Exercise: Nine-Square


Nine-Square Problem is a classic exercise given to students studying architecture. It was developed by John Hejduk while at the University of Texas in the 1950's. Hejduk brought it with him when he went to the Cooper Union in New York. The exercise and its many variations have been adopted by many architecture schools around the country. 

The exercise emerged from the modernist movement which was becoming very established in the architecture of the post-WWII years. The movement could be characterized as minimal, abstract, and geometric, The work tended to be lacking in material expression; often everything was white and had an absence of texture. 

The Nine-Square Problem is useful to conceptually explore the relationships of columns, beams, and walls. It is also about spatial composition, spatial definition and systems. This exercise is based on the nine-square problem.

You will be constructing a frame of columns and beams in Revit. You will then begin to fill the frame with with planes and other forms. 




If you go to Google and search for images under the search terms "nine-square problem hejduk". You will see many variations on the problem.


Objectives/Outcomes and Assessment Criteria

Students will acquire and demonstrate:  1.) technical competency in working with modeling tools in Revit, 2.) sense of craft through precision and care in the presentation of the work, 3.)design aptitude in the ability to solve a formal and spatial  problem and explore possible solutions, 4.) judgment in the composition of objects within a context. 5.) consideration of limitations and constraints in the problem solving process.


NS.1. Before you begin working on the Revit portion, construct a site plan in AutoCAD. Open AutoCAD. Begin a new drawing. Name the file with your name followed by SitePlan. Change the units to Architectural. All work can be drawn on layer 0. Draw a 1,000'-0" x 1,000'-0" square. Inside this square you will be drawing city blocks, streets and buildings. Blocks are 200' x 400' Streets are 40'-0" wide. Set your layer to Buildings and draw the footprints of buildings. The size and shape of each building is your choice. Leave a 100' x 80' area close to the center of big square open. This will be the site where your Revit structure goes. Save and close your file.

NS.2. Open Revit and create a new file using an Architectural Template. Save the file as your name followed by Nine-Square. Julia Starr would name her file JuliaStarr_Nine-Square.

NS.3. Link the AutoCAD site plan file to your new Revit project. You will be using the file to construct another context model, but this time in Revit.

NS.4. Right-click on in the drawing area and Zoom Out.

NS.5. Zoom out until you see both your site and the four elevation targets. Right-click again and zoom so that the elevation targets and the site fill the screen. The elevation targets are highlighted in yellow below. The site is indicated with an orange square.

NS.6. Move the elevation targets so they are on the four sides of your site. Click on a target and the Move tool. Then drag the elevation target to a new position. You can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move objects gradually. You must click in the square portion of the target to move it. 

When you click on the elevation target, the Modify Elevations ribbon will appear. The move tool can be found on that ribbon.

NS.7. Make masses for your ground plane and for the surrounding buildings. 

NS.8. As described in the video, click on the In-Place Mass icon on the Massing & Site ribbon. Accept the visibility default.

NS.9. Draw the footprint of the building plan.

NS.10. Click on the Create Form icon to extrude the shape. Adjust the height of the extrusion. Recommended heights are between 12'-0" and 36'-0".

NS.11. You will just need enough masses built to surround your site. Site indicated with red X below. You can add more later if necessary. Upload your Revit file to the Google Drive.

NS.12. Insert a grid of column lines. The video calls for 10 rows and columns. Make 13 instead.


NS.13. Go to Level 1 by selecting it from the Project Browser on the left. Begin by inserting one grid line. If the masses from your context model do not appear in the Level 1 view (or any other view), you can turn them on by checking the Mass box in the Visibility Graphics window.


NS.14. Make an array of 13 instances of the column line. Select the column line to view the ribbon below. Be sure to uncheck the Group and Associate box. Make the spacing between grid lines 3'-7.5"


NS.15. Repeat for 1 rows of column lines. Change the numbers as shown below by clicking on them.


NS.16. Next adjust and create an additional level. This can be done from any elevation.

NS.17. Now you are ready to insert some components. Return to Level 1 by clicking on that view in the Project Browser.

NS.18. A number of components are pre-loaded into the Architectural template. Components belong to families. To see the components and their families scroll down the Project Browser to Families. Click on the (+) symbol to see lists of loaded families. You will be asked to insert columns into your Revit file. In the Architectural template, rectangular columns are already loaded into the project.


NS.19. Insert a column by selecting Column: Architectural from the Build panel on the Architecture ribbon.


NS.20. The currently loaded columns will appear in the Properties window. A number of rectangular columns appear, but they are too large for our needs so we will need to make smaller ones within the