Interfacing Arduino with Grasshopper – Day 1

Today I successfully interfaced the Arduino to Grasshopper using Firefly.

Firefly is a plugin for Grasshopper that bridges the gap between physical computing and CAD. In this way, you can use various sensors as inputs for generative 3D modeling. The example that I completed takes the analogue data from a flex sensor and uses it to change the radii of an array of 2D circles laid out in a hexagonal mesh pattern.

Grasshopper sketch
The flex sensor attached to an Arduino Mega

In the Rhino sketch, the diameter of the circles change as the flex sensor is bent.


I want to use the sensor data to affect the properties of a 3D object – my next step will thus be exploring 3D shapes in Rhino.

A summary of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” by Jane Jacobs)

  • Attack on principles and aims that have shaped current city planning and rebuilding – not based on details about rebuilding methods or styles of design.
  • We are building without sensitivity to the needs of citizens.
  • Economic rationale of current city building does not reflect reasoned investment or tax subsidies.
  • Planners are guided by the fanciful notions and appearances of what a city should be and remain blind to what a city actually is.
  • Simple needs of cars are easier to satisfy and understand than the complex needs of cities – designers seem to think that if they solve the problem of traffic that they will also solve the major problem of cities.
  • The author charges the current state of city planning as pseudoscience and says it has not developed to the point of yet being useful.
  • Understanding the behaviour of cities means examining the most ordinary scenes and events and identifying common principles.
  • There is a need for cities to have an intricate and close-grained diversity of uses that support each other economically and socially.
  • Four primary conditions to understand in order to create diversity in cities:
    • Social behaviour of people in cities
    • Economic behaviour of cities
    • Aspects of decay and regeneration
    • Changes in housing, traffic, design, planning and administrative practices


  • How do cities handle organized complexity?
  • Ignoring/suppressing real order that is struggling to exist creates a mask of pretended order
  • Ebenezer Howard – proposed the creation of the “garden city,” essentially the creation of self-sufficient small towns, each encircled with a belt of agriculture
  • Town and green belt would be controlled by the public authority to prevent an increase in density that would form a city – maximum population of 30,000
  • Nathan Glazer summed up the vision well in Architectural Forum: “The image was the English country town — with the manor house and its park replaced by a community center, and with some factories hidden behind a screen of trees, to supply work.”
  • Some countries emulated this idea, mostly unsuccessfully.
  • Jacobs asserts that city planners with no desire to build the garden city are still governed by its principles.
  • Howard conceived of good planning as a series of static acts, where the plan should anticipate all that is needed; paternalistic and authoritarian.
  • Howard’s theories spawned the “decentrist” movement which had better success with influencing city planning than putting their theories into practice – their ideas that the street is bad for humans, that houses should be turned away from the streets and faced inward are now taken for granted. Commerce should be separated from residential and green areas. The planned community should be isolated as a self-contained unit.


  • Le Corbusier designed the “Radiant City” mainly of skyscrapers in a park with a high density. Skyscrapers would occupy only 5% of the ground, leaving the lower levels as luxury housing around courts.
  • Corbusier accepted the garden city’s fundamental image and worked to make it practical for high densities.
  • The Radiant City relied on the notions the garden city imposed of the super-block, the unchangeable plan, and lots of green space.

    Through these theories, cities have served as the sacrificial victims to irrelevant planning.

Digital Craft: Fabrication-Based Design in the Age of Digital Production (Neri Oxman)

How do we address the method or way of making in ubiquitous computing/digital craft?
How can we promote efficiency of use between the designed object and the tools used to create it? This is relevant to finding the right connection between the object and its context (whether user or environment).

Factory to File
The material and technique in which an object has been formed is directly linked to its behaviour – the way in which we make something is linked to what and how it will serve as a final object.
Machine fabrication should serve as a means of informing the design process, rather than the end-point in the crafting of an object.

Ubiquitous Sensing
A separation exists between “what” a building senses and “how” it does so – electronics are embedded post its production rather than considering how the sensors lend themselves to the sensing elements of a building.
Instead of “adding-on” sensors to the object, the material choice and design is aimed at and guided by an understanding of the mechanical properties that initiate dynamic behaviour.

Ubiquitous Craft
Being able to tweak formal expression and structural behaviour through direct manipulation of material properties – defines a relationship between structure and the tools used to support materialization.
– Relating material operations (ex. stretching and shrinking) to behaviour
2D stretched latex membranes were impregnated with resin so that 3D curves were created when the membranes were released. This method enables form-finding based on material properties, organization and behaviour.

Inherent tectonic: Certain construction attributes of the system at hand may be brought into consideration in the assembly process itself. The assembled system will then present a range of behaviours that have been accounted for in the fabrication and assembly processes.
This is relevant when designing adaptive systems with a complex design. The range, increments and limits of adaptibility are accounted for by melding the fabrication technique with a material’s behaviour and properties.

We have the ability to recreate and apply tools designed for materialization – this speaks towards the potential for custom-fabrication from a design perspective
“Design through fabrication”
The notion of a Digital Craft is manifested in this work as a design method which promotes the creation of novel structural systems through processes of digital fabrication and assembly.