June 29, 2020

Meet SandWorm: Unleashing the potential of the digital sandbox

Form an early landscape design in sand and convert it to a 3D model – or make your digital model tangible by ‘printing’ it in the sandbox. Providing both opportunities, SandWorm gives landscape architects and climate adaptation professionals a new technology for community involvement and early stage design and ideation. 

Driven by technological advance, growing amounts of available data, and an emergent need for participatory processes, the climate adaptation and landscape architecture practice is witnessing a moment of disruption where formerly separated areas of operation become increasingly connected.
The ‘tangible table’ – aka ‘digital sandbox’ – concept is addressing this challenge by providing intuitive ways of physical modelling with data-driven design. However, despite its existence for more than 20 years, tangible tables have mainly focused on very specific workflows and therefore have not found wider adoption in climate adaptation/landscape architectural practice or education.
Now, with support from the Ramboll Foundation, Mariusz Hermansdorfer from the Climate Adaptation & Landscape division in Ramboll’s global water division has, together with a team of fellow scientists, introduced a novel software solution named SandWorm, aimed at popularizing tangible table setups.
Converting the sandbox structure into a digital 3D model – and the other way around
Contrary to previous versions of the digital sandbox, SandWorm allows for seamless data exchange and is integrated with Grasshopper, a visual programming language and environment that runs within the CAD program Rhinoceros 3D. This means, for instance, that physical designs made in the sandbox can easily be scanned and transferred directly into a digital 3D model (Reality Capture).
It also works the other way around in that a digital design can be created in real life, i.e. physically in the sandbox, by a robot arm constructing the design in the sand, similar to what we see in 3D printing processes.
“SandWorm unleashes the full potential of the digital sandbox and provides a contemporary platform for engaging with clients during early-phase ideation and involving communities through participatory engagement processes,” says Mariusz Hermansdorfer.
The SandWorm technology is thoroughly described in two papers – 1 & 2 - that were presented by Mariusz and the team at the Digital Landscape Architecture Conference arranged by Harvard University in early June.