Discrete Design in VR
Instructors: Jan Philipp Drude, Andrea Rossi

The workshop aims at exploring collaborative design scenarios for generating modular assemblies through Virtual Reality (VR). This will be achieved through Project DisCo, a multi-player application for sculpting modular aggregations in VR, and Wasp, a discrete design plug-in for Grasshopper, both developed by the workshop leaders.

The overall goal of the workshop is to openly discuss the possibilities of collaborative design scenarios in architecture, as well as practically play them out within a VR design ecosystem. Rather than focusing exclusively on the design of discrete systems, the workshop will concentrate on the process of collaboratively assembling structures through the participation of different actors with different abilities and goals. Instead of discussing design issues in closed disciplinary domains, collaborative VR co-design will encourage more direct exchange of ideas and expertise.

Participants will form design teams, where each member will be able to assume different roles in the design process. Participants will be able to configure a design space, constraining the abilities of each player to affect the assembly process, as well as defining specific viewpoints and perspectives available to each player. After defining such scenarios, participants will be allowed to play out said scenarios in Project DisCo, testing the impact of different constraints on the design result of a collaborative process.
The workshop is aimed at designers and researchers with an interest in collaborative design methods, VR environments, games and discrete design. We will discuss the potentials of immersive design approaches for practice as well as enable participants to partake in such a scenario.


Participants will need a basic understanding of Grasshopper and Rhino and have the software at their disposal. Each player should also be equipped with a pair of Anaglyph 3D-glasses (3-10 euros max). Partaking in the design process with own VR devices is also possible (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are supported. Other headsets might also work, but we cannot guarantee that).



Modular Architecture has recently experienced a revival in form of the Discrete in architecture. Born out of Neil Gershenfelds research on digital materials at the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, it aims at designing buildings as aggregations of reconfigurable building blocks. A design tool for such explorations is the Wasp plugin for Grasshopper developed by Andrea Rossi. Wasp gives the user the possibility of setting up parts from Rhino geometry and equipping them with named connections. Such parts can then be aggregated around assembly rules using fields or stochastic algorithms. These modes of top-down design approach have been well tested in several workshops and design studios.

Due to their discrete connection logic, such systems of modular parts are perfect for a bottom-up design approach in an immersive environment, solving the lack of precision in free-form VR design. From this observation, Jan Philipp Drude developed Project DisCo; a bottom-up design tool for aggregating modular parts in immersive environments.


Project DisCo builds a pipeline to Wasp, where the user can set up a system for use in-game. Originally Project DisCo was set up as a platform focusing on VR. Due to the COVID pandemic and the absence of VR-devices in most households this focus has shifted to also include a potent desktop mode for both Windows and Mac, making it accessible for users self-isolating at home without access to VR technology. Spatial immersion is now achieved by using 3D glasses and experiencing the environment in an ego-shooter like fashion. Parts can be aggregated in Project DisCo in two different ways; through shooting and choreography. In choreography mode, parts are aggregated by using the controller as a steering-device, that applies forces to free-floating building blocks, whereas the shooting mode again employs an ego-shooter like behaviour. Parts snap to the aggregation when conditions of proximity and alignment are met. This allows for a sculpting method in which users perform a playful process of a guided assembly towards an architectural outcome. This can be seen as a novel process for architectural drawing, where the designer leaves the Albertian god-view in favour of a first-person design perspective. The geometry of the system becomes the main driver for the assembly because the rules of the game are set by the permitted connections. This approach has recently been expanded through a mode for collaborative design that is currently being tested. This enables a Minecraft-like cooperative design environment, where multiple users can collectively assemble discrete structures both in VR and at the desktop. More info on Project DisCo can be gained at

The instructors

Jan Pilipp Drude

University of Hannover

Andrea Rossi

University of Kassel

Workshops: April 26 & 27 , 2021

Conference: April 28 & 29 , 2021

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