Leadership in Engineering

Modeling and Visualization

Simplification is at the heart of MKA’s modeling efforts: while incredibly complex, MKA’s parametric models simplify the visualization, design, and construction process.
In 1997, long before “BIM”, MKA modeled and supplied data for the steel fabrication of Frank Gehry’s Experience Music Project.
MKA translates free-form architectural concepts into buildable structures using parametric modeling.
State-of-the-art technologies provide simplified “road maps” for complex structural steel, as modeled for the Panama Museum of Biodiversity.

Catia, Digital Project, Grasshopper, Revit, Rhino, Tekla, SAP, and other advanced modeling tools are used daily at MKA, to optimize problem solving, develop interpretive visualizations, and spur intuitive project collaboration. For maximum effectiveness, it is crucial to start with the right program(s), ask the right questions, execute in the right sequence, and know how to best share and leverage the results among design team members. Pretty pictures are nice, but enhancing project value is always our goal. For example, MKA developed parametric models of the iconic spheres at Amazon’s latest campus to allow the architect a greater degree of exploration and flexibility during the initial design stages. Theses models opened the door to an endless amount of formfinding and led to a design that is highly efficient, constructable, and true to the architectural vision.


When the design concept for Honolulu’s Waiea Tower included a flowing glass façade reminiscent of ocean waves, the architectural team faced a daunting task:  hand-calculate the unique curvature of 1,000 individual glass panels, and perform dozens of recalculations with each design change.  MKA automated this laborious process by creating an integrated Rhino/Grasshopper model, facilitating on-the-fly changes and saving days of meticulous work.


MKA was the first in the industry to supply steel fabricators with data files to cut exact steel shapes, long before BIM was even known as “BIM.”  This happened in 1997 for Frank Gehry’s Experience Music Project—the largest free-form building in the world, devoid of any ruled surfaces. The entire structure was modeled in Catia and fabricated using computer-numerically controlled (CNC) equipment.  Only through 3D modeling, fabrication, and erection could Gehry’s undulating vision be realized.


Complex projects of all sizes can benefit from advanced modeling. To create a unique canopy for a Seattle park, MKA translated the free-form architectural concept into a cost-effective, buildable, and safe structure using parametric modeling. The model facilitated real-time manipulation and refinement of the design in side-by-side meetings with the architect.


Designed entirely in 3D, the Panama Museum of Biodiversity required state-of-the-art technologies and new structural configurations to achieve its seemingly random but intentionally precise steel branches and concrete trunks. MKA worked with Canadian firm Dowco to transform the project’s 3D Catia model into a 3D Tekla model, which the Panamanian fabricator then used to machine the complex structural steel — a first-ever CNC building application in Panama.

Featured Modeling Projects: