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Your Guide to Algorithms-aided Design in Vectorworks

Experimentation and efficiency are often at a natural tension in design.

As a designer, do you have a natural desire to go where your creativity leads you? The challenge is that, in an industry that’s inherently client-centric, you’re rarely awarded such time for exploration.

Algorithms-aided design is a process that can allow you to be both experimental and efficient.

In this blog, you’ll discover how you can incorporate algorithms-aided design and Marionette into your Vectorworks workflow.

What’s Algorithms-aided Design?

Algorithms-aided design is a method of writing a set of rules with a script that — in turn — automates repeated design operations. Once you’ve set your rules, the algorithm practically does the work for you. With algorithms-aided design you can generate randomness, patterns, and much more.

If you want to integrate such a technique into your Vectorworks process, Marionette is the tool for you. Natively available within Vectorworks, Marionette delivers an algorithmic means to orchestrate and dictate design forms and customizations.

How Do I Learn Algorithms-aided Design?

With Marionette in Vectorworks, you don’t have to be an experienced programmer to use it. Instead, it’s simply a matter of visually inserting and connecting nodes.

Marionette almost instantly provides you with unlimited opportunities to generate, define, build, and explore form and function throughout the design process.

This series of videos will introduce you to the basics of working with Marionette.

Nodes and Connections

Math and Wrappers

Creating Multiple Objects

Click here for more Marionette tutorials, as well as example files that you can work on along with each video.

What Can I Make With Algorithms-aided Design?

Waiting for inspiration to strike? Consider using Marionette in your pre-design phase to experiment with a building’s shape. You can create scripts — like the one below — to design custom objects. With algorithms-aided design, the only constraint on what you can create is your own imagination.

Get ahold of the above “Curve Mapper Node” in the Marionette Gallery on the Vectorworks Community Board, where you can find hundreds of other custom scripts as well.

And when speaking on creative Marionette designs with Vectorworks, it’s hard not to mention moveART’s award-winning 2018 work, the ClimbSLIDE. With these part-playground, part-sculpture designs, the swiss design studio showed how algorithms-aided design can lead to unique and eye-catching creations.


Image Credit: Norbert Roztocki

To create the complex structures, the designer, Norbert Roztocki, used Marionette. He created a script that defined the whole sculpture from two drawn NURBS curves. The script automatically created all the remaining drawing elements, making it easy to vary and further develop the designs.

And, conveniently, documenting these complex shapes is easy due to the parametric nature of objects created in Vectorworks.

How Can Algorithms-aided Design Make My Workflow More Efficient?

In addition to using your algorithmic scripts to create amazing designs, you can use them to automate tedious tasks. This is exactly what Principle Architecture did when they used Marionette to design an exhibition that celebrated Vancouver’s “culture of wood.”

The firm’s design consisted of large “tree trunks” built from wooden posts and beams. The outer shell of the trees was modeled with NURBS in Vectorworks. And then, the inside supporting structure was generated via Marionette. If Principal Architecture wanted to change the shape of the objects, all they would’ve had to do was manually change the pink surface and then run the script again, automatically regenerating the supporting structure.

In the past, you may have wanted to experiment with unique contours and patterns, but, simply, didn’t have the time. Or, perhaps, you’ve had to limit the creative ambitions of a design because your time was occupied completing tedious details.

Marionette — and all the tricks it has to offer — lets you follow your creativity, while also leveraging the efficiency of Vectorworks' BIM process.