Railing pattern in Visual Arts Building by Steven Holl

A design element that I’ve come across in the last few years that’s intrigued me are the railing panels in the Visual Arts Building in Iowa by Steven Holl.

Project link

I’m curious if this pattern could be recreated in Grasshopper, and I’m not sure it wasn’t created in Grasshopper to begin with.

It appears that the pattern consists of a set number of shapes that can be rotated in 90-degree increments. But then, it doesn’t appear that there is any actual pattern to their layout. So this makes me think it can be created by performing some sort of packing where a set amount of space is provided b/w each shape as it gets packed together, but the shapes are not allowed to rotate as they get packed.

But perhaps there’s a way to tackle this with native Grasshopper apps as well.

I want to try and create a definition later today, but I thought I’d present the problem to the community here first.

If you wanted a repeating pattern, you could use something like this periodic packing example (and optionally lock the rotations)

(probably overkill for this, as the shapes there don’t need to be densely packed, so probably just packing bounding boxes would be enough and much lighter)

but from that picture I can’t see any obvious periodic pattern at all (or its quite a large repeating unit).

I just hope it wasn’t done by some poor intern placing them all manually!


The OpenNest plugin by @Petras_Vestartas might also be relevant here:

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