SketchUp is free and fast so why would I use Rhino?
Rhino was initially developed for the industrial design industry and is highly precise at complex geometry modelling. Rhino works with Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines (NURBS) which are mathematical representations of 3D geometry that can accurately describe any shape from a simple 2D line, circle, arc, or curve to the most complex 3D organic free-form surface or solid. They are highly precise and easily definable. Conversely, SketchUp uses polygon (mesh) modelling, which is an approximation of actual geometry. Curved surfaces are triangulated to create planar facets. The user has no control over this, nor how it is exported to other software. The result is that the geometry is extremely limited in its interoperability with other software.
Rhino is part of a broader software eco-system which includes Grasshopper, a free visual programming plug-in. Grasshopper affords the possibility to create parametric models to test multiple iterations very quickly. Furthermore, it is built around a design culture of interested developers/users where tools and techniques are continually developed and explored.
Rhino can be likened to 3D AutoCAD. Users who have used AutoCAD previously will pick up the commands quickly. Similarly, Rhino facilitates work-sharing so multiple models can be referenced into each other. This reduces the file size of large models.
How does Rhino work with Revit?
Revit is often the primary documenting tool in many architectural offices. However, it is widely acknowledged that Revit is extremely limited in dealing with complex conceptual modelling. As a workaround, many offices utilise Rhino for the conceptual design phase and Revit for the development and documentation phases.
It is important to emphasise that there is no single software that can do everything. Companies such as Adobe recognise this and have produced a suite of software: Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign amongst others. Each software has an apparent and well-defined scope. Photoshop is used for raster images, Illustrator for vector images and InDesign to compile it all together. Each software is separate but linked together. This ethos of a software eco-system needs to be applied to architecture software as well. As architects, we must be able to work between multiple platforms.
How important is data transfer in the design process?
The more data and intelligence that can be maintained through the different phases of the project, the better. However, sometimes this is necessary; at other times, it is only desirable. If elements are intricately related to each other, intelligence needs to be maintained. If however, the intelligence has arrived at a fixed outcome, then there is no immediate need to retain that association. Ultimately it comes down to flexibility and the likelihood of change further down the project.
As Autodesk does not own Rhino, there are barriers between transferring data and geometry from Rhino to Revit. But the tutorials you’ll find at ParametricMonkey.com will help to ensure that the majority of information and intelligence is transferred.