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CORE studio is Thornton Tomasetti’s virtual incubator of ideas. Its name derives from the union of computational modeling and research and development, which are at the core of our firm’s mission. Our team is a diverse assortment of specialists, with each member bringing expert knowledge and an inquisitive mind to projects of every size and scope. Our experience working across all Thornton Tomasetti practices affords us unique insight into the needs of – and solutions for – our clients and our firm. CORE studio provides a valuable interface among design and construction teams, developing new workflows and processes that promote collaboration and enhance building design. Our analyses of today’s practices allow us to envision the optimized workflows of tomorrow.

Torre Puerta Reforma, framing generation for structural analysis of a tower Mexico City, Mexico


C OMP UTAT IO N A L M ODELING CORE studio applies advanced parametric modeling tools to realize design intent, manage drawing production and facilitate fabrication.

GE OME T R IC R AT IONALIZATION We use 3D modeling and advanced form-finding techniques to optimize complex geometries for design intent, constructability and project-specific needs.

CU STOM S OF T WA R E D E VELOPM ENT To meet the demands of large and complex projects, we develop custom tools that augment or replace the functionality of commercially available software.

INT E R OPERABILITY We specialize in managing BIM and analysis data to streamline the design, analysis and documentation processes.

I NT EGR AT E D B U ILD IN G ANALYSIS We work with our sustainability and structural engineering staff and software developers to find better ways to analyze designs and prioritize solutions.

FA BR I C AT I ON & P H Y S IC A L P R OTOTYPING We help transform digital models into reality, convey design intent and facilitate the production of deliverables to fabricate and assemble systems.

DATA A N A LY S IS & V IS UALIZATION We provide insight by offering different modes of spatial data representation, mapping techniques and customized visualizations.

R E S E A R C H & D E VELOPM ENT Our R&D initiatives have included invention of a new kind of building damping and vibration mitigation system and calculation of the embodied carbon in buildings.

EDUCATION Because teaching workflows is crucial to innovation, we make education a priority within Thornton Tomasetti and throughout the AEC industry.

Flotsam & Jetsam, lattice detail Miami, Florida Courtesy SHoP Architects


CORE studio has developed innovative solutions for

projects of every size and degree of complexity, and has crafted computational tools,

methods and workflows to address a wide variety of research, analysis and design challenges. Through our

education and outreach efforts, we engage, inform and encourage collaboration among industry professionals.

Top: Torre Puerta Reforma, node study of tower framing, Mexico City, Mexico Opposite page, top to bottom: Geometric study of a hypar structure; meshed shell model for analysis of Blue Skies steel sculpture, San Diego, California



The Shed

New York, New York Practices: Façade Engineering, Structural Engineering,

Sustainability A rchite ct: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Rockwell Group

The Shed comprises two major elements: the four-story “fixed building” with museum-quality exhibition spaces, and the “shed,” a movable enclosure that, when deployed, expands the interior to provide a spacious, temperaturecontrolled area that can accommodate large-scale art exhibitions, concerts, film screenings and galas. The walls of the enclosure are clad in cushions of pressurized ETFE, a material proposed by CORE studio because of its light weight and high strength. The ETFE will be coated with frit patterns that vary depending on the orientation of individual elements. These frit patterns will control daylight, minimizing glare and direct radiation into the event space. CORE studio’s analysis integrated the parametric capabilities of Grasshopper to generate the patterns, assign materials and control the analysis in Radiance, the most widely used engine for lighting, daylighting and solar control design. The skin studies produced an accurate simulation for the project’s technical performance and aesthetics.

Frit pattern optimization and testing


Solar radiation studies

Construction photo showing ETFE pillows in place




Brooklyn, New York Practice: Structural Engineering C lie nt: Pratt Institute School of Design D esign er: Benjamin Howes Fabricators: Youngchan Ahn, Emily Edson, Katie Johnson,

Julie Kim, Nicholas Mundell

Hyperarc is a site-specific hanging sculpture designed by Benjamin Howes for Pratt Shows: Design 2017. CORE studio provided geometric rationalization, form-finding and structural engineering services throughout the design and installation process. The sculpture is composed of 2,356 unique handpainted, laser-cut watercolor paper components, three CNC-milled plywood edge rings and a stainless steel wire rope rigging harness. The watercolor paper components are attached to each other with 6,958 nylon snaps. Hyperarc was designed, fabricated and installed in spring 2017 and was on display at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, for three weeks before being recycled.

Corporate Campus

Santa Clara Valley, California Practice: Structural Engineering A rchite ct: Adamson Associates Architects, BIG,

Heatherwick Studio Fabricato rs: Schuff Steel, Whiting-Turner

This corporate campus consists of three large buildings enclosed in catenary-like roof structures. These structures, composed of steel tube nets, are clad with steel decking and solar panels. Their geometries are varied and complex, their structural and fabrication requirements tight – and they changed often throughout the design process. CORE modeling generated and modified all analysis models for the steel canopy using parametric modeling techniques and sophisticated interoperability tools such as Konstru. This framework allowed for iterative optimization of the form to reduce deflection while maintaining drainage and architectural intent. We also developed numerous custom analyses to aid in steel detailing and further refinement of the form.


Courtesy Ben Howes

Installation photo and fabrication models

Overall BIM model and custom analyses for fabrication of the canopy



Nature Clouds Chicago, Illinois

Practice: Structural Engineering C lie nt: Field Museum of Natural History A rchite ct: Daniel Pouzet Fabricators: Branch Technology

The Nature Clouds installation is a series of suspended planter structures designed by Daniel Pouzet and produced using C-FAB, a robotic 3D-printing process developed by Branch Technology. Branch Technology’s innovative free-form building system employs a patented 3D volumetric lattice and thermoplastic materials. Thornton Tomasetti provided structural engineering services for the exhibit, which consists of 3D-printed material with steel and cable reinforcements. CORE studio performed fabrication modeling of its more than 50 unique parts, which were laser-cut and fabricated to be shipped and assembled in the field. We also furnished advanced BIM documentation for erection and fabrication. The structural engineering scope included analysis for three pod designs – one large pod, approximately 40’ x 30’ in plan; two identical pods that are refined versions of the prototype pods; and two additional pods, approximately 30 percent larger than the prototype. Thornton Tomasetti developed a lightweight armature system to support the latticed dome and trays, using the geometrical compatibility of the cloud module to create similar structural systems for all three modules.

Study of cable supports for the printed forms


Bill Bast/Thornton Tomasetti

Opening day with the structure completed and installed

Layer inspection of the 3D-printed volumes



The Climber

Chicago, Illinois Practices: Construction Engineering, Structural Engineering C lie nt: Chicago Children’s Museum A rchite ct: Ganymede Design Group

The Climber, an interactive sculpture designed by Ganymede Design Group, will be hosted in the interior space of the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. The structure will encompass a number of steel profiles playfully arranged for the interaction of children and adults. Given the nature of the project and its fast-track design schedule, CORE studio was asked to help rationalize workflows for its analysis and documentation. Thornton Tomasetti used proprietary software (Konstru) to translate geometry from SketchUp to Revit to facilitate coordination.

Al Thumama Stadium Doha, Qatar

Practice: Structural Engineering A rchite ct: Heerim Architects

This new 40,000-seat stadium is one of eight such facilities being constructed for the November 2022 FIFA World Cup. The project provided the opportunity for three specialty groups within Thornton Tomasetti to work together. Collaboration between structural, façade, and roof engineering was key to achieving the level of detail the project required for documentation. CORE studio assisted all three groups at different stages of the project. Among other tasks, we formulated workflows to automate clash detection from Navisworks and Revit using Dynamo. The tool developed for this project helped automate the creation of wall openings by processing data collected from the clash detection, saving time and helping the team meet critical milestones. CORE studio was further tasked with automating the modeling of all precast concrete seating elements within the bowl using custom workflows in Grasshopper and Dynamo. 14

Heat map showing overall structure

Counterclockwise: Analysis of model element complexity, BIM model, seating riser generation



Active Bending and Geodesic Gridshell Workshop Gothenburg, Sweden

Practice: Structural Engineering

The Architecture and Engineering Research Group at Chalmers University of Technology invited CORE studio to help organize a student workshop on “actively bent gridshells using geodesic curvature.” The assignment was to construct a fullscale lattice shell (gridshell) by bending strips of six-millimeter birch plywood (active bending) over the course of two days. The workshop took place in December 2017, with 25 architecture and engineering students participating. Prior to the workshop, CORE studio performed curvature and buckling analysis studies, which included checking that prestressing induced by bending didn’t exceed the material’s capacity and ensuring that global buckling wouldn’t occur due to self-weight and imposed loads. Defining the laths as geodesic curves on the proposed shell surface enabled the strips to be unrolled into straight lines, simplifying the fabrication process by permitting them to be cut from plywood sheets with a manual vertical panel saw. Connecting the cut-out pieces to form longer strips allowed the shell to be fabricated using only 10 sheets of plywood. All holes for the connections were marked and drilled before the structure was erected. The length of the structure is 11 meters from end to end, and the maximum span is 5.5 meters. The highest peak is 2.5 meters. The design was symmetrical about four axes, enabling us to fabricate eight copies of a small set of strips. The baseplates were fabricated using a CNC router. RhinoGrasshopper was the primary tool used for design, analysis and production of fabrication drawings. The workshop is an excellent example of how computational design tools can be leveraged. With a strong connection between design, analysis and fabrication, the project’s workflow was highly automated, giving the team more time to improve the design. It also reduced complexity and improved communication on-site, making it possible to build the structure in just two days.


Images courtesy Emil Adiels

The laths were fabricated as straight strips of six-millimeter plywood and bent into shape.

Bending stresses were derived by analyzing the elements’ curvature.




New York, New York Practice: Structural Engineering C lie nt: Related Companies A rchite ct: Heatherwick Studio Fabricators: Cimolai

Vessel, designed by Heatherwick Studio, is the centerpiece of the Hudson Yards Public Square and Gardens in New York City. Thornton Tomasetti provided structural design services for the landmark structure, which is composed of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, 80 landings and 2,500 individual steps, rising from a base 50 feet in diameter to a height and width of 150 feet.

Courtesy Forbes Massie Heatherwick Studio and Hudson Yards

CORE studio assisted the building structures team in creating a semiautomated process to convert mesh and shell elements into structural analysis models. We developed an algorithm in which each component of the structural model contained shell data, in addition to elements that were grouped by the engineers’ specifications. This process allowed our team to quickly study and understand the performance of the many design iterations.


Construction sequencing

Fabrication model




Nashville, Tennessee Practice: Structural Engineering C lie nt: Cambridge Inc. Fabricato rs: Branch Technology

Located in a new tech-driven neighborhood of Nashville, oneC1TY is the world’s largest 3D-printed spanning structure. CORE studio worked in collaboration with Chattanooga-based architectural fabricator Branch Technology to design and engineer the 20-foot-tall, 42-foot-wide pavilion. The structure is made of carbon fiber-reinforced acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and finished with ultraviolet-protective metallic paint. Minimal steel supports were needed for the final design. CORE studio’s structural analysis was integral in optimizing the pavilion’s overall form to resist environmental forces from wind, snow, ice and self-weight.

Albert Einstein Learning and Research Center São Paulo, Brazil

Practice: Façade Engineering A rchite ct: Safdie Architects

The Albert Einstein Learning and Research Center features three domes – two large, identical domes flanking a smaller, central one – that span more than 85 meters over a large visitor atrium. The Façade Engineering practice and CORE studio used Konstru and visual scripting to generate a rationalized workflow to import and modify the domes’ geometries in Revit. The façades group analyzed the structure using SOFiSTiK and other CSI platforms, which allowed us to use Konstru to translate more than 3,500 frame elements. Konstru was key to preserving the fidelity of the structural model and maintaining the element orientation and profile sections for all three domes, which it was able to translate from Rhino to Revit for coordination.


