Efficient way of 3D Site Modelling in Rhino

Hi there,

I’m trying to create a general (slightly detailed) site context model in 3D in Rhino for my university project. I’m pretty much new to this program and find it a bit tricky to start. What is the most suitable way to get started and how are the steps in achieving this site model. (picture attached) my site is in London, 16 Orsaman Road, N1 5QJ. I’d be happy to hear from any good suggestions. :sunny:

It’s looking like you’re doing pretty well.

What exactly is it that you’re struggling with? Is there something specific?

Edit: hang on, is the picture above an example of what you want to produce but for your site? Having looked it up, your site doesn’t look anything like that image?

thanks for your reply! And these images are not produced by me, I should have clarified it more … well I want to know the steps to achieve 3d models similar to the images that I’ve attached. At the moment I’m struggeling with importing a map and extruding the buildings to a certain height (unless there is another way in doing). I’m really new and it seems a bit complex to me.

Making site models tends to be fairly easy once you’ve got the hang of a few pretty straightforward commands. The tricky bit is always the topography if the site is complicated. I’d suggest just assuming the site is essentially flat while you get the hang of the basics.

You could add things like the canal in due course.

In terms of extruding curves to make buildings, I would suggest making sure the outline of the buildings in plan are closed curves. You can do this by selecting the curves (what rhino calls lines) that make a single building and using the join command. You might have to tidy up the curves so that they make a closed curve, ie a continuous loop.

Once you have that, use extrudeCurve to your desired height. You should select the option to make it a solid which just caps the top and bottom of the extrusion. If you forget, you can use the cap command to do that afterwards.

Obviously, once you’ve got the basic massing there, you can work into it as much as you want (or can!)

A building with more complex geometry will always pose a bit of a challenge and may require investigating and learning some other tools.


Hi Claudia - Robin has listed a few good points.
You write that you are importing a map but that could mean many things.
Sadly, it doesn’t look like Openstreetmap has a lot of building height information, else you could have just used that.

In this picture, only the building in blue has some height information; the ones in green are at random height.
The dataset is downloaded directly from Openstreetmap and turned into Rhino geometry by means of Tim’s Grasshopper definition that is found here:

Orsman Road, London.3dm (2.4 MB)

Going from something like that to the picture that you posted will require a lot of work.


What a cool idea. Reminds me of some work I did using MEL scripting in Maya about 15 years ago but that was quite laborious.

I was controlling building height based on a greyscale map. ie, white was the highest, black the lowest with some randomisation thrown in. It was pretty effective for what I needed at the time.

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Thanks wim for your detailed explanation. Unfortunately I haven’t been using grasshopper before … so my question is, is there another way you can model the street scene (I have site photographs and google earth seems to be very useful). I really want to achieve sth that is close to the image that I’ve shown, I wouldn’t mind spending lots of time in the project. I’d just need a clear step by step explanation. Can you maybe recommend me a good video that shows these steps.

oh and the map that i have is a digimap pdf. when i try to insert it in rhino it won’t let me properly work with it …

Hi Claudia,

That’s probably because it contains pictures in bitmap format and not as vector data. Depending on the quality and such, it might be possible to get it traced into vector data so that it can be used.

It really isn’t hard but because of the repetitive nature of such a scene, you will either have to spend lots of time or try to automate things by scripting or using Grasshopper.

That’s fine :=) so then you can take the manual approach.
Robin wrote about how you can use curves to create the basic building shapes.
After that, it’s only about adding details. Because windows are very repetitive, you should look into the Array command to automatically place copies of objects in 1, 2, or 3 directions. To create one window, for example, you could either make a box that slightly sticks through the wall of a building and then array that box. When you have them located where you need, you use BooleanDifference to extract them from the wall. If you have a certain feature that you want to reuse in a different location, you could, for example, use the CopyHole command.

Site Context Model.3dm (1.7 MB)

Just start doing some of that and, if you get stuck somewhere, come back and ask for help.

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Thank you so much! Very helpful tipps. I want to start but I need the map first to trace the street and the building boundaries. How/where can I find a map that is operateable in Rhino? (Google maps is not an option)

From there I will start making boxes and create the windows.


I agree with you but I’m not sure if that is because of the same reason. Google Maps data is copyrighted and you would need to get permission to use it. The data in Openstreetmap is public and so you can use that.

You can place a picture of such map in your Rhino file by using the Picture command and then trace over the map. The buildings in my first file should be good as a starting point… only the 2 or so buildings towards Kingsland Road are missing from that one, no?

Also, if you are a student in the UK, I think you should have access to Digimap through your university. It provides OS (Ordnance Survey) maps for free for your studies.

OS is the UK official mapping service. It’s generally fairly good, at least good enough for a university project.

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