Blog Posts

Bike Durham Zine

Illustration, words, and design by SV, as part of a larger publication to be released in 2023. Art direction, editing, font selection by Bike Durham (Carmen Kuan & Justin Laidlaw).

Steven’s Guide to Managing Layer Visibility in Rhino Design Documentation

Rhino is more and more advantageous as a primary design AND drafting solution. (Rhino Forum “does anyone use as primary app”, …). Advances in Rhino modeling and Grasshopper have made Rhino more and more attractive, at the same time that major, big-budget architectural firms are increasingly frustrated with the established players (Dezeen). That being said, there are difficult sticking points, including managing layer visibility in 2d drawings (aka layouts & details). Hopefully these methods are easily adaptable for your application, the principles should be applicable to architecture, exhibit design, etc.

HideLayerInDetail: the obvious method

It’s the first method you learn about, but it also has a major downfall: if you create a new layer, it will be visible in ALLLLLLLL of your details. The only way to turn it off in all of them (that I know of) is to double-click into each of them and run HideInDetail (or use the layer palette). Extremely annoying :*(

Method 1: Print Width

EDIT 2022-08-04: I don’t recommend Method 1. The main pitfall is that Layout Layer visibility AND Detail Layer visibility must be changed for each layer you wish to change visibility for. This leads to 2x the number of clicks for each layer you wish to edit. I believe this is a bug in Rhino, but I’m not sure. Either way, I no longer recommend this method.

Controlling Layer visibility with Print Width

By using the Layer Print Width, you have the opportunity to keep a layer off in all existing details / layouts by default. Downsides of the Print Width method:

  • The most annoying thing: print-display does not show actual printed lines: layers that are on in the detail but not in the layout will appear in Rhino but not in the output PDF :*/
  • Layers will still be visible when you double-click into a detail, I haven’t found a workaround to this limitation, but it hasn’t been a dealbreaker for me
  • More tedious to maintain consistent linewidths between drawings
  • … haven’t figured out any other issues, maybe you know of some?

Here’s how to use the method, for a few situations:

Layer visible in most details

Print Color = black or gray – whichever will be used most commonly
Print Width = as desired
Layout/Detail print widths = No Print or custom, as appropriate. If you want to turn a layer off in all details on a layout, use the layout override instead of the detail. It will allow you to turn off the layer in all details on that layout.
No overrides for layout or detail color, except where needed

Layer off in most details

Print Color = black or gray – whichever will be used most commonly
Print Width = No Print
Layout/Detail print widths = set override per-detail, as appropriate. Ensure that you set both Layout and Detail print width, setting one and not the other will have no effect. Set detail print width as desired, and set Layout print width to Default
No overrides for layout or detail color, except where needed

Layers on in ONE detail

Print Width method works, but the built in Layer on in this Detail Only feature is easiest:

Duplicate Existing Layer?

If you’re creating a new layer that is similar to others: consider duplicating an existing layer rather than creating new ones from scratch.

Method 2: Standard methods + Scripts

I’d almost given up on the standard Rhino methods of controlling detail visibility (Rhino 7 help), but then I discovered the two scripts on this Rhino forum (as of this writing, there are 2 scripts: one by egdivad and the other by Lahos). After a small amount of testing, it seems possible to use standard Rhino methods in conjunction with these scripts to make everything wonderful and easy as puppies and butterflies. I hope to update this post once I find out.

Edit 2022-08-04: the SafeLayout plugin is a higher performing version of the scripts mentioned above. I believe this plugin is written in C, and so is much faster than the Python scripts.

Other potential controls:

These other methods offer some additional control / potential, but I haven’t personally found them to be game changers in regards to this challenge:

  • Set individual object to NoPrint using SV Script “”
  • “ShowHideinDetailPlusV5.tb” > via this Rhino forum post. Have not used a lot but could have some utility. Use with caution…
  • and from the same forum post. I’ve tested these briefly and they are a bit clunky to use, but some people may find them useful.

Mural: Bay Area Discovery Museum

A whole-building environmental mural that aims to immerse visitors in the wonder of nature while integrating tightly with the hands-on museum exhibits…


  • Mural design and install by Steven Valenziano ūüĎč
  • Huge thank you to Marlene Chen and Alan Maskin of Olson Kundig for the opportunity to contribute, and to Elizabeth Friedrich of BADM and Alex Meyer for coordinating the install!
  • Exhibit design by Olson Kundig
  • Project management by Alex Meyer of Meyer Technical
  • Exhibit Production and Install by Pacific Studios
  • Morgan Womble-Dahl for his implementation ideas.
  • Final thanks to Mark Sabatino & Gizmo Art Production for commissioning the little mural that inspire this big one!