Structural analysis models for 3D-printed installation

Dome geometry rationalization based on global constraints


To o l s , M e t h o d s & W o r k f l o w s

Framing Repair Practice: Structural Engineering

Although a model’s architectural elements may appear connected, the underlying topology might be fragmented, preventing proper analysis of structural behavior. Framing Repair is our solution to this problem, enabling our engineers to analyze and modify the topology of structural assemblies. Framing Repair uses our proprietary graph library, SRep (Structural Representation), to perform repair operations, such as snapping elements together at predefined points, joining neighboring members within a tolerance and visualizing the connectivity degree/weight at each node of the structure. The built-in Spectacles viewer displays a visualization of the model so that the user can quickly detect and resolve connectivity issues.

Konstru Practice: Structural Engineering

Konstru is a 3D BIM collaboration platform that facilitates the seamless integration of data between design and analysis applications. This smooth exchange of data eliminates the need for designers to maintain parallel models during the life of a project and permits models to be accurately synchronized without needing to be reworked, effectively precluding human error. Konstru enables users to spend more time focusing on design rather than repetitive modeling routines. Version control allows users to make design changes without having to archive multiple versions of the same files. Konstru maintains a project record, which is accessible at any time. Models can be compared and reports generated to track changes and evaluate progress.


A model is “cleaned up� in Framing Repair, restoring connectivity between members.

Konstru web interface and supported platforms


To o l s , M e t h o d s & W o r k f l o w s

Asterisk Practice: Structural Engineering

Developed by CORE studio, Asterisk is a web application for rapid structural optioneering in early conceptual design. Simply upload a mass and core model from the Rhino client and adjust a few parameters, and Asterisk returns a concept-level structural design in a matter of seconds. Users can create iterations, explore and filter design spaces, and compare the performance metrics of select sets. Asterisk is a collaborative platform in which project teams can create, review and present design spaces across multiple mediums. With Asterisk, You Can: ITERATE Iterate through a series of user-defined parameters, such as program, bay spacing and material, to build up a design space. Upload masses from Rhino, iterate and download wireframes back into a modeling workflow. Learn about the structural implications of design decisions by investigating individual properties of objects, from floor thicknesses to beam sections. Review overall metrics, including average cost, weight and embodied energy, to understand how a particular iteration stacks up against the larger design space. Navigate around the wireframe model and change analysis types to visualize and better understand the attributes and results. EXPLORE Explore multiple structural iterations in a filterable design space with the integrated Design Explorer interface. Set limits of results, like weight and cost or bay spacing and floor-to-floor height inputs, and get back the iterations that meet project criteria as they evolve. COMPARE Compare user-selected sets of iterations to better understand their relative performance. See trade-offs between options in a comparative matrix that visually highlights the top-performing metrics in each category.




To o l s , M e t h o d s & W o r k f l o w s

Asterisk (continued) Practice: Structural Engineering

OUR APPROACH Asterisk achieves its speed by leveraging CORE studio’s predictive models. These models have been trained on data generated to Thornton Tomasetti design standards and pulled from the expertise of our engineers and from their workflows. Asterisk doesn’t just consume these models; its continued use widens the field of conditions, imparting data that informs future training sets. Asterisk is the first platform to apply the ongoing research at Thornton Tomasetti to machine learning and its implementation in AEC. Asterisk is built from a foundation of CORE platforms, including Spectacles and Design Explorer, CORE studio’s web application suite. It is part of a larger goal to develop a technology ecosystem that fosters collaboration, and is the pilot application for cross-discipline collaboration on a single platform open to users outside of Thornton Tomasetti. COLLABORATIVE DEVELOPMENT Since it is a collaborative platform for architects and engineers, it is critical that Asterisk be integrated into the processes of both industries. To better steer the application’s development, Thornton Tomasetti has partnered with several architectural offices, opening access to our alpha testing program. Each of these offices has participated in discussions and provided insights that will assist in creating a road map for the future of Asterisk. ARE YOU INTERESTED? To learn more about the ideas behind Asterisk, where it came from and where it might be going, check out our website:



Filtering options allow users to target their ideal conceptual design iteration. 27

To o l s , M e t h o d s & W o r k f l o w s

Thread Practice: Sustainability

Thread is CORE studio’s take on the next generation of Design Explorer. In addition to using parallel coordinates for design exploration, the new web application includes a variety of interactive charting and summarization visuals, making it easy to find the most informative way to display data. Personalized and flexible dashboards let users structure the same data differently, depending on their audience. This control over the exploration and interaction process allows teams to find meaningful ways to frame the questions they need to answer. Thread is designed to easily transition among many data scales: users can set up layouts intended to explore thousands of options simultaneously, navigate through a handful of iterations, or carefully compare a few finalists side-by-side. Extended features will increase collaboration and narration capacities with options to share filtered data sets with colleagues and clients, record the steps of an exploration session and generate presentation-friendly graphics and reports.

