satellite imagery. When we download satellite imagery, we get the option to download a text file that contains information about its geographical coordinates. We use QGIS to align the image with other datasets we have downloaded from (for example, topographic contours). This avoids having to convert between mapping projections manually.

Exporting everything as a shape file, we bring the information into Grasshopper with our current GIS Plugin on choice; Meerkat. Meerkat has an interface to trim down shape files to a given area. By setting the area to be larger than the downloaded satellite image, we can get all the information we need without processing data from the entire state and overloading the system.

[Figure 2: Mesh and Aerial Texture overlay

[Figure 2: Mesh and Aerial Texture overlay

Within Grasshopper we make a mesh of the points brought in from the contours, and trim it down to the extent of the satellite image. Using the excellent mapping tools from the Human Plugin, it’s simple work to give the new mesh planar mapping, set to the location and dimensions of the original Satellite Image bounds. Within grasshopper we programmatically make a new material with the original image and bake the mesh with the new material and the correct mapping.

The output is similar to a Google Earth 3D model, only because we control the sources of data we use, we have control over the process, and can use it for modelling the way we would use any other piece of geometry in Rhino. We can also rely on the result to be as accurate as the sources of data that we use.

The end result with other sources of data overlaid becomes a useful tool to see how designs respond to their context, with a range of other applications.

[Figure 3: Large contextual 3D model generated in Rhino 3D using GIS data]

[Figure 3: Large contextual 3D model generated in Rhino 3D using GIS data]

[Figure 4: Snapshot of the Rhino 3D viewport, demonstrating the 3D model generated from freely available data sets.]

[Figure 4: Snapshot of the Rhino 3D viewport, demonstrating the 3D model generated from freely available data sets.]

[Figure 5: Snapshot of GIS data in 3D]

[Figure 5: Snapshot of GIS data in 3D]

Responsive Lighting with Arduino, Firefly and Grasshopper by Daniel Giuffre

With the advent of technology, the line between the real and the virtual is becoming progressively blurred. We interact with the virtual on a day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute basis -smart phones, software and the web have become a woven and essential part to the way we live.

The Green Bridge concept proposal enabled us to explore basic principles of interaction and communication between the virtual and the physical, which is crucial in realising the possibilities buildings of tomorrow have in responding to their users, to programmatic requirements and to changes in climate throughout any given year.

Our concept proposal for the Green Bridge public artwork in the Gold Coast was the first step in exploring these themes. The video above demonstrates an effort to begin to understand the potential of responsive buildings through exploring one way of interacting with the digital model.

intensive fields lab arduino

The prototype was developed using an Arduino, an open-source micro-controller, with an ultrasonic sensor for measuring distance. The sensor emits an ultrasound which travels through the air, and if it hits an object it will bounce back to the sensor. The distance is then calculated by considering the speed and travel time of the ultrasound.

 The lighting was intended to be actuated through sensors on the bridge, enabling the bridge to interact and communicate with the heart of the cultural centre, HOTA.

As people cross the bridge to enter the precinct, their movement will create effects through the lights. This acts as a beacon that communicates to those already within the cultural centre that people are entering.

Pedestrians and cyclists pass through a gateway threshold as they approach Gold Coast’s Home of the Arts Precinct. The ribbon like structure wraps around the bridge and continues on overhead to create a sense of welcome, identity and presence.

The artwork aims to form a point of arrival as an activated beacon within the precinct, celebrating the views over the lake towards the HOTA site.

Optimisation of Facade Panels for The Crest Apartments by Daniel Giuffre

The adoption of computational design enables smaller teams of designers to compete with the larger practices, by implementing digital workflows into their everyday. This is also true for fabricators who will inevitable find themselves pressured by demands for realising complex geometry and advances in technology.

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Automated Modeling + Drawings from Site Measurements by Daniel Giuffre

if/Lab has created a workflow for automating the modeling and documentation of panels from site measures that saves time and increases accuracy without the need for costly scanning technology- just a pen and a tape measure.

For the Forrest Chase redevelopment in Perth’s CBD, if/Lab has assisted Denmac with the documentation of sheet metal panels by creating a seamless workflow that takes site measurements and outputs models, drawings and laser cutting files. 

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Shop Drawing Automation with Rhino and Grasshopper by Daniel Giuffre

At if/Lab, digital workflows underpin our daily practice. We are continually looking to develop our tools which include optimising information from digital design models to speed up traditional shop drawing processes and achieve new levels of efficiency and accuracy in the digital design workflow that support the complexities of construction.

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Rhino 3D + Grasshopper Sheet Metal Bending by Daniel Giuffre

if/LAB has extended the functionality of Rhino 3D allow for the modelling and unrolling of sheet metal. This bypasses the need for additional solid modelling software to accurately design for the fabrication of sheet metal and allows for seamless integration of design models from file to fabrication reducing time, cost and tolerances.

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Rhino 3D to Autodesk Inventor: Sheet Metal by Daniel Giuffre

if/LAB in collaboration with Denmac have developed an automated sheet metal workflow that takes design models through to fabrication by linking Rhino 3D with Autodesk’s Inventor. This process increases fabrication efficiency by reducing need for remodelling, decreasing lead times and costs, whilst increasing accuracy and adaptability to onsite and design changes.

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