Thomas Little

Link to Design Journal
Journal Entry For
Module 8 - Share Your Design
Created By
Thomas Little
Related to 120C/220C Students - Spring 2022 (1) (Related to Design Journal Entries | Winter 2022 (Linked Student))


InstaTent offers effortlessly beautiful, physics-based tent models within seconds! InstaTent has fully customizable plan dimensions up to a 100’ by 100’ structure. Additionally, this tool allows users to adjust the location and height of the interior supporting columns, offering infinite possible tent designs, customized to the needs of the user. This tool not only returns stunning geometry, but also cost and sizing metrics that can help inform the user on possible design alternatives. A brief description of each input can be seen below:

Column 1 and Column 2 Heights:

  • Define the height of the supporting tent poles (this dictates the maximum height of the tent structure)

Column 1 X and Y Location:

  • Define the X and Y coordinates of the first support pole (note that the tent is centered around [0,0])
  • If you define the X or Y coordinate outside of the plan dimensions of the tent, the tent structure will generate but it will generate as if the pole does not exist

Column 2 X and Y Location:

  • These inputs follow the same logic as the Column 1 X and Y Location inputs, however, if the toggle for “Use Two Supporting Columns” is set to false, these inputs will not have any effect on the structure, as it will only use Column 1 as an input

Tent Width (x):

  • This input defines the width of the tent (this is defined in the global x direction)

Tent Depth (y):

  • This input defines the depth of the tent (this is defined in the global y direction)

Optimized Column Location Toggle:

  • This toggle lets the user decide whether they would like to override the column locations defined by the above sliders and instead use column locations that maximize the amount of volume under the tent structure. When this toggle is switched to “true” it will use the optimized locations, when set to “false” it will use the user defined locations.

Frame Height:

  • This input will define the height of the tent frame in feet.

Number of Supporting Column Toggle:

  • This toggle will allow the user to decide whether to use one or two supporting columns on the interior of the tent. If the toggle is switched to “false” only the Column 1 inputs will be used, the Column 2 inputs will have no effect on the structure.

This tool not only outputs a realistic tent model, it will also show the user the total volume enclosed under the tent canopy and the total steel volume required for the structure as well as cost metrics of the raw materials of the tent. These metrics can help inform users who are debating between several tent orientations on which model better meets their cost and spatial needs. The columns in this structure are sized based on their critical buckling length, meaning that the taller the supporting column is, the larger it will have to be in order to resist buckling. Having the total steel volume metric can help users decide if a taller structure is worth the increased steel.

One last note about using this tool is that the geometry that is created in Revit is mass geometry, meaning that in order for the user to see the structure, they will need to turn on the “Show Mass” toggle in Massing and Site tab when they open a project.

Required Dynamo Plugins:

This tool does rely on a few Dynamo plugings, these include MeshToolkit 3.0 and DynaShape, so please install these prior to using this tool. MeshToolkit can be downloaded from the Dynamo plugin browser, however, DynaShape requires a manual installation, details to which can be found at the following webpage:

Tool Implementation:

A Graphic User Interface (GUI) was developed to make the use of this tool as easy as possible. A screenshot of the GUI can be seen below:


The returned metrics are shown in the same GUI and can be seen for one instance below:


Dynamo Script:

This section will give a brief outline of the Dynamo script and logic used to create this tool. First, an overall image of the node logic can be seen below. The pink section denotes inputs, the orange denotes outputs, the blue sections (light and dark) denote notes dedicated to the physics simulation of the tent mesh, the purple sections denote creation of the pole geometries, and the green nodes (light and dark) denote intermediate calculations.


First the inputs are entered by the user (ideally thought the Dynamo Player), the input nodes are the same as those shown in the Dynamo Player screenshot.

Next, these inputs are used to create a tent mesh and anchor points that are used for the physics simulation node. These anchor points are what are used to simulate a pole holding up the tent (the actual pole geometry will be added later). The nodes responsible for this set of steps can be seen below:


Next all of these inputs are plugged into the DynaShape evaluation node and physics-based is created that represents what a real tent structure would look like for the given inputs. This is the solver node:


Note that this only creates the “fabric” portion of the tent, so next, the tent poles and frame geometry are all added in to make the structure look like a real tent and not just a floating cloth.


Next, the output metrics are calculated using the created geometries.


And lastly, all of the outputs are imported into Revit:


To aid further in the usability of this tool, a short video was linked to show how this tool can be used. The link to this video can be found below.