Gizmo Mural

Approximately 8×12 feet size, this mural depicts a few of the sculptures that Gizmo Art Production has built and installed in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Other fun stuff scattered throughout: a playful jab at the CEO’s music habit, Janis Joplin’s house, Miss Doubtfire’s house, 3 bikes, moustaches, a very prominent paintbrush, and grafitti by Barry McGee.

Medium: India Ink

Science & Main



Take a stack of exhibit ideas dreamt up by the Education staff, and turn them into an exhibit in one year, on a tight budget.  The exhibit must be movable so that the exhibit hall can be used for large rental events.


Science & Main is one of the most popular exhibits at the Museum, and was achieved at a fraction of the cost of most other exhibits in the museum. ¬†See the captioned photos below for details and process photos…

The Explora-inspired marble wall is adapted for MSC's needs: large plastic balls instead of marbles, and more durable components.
Marble 1
A photo of the marble wall shortly after opening. I added rubber edge-protectors and replaced the wooden pegs with plastic.
Test title 1
The bicycle gearing activity allowing visitors to compare the differences in gear ratios.
Instructions for the paper airplane launcher
We prototyped and tested the paper airplane launcher to determine the best layout for the paper airplane activity.
A view of the airport control tower with launchers in the background
The 'Food fight' catapult. The device is quite precise: if you determine the correct variable to hit a given target, you will hit it reliably with those variables.
Some visitor creations
More visitor creations
Bike Shop
A view of the bike gearing activity and the bike shop facade.
Look and Feel Rendering vC WEB
Initial concept rendering
Overview Rendering v2 WEB copy
Revised concept rendering, after construction methods and components were refined, Science & Main.
Music Ideation - Construction Details copy
Styling detail, which informed the construction methods.
Final Logos
Logos, desiged by intern Qian Zeng
ScienceAndMainProcess (2)
Setting up the facades with the help of a budget-friendly gantry crane. The yellow scaffolding was later used as part of the backdrop of the construction site.
ScienceAndMain (3)
Oops, sorry George...
ScienceAndMain (2)
Guts of the paper airplane launcher
The marble wall pieces were built using this setup. A pin-router attachment was used for the curved pieces.
ScienceAndMainProcess (4)
Cole demonstrating some of the high-tech tools we used
ScienceAndMain_Fab (3)
It turns out handwheels with revolving handles are not MSC-kid-proof, so we added keyways to fixed-handle handwheels. In this photo: enlarging the bore with a boring bar.
ScienceAndMain_Fab (1)
Adding a keyway with the lathe, since we did not have an arbor press.
ScienceAndMain_Fab (2)
We initially used an off-the-shelf pulley as the drive wheel in the paper airplane launcher, but it was quickly shredded. In this photo, machining a new wheel, which held up well.


View these projects in more detail:

Drop Tower
Pipe Organ


I managed the project and completed the much of the labor, from design to install and documentation.  I worked closely with the Education, Facilities, and Marketing departments to get the project done.  I also recruited, trained, and organized volunteers from the community, and interns from MICA.

Other Contributors


Cole Pritchard
Cait May
Qian Zeng
Kelsey Hunter
Sofia Maranto


Karl Palm
David M Storey Inc Pipe Organ Builders
George Moran, Explora
CK Wong, Hong Kong Science Center
Franklin Institute Exhibit Team


Karl Palm
Kevin Johnson
Mark LoPresto
Terry Nixon
Tom Riley


Maryland Science Center, Baltimore MD



Drop Tower

The Drop Tower enables visitors to repeatably drop a racquetball 20 feet onto an angled surface. The angle and material of the surface can be changed, enabling users to experiment with the 2 variables and discover how they affect the trajectory and bounce height of the ball. The targets provide a goal for visitors to aim for, though many simply experiment on their own.


We built and tested several prototypes to determine whether or not our plans were visitor-friendly, the reliability of the ‘dropper’ mechanism, and the feasibility of the chain conveyor. ¬†See images below for more details…


  • Reliability was a serious concern since some of the working parts are 20 feet in the air, and difficult to access.
  • The height of the design was difficult since the museum lacks an appropriate lift or convenient ceiling lift points. ¬†The shop ceiling is not much over 8 feet, and the freight elevator is very small, so the components were built in sub-assemblies, test-fit and finished in the shop, and fully assembled on the exhibit floor

Design Details

  • Gear reduction and a rotary damper prevents visitors from spinning the Prism in an uncontrolled fashion
  • Controls for steps 1,2, and 3 (Load, Adjust, Drop) are arranged in sequential order for intuitive operation
  • An angle indicator makes the experiment replicable

dt2 WEB
Detail of bounce-height scale
dt5 WEB
Detail of prism rotation indicator
dt3 WEB 2
Detail of top module and electrical boxes
Shot Tower Gallery 1
Detail of user controls
DropTowerTesting (2)
Our first prototype was designed to test some of the mechanical elements, and see how visitors would interact with the component. We found that having 3 different ball types was too much for most visitors, so we eliminated the wiffel ball and golf ball, and kept the racquetball.
DropTowerTesting (4)
Testing to determine the trajectory of dropped balls
DropTowerTesting (1)
2nd prototype to determine reliability of top module mechanism. The testing revealed some reliability issues that we were able to solve before the Drop Tower was installed.
DropTowerTesting (3)
Testing the 2nd prototype at full height to determine how the chain would act. Thankfully, we found no problems!
I completed the final Overall design in Rhino at the same time Cole was completing the Top Module design in Solidworks. I then combined our designs and completed final construction drawings in Solidworks.
H-Drop (3)
Fabrication in the shop
H-Drop (4)
We had to set up during off-hours, since the museum was open 7 days a week
H-Drop (1)
Karl helping with final electrical hookups before final assembly

Construction Drawings

Below are examples of construction drawings I created with Solidworks.  They were given to a commercial welding company, who fabricated and delivered the pieces.


SV: project management, design, fabrication, graphics, electrical, install, break-in, documentation
Cole: ball-dropper mechanism, top-module design, fabrication

Other Contributors

Karl Palm: volunteer advisor for electrical and mechanical engineering
Cole Pritchard: museum employee
Nilam Sari: museum intern
Jacob Nemec: museum intern
Paul Stankiewicz: volunteer


Maryland Science Center, Baltimore MD



Pipe Organ


Build a kid-proof pipe organ with exposed inner workings.  As far as I know, this is the only pipe organ in the world that is available for public use.

Design Details

  • Kid-proof keyboard with 1-piece plastic keys
  • ‘Drop the bass’ button for the big zinc pipe
  • All mechanisms visible


Detail of the pipes, donated by David Storey
The moving valves are visible from the player's perspective as she presses the keys
Detail of regulator, blower, and electronics
Detail of kid-proof keyboard
Pipe organ v03.01 - 30 note_CS4
Illustrator rendering of the design, before I handed design and fabrication responsibilities to Cole.


Special thanks to David M Storey Inc Pipe Organ Builders for donating parts and providing invaluable advice.

SV: management, technical research, initial designs, electrical
Cole Pritchard: final design, fabrication, tuning, general wizardry


Maryland Science Center, Baltimore MD



Portable Demo Devices


  • Build demonstration devices for the MSC Traveling Science Program, which visits schools in Maryland and surrounding states and performs science shows on stage for large audiences.
  • Improve on older designs, which were difficult to set up and take down, and just didn’t work very well
  • Keep items compact for easy transport

Design Details

  • We used simple yet durable materials to make the experiments more relatable, especially since audience members would not be able to touch the experiments.
  • Designed to be maintainable by Education staff, who may not have mechanical experience

Pendulum snake box. The snake comes off the stands and straight into the box. The box is divided to prevent tangling.
Pendulum snake string length adjustment jig
Newton's cradle in action
Detail of the string adjusters. The nylon washer is easier on the fishing line than metal, and is registered to prevent rotation while the cap screw is tightened.
Newton's cradle box
Newton's cradle box
The stands are designed for quick setup and takedown.
CO2 gun demo


SV: management, design, fabrication, documentation
Cole: design and fabrication of CO2 gun demo


Maryland Science Center



Handy Hydros


Design and build portable activities that demonstrate hydraulics in action

Design Details

  • Challenge:¬†Facilitators can set up a challenge, such as saving a metal toy dinosaur from a vat of acid, and the user moves the magnet to complete the challenge
  • Durability: I wanted to make the activities out of everyday materials, but it still had to be durable enough to withstand being disassembled and packed for school visits. ¬†The devices didn’t need to be bombproof because a staff facilitator mediated the activity at all times.
  • Service: I used shoulder screws, bushings, and threaded inserts (tee-nuts) to make service as easy as possible. ¬†The syringes are held by a press-fit collar and can be removed without tools.


Handy Hydros (4)
Handy Hydros (2)
Handy Hydros (1)


SV: Completed all tasks from design to documentation.  Worked with Education staff to ensure their needs were met.