Mirar Practice: Structural Engineering

Mirar is a client-facing web application for sharing Thornton Tomasetti’s visualization models. It enables our designers and engineers to create lightweight interactive 3D data visualizations of our BIM and analysis models (including 3D geometry and curated BIM data) and allows those visualizations to be securely shared with clients and collaborators. Mirar was built using our in-house version of Spectacles and is available to all Thornton Tomasetti employees and project teams.


Thread introduces a diverse range of data visualization options.

BIM data visualizations


To o l s , M e t h o d s & W o r k f l o w s

FIM Portal Practice: Forensics

CORE studio developed forensic information modeling (FIM) as a tool for Thornton Tomasetti’s Forensics practice. A mashup of BIM models, location-specific data, supporting imagery and documentation, FIM is a way to manage and analyze data in a 3D or 4D graphical model. Over the past 10 years, forensic information models have been developed for projects ranging from large infrastructure investigations and façade evaluations to mechanical system due-diligence studies. The FIM Portal is a readily accessible web platform that allows large volumes of technical data to be organized and visualized. It can easily produce project-specific interfaces. The website provides access to typical FIM features, facilitating development and streamlining delivery. Files and documents are linked to 3D models or maps for easy retrieval, keyword queries and statistical analyses. The portal’s easy-to-use database filters allow custom views of case-related data, enabling clear communication of complex technical issues. SECURE AND EASY ACCESS Enjoy enterprise-level security and authentication. Users can sign in and view/edit project data on any device with a web browser. COLLABORATION Share projects securely with colleagues and clients. Colleagues with edit permissions can edit project data concurrently. Clients with view permissions can interact with FIM models, but may not edit or delete content. DOCUMENT ARCHIVE Upload files such as photos, DWGs, PDF reports and Word documents and link to them from table, map or 3D model views. FLEXIBLE PROJECT DATABASES Create SQL-like databases for projects online. Upload batch entries from csv files or enter/edit data in the web user interface.


FIM Portal


To o l s , M e t h o d s & W o r k f l o w s

FIM Portal (continued) Practice: Forensics

MODEL VIEWER Upload BIM models from Revit; view and navigate 3D models in the web browser – no plugins required. Model elements can be linked to data entries in the project database. MAP VIEWER Create maps or upload GIS files to view online. Map elements can be linked to rows in the project database. DATA LINKING Link documents in the document archive to elements in the project database. Link 3D model elements or map features to database elements. This is the “glue” that allows you to build associative FIM models. DATABASE QUERIES AND FILTERING Cull the data based on project-specific queries. Filtered views of project data can be applied to map and 3D model views as well.

Spotlight Practice: Structural Engineering

Spotlight, a material takeoff (itemized list of building parts organized by type and location) and data visualization tool, enables engineers and project managers to analyze and track the structural quantities of their projects. The tool consists of an uploader (available as a Revit plugin company-wide) and a website where users can view their data. Spotlight is a useful tool for cost estimation, cost tracking, evaluating model cleanliness and keeping management apprised of progress on BIM projects.


FIM Portal

Project managers can view material takeoffs and building structure analytics on their desktop or mobile browser, in addition to sharing with clients over the web.


To o l s , M e t h o d s & W o r k f l o w s

Skipper Practice: Structural Engineering

In early schematic design of composite steel structures, engineers can analyze dozens of typical bays to determine the expected depths of members and average weight per unit of area for a building. Developing an analysis model in conventional software usually requires a significant time investment, and the analysis results must be converted to a different medium to be reported to clients. Skipper aims to streamline this process. With some basic geometry inputs, a deck definition and a concrete definition, Skipper can design bays in a matter of seconds. To do this, Skipper uses the American Institute of Steel Construction strength and vibration design guidelines. Inputs can be saved directly to online databases for easy retrieval from any device. Thornton Tomasetti also develops its own composite steel beam design guidelines, which inform CORE.Structure, Skipper’s back-end library.

Checker Practice: Structural Engineering

Checker is a visual feedback application that performs QAQC and outlier detection for Revit models. It builds an analytical representation of the Revit model through CORE.Graph, then assigns loads, composite deck properties and concrete properties from BIM elements in the model. These inputs are fed into CORE.Structure for verification. Once verified, the results are displayed in a 3D model viewer with several preset visualizations: assignment of shear values as BIM data, comparison between the assigned value and the calculated value, and the strength utilization of the beam. Additionally, users can visualize any of the embedded BIM or analysis attributes with custom, on-the-fly visualizations.  


Skipper’s interface, showcasing the more efficient process to a composite bay design

A BIM model is checked for errors and outlier conditions before being submitted. 35

Education & Outreach

AEC Tech Each year, Thornton Tomasetti hosts New York City’s AEC Tech, welcoming technology professionals from the architecture, engineering and construction industry and beyond. Since its creation in 2013, it has evolved from a two-day conference into a four-day experience featuring professional development workshops, speakers, presentations and a 24-to-30-hour hackathon. We strive to offer the most enriching workshops in the latest technologies, engage industry leaders and provide a forum for project growth, development and networking. By serving as a space where creative minds can devise new technologies, acquire skills and make new connections, AEC Tech is helping build an open community of knowledge sharing to promote industry progression and enhance collaboration and communication. AEC Tech 2017 was our largest to date, with more than 150 people attending the symposium and upwards of 100 joining the hackathon. The event attracted participants from the U.K., Switzerland, Japan, Egypt and across the United States.

AEC Tech History 2013–2018



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Courtesy Jon Taylor

Courtesy Jon Taylor

Courtesy Jon Taylor

Education & Outreach

Training * Education is crucial to our mission. Because teaching workflows is equally as important as developing new tools and processes, we make it a priority. Since our founding in 2011, CORE studio has presented dozens of workshops, seminars and classes to colleagues and industry professionals. We offer four- to six-hour workshops tailored to our clients’ needs on the following topics: • • • • • • •

Interoperability Parametric environmental design Introduction to Dynamo Introductory and advanced courses in data-driven design for Grasshopper Custom plug-in development for Grasshopper and Dynamo in Python or C# Physical computing with Arduinos AIA Seminar: Data-Driven Design and Engineering

CORE in the Media * CORE studio has appeared in a variety of media and publications, and has contributed to a large number of books and technical papers, including the following: “Conceptual Stage Predictive and Collaborative Design Using Machine Learning,”by CORE studio CORE studio co-authors: Margaret Wang, Emil Poulsen, Dan Reynolds and Robert Otani International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures, 2018

“Design and Analysis Simplification Strategies for Fabrication-Aware Optimization of Additive Manufactured Lattice Shell,”by CORE studio CORE studio co-authors: Kam-Ming Mark Tam, Dan Reynolds and Robert Otani International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures, 2018

“Design, Fabrication and Assembly of a Geodesic Gridshell in a Student Workshop,” by Chalmers University and CORE studio CORE studio co-authors: Emil Poulsen and Robert Otani International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures, 2018

“Structural Design Taste Test,”by CORE studio CORE studio co-authors: Dan Reynolds and Margaret Wang International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures, 2018

*Please contact us for media inquiries or additional information regarding custom workshops.


Internal training session, Philadelphia 2018

International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures


Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Student Center, BIM model Miami, Florida




Send us an e-mail if you would like to collaborate or learn more about our services. We would love to stop by your office to present our latest work or lead a training session.

We want to hear from you! Our CTO, Robert Otani, can be reached at

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Instagram: @tt_corestudio Twitter: @TT_CORE

The Shed, Hudson Yards New York, New York Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group

Thornton Tomasetti CORE studio  

CORE studio has developed innovative solutions for projects of every size and degree of complexity, and has crafted computational tools, met...

Thornton Tomasetti CORE studio  

CORE studio has developed innovative solutions for projects of every size and degree of complexity, and has crafted computational tools, met...