Representational Research at the University of Virginia School of Architecture


grasshopper tutorials, Wendover Utah. architecture, University of Virginia, Bonneville, 32 roadster, qualifying run, Robin Dripps

qualifying run     Bonneville 2011    photo credit: Catherine Dee

The author of these defintions is Robin Dripps, T. David Fitzgibbon Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia (aka RacerGirl).  The definitions are free for public use.  In the spirit of the creative commons, please give us credit!  Explode BReps at the University of Virginia    dripps+phinney studio

Explode_BReps began as a graphic representation workshop at the University of Virginia School Of Architecture. It is now a growing and dynamic catalog of grasshopper definitions and representations of their potential. The intent is that these definitions support a new way of thinking about data and logic as a means to explore inventive design.


Fields describe a context of relationships within which action is possible. Understanding this network of connectivity – its parts, their interaction with one another, and their response to external systems – is a basis for understanding the world and, ultimately, for making intelligent interventions. The ability to model these relationships iteratively and to see the outcome of any changes, whether due to the internal operations of the field itself or external influences, allows for a far greater number of ideas to be tested so that decisions are more reliable.


Parametric or generative software is a powerful way to analyze, design, and evaluate contexts at all scales. It offers the ability to represent relationships explicitly, to think of and describe how things go together in terms of the parameters that make up the physical or intellectual structure of a system, and to make rapid, iterative design decisions efficiently and effectively.

As the world is increasingly understood in terms of the interactions of natural flows and human desires, it is necessary to have a means to represent the dynamics of these interactions in order to react to the resultant complexity of possibilities.  Grasshopper is interesting in this regard because of its powerful means to manipulate data.  Data is neutral and not inherently tied to any particular discipline; therefore, it can act as a synthetic agent revealing underlying relationships among pieces of the world not necessarily understood as being connected.  As the several disciplines that make up the School of Architecture share modes of representation, a more substantial response to the world is possible.

The examples here describe various relationships. It should be possible to imagine these applying to widely differing scales and contexts – from a building’s surface to a complex landform or urban settlement. These examples are a starting point for your own explorations and should be examined for possibilities of creative hacking.