Grasshopper, spirograph, Leonardo da Vinci

What do they have in common you might ask… For me personally, they all have huge inspirational value, both in general and in this instance in particular!

After my baby steps taken in Rhino, I started my Grasshopper studies as well. Grasshopper is a plug-in for Rhino, which provides a visual interface that allows creating algorithms that generate geometry in Rhino. Very cool stuff. If Leonardo were alive today, he would be using Grasshopper too!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I always do my studies with a project of my own. So picking this new learning project I first turned to my book “Leonardo’s Machines – Da Vinci’s inventions revealed” (by Domenico Laurenza, Mario Taddei and Edoardo Zanon). I had in mind the models of his mechanisms re-created and shown around the world in an itinerant exhibition. At first I wanted to use one of his mechanisms, pick a point in movement and draw its trajectory using Grasshopper. Somehow none of the mechanisms shown seemed appropriate for my purposes, but all the gears reminded me of my childhoods favourite drawing toy, the spirograph, which, by the way has very serious mathematics behind and it has been revisited as a toy just in the past decade, with some seriously gorgeous examples, some quite pricey.

“Spiraling into Grasshopper” – one of my favorite stills

My idea evolved from using a closed curve as the path of my moving object to – finally – an open spiral curve. This is what I wanted to do: show the position of a point on a rotating circle, while the circle rotates around its center with different speeds and with its center moving along a spiral.

Path of a point on a rotating circle moving on a spiral; variables: angular speed, number of points selected on spiral and colors

In Grasshopper-talk algorithms are called definitions. See below my definition to draw the path of my point.

My first “definition”

Grasshopper is a very complex language, this small exercise, using 19 types of components, merely scratches the surface. The Grasshopper plug-in alone has 835 components and there are other – ever more specialized – plug-ins to be used with Rhino.

Please stay tuned, more learning and more design-oriented examples will follow.

NOTE: music in the video is Gymnopedie No 1 (composer Erik Satie) by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0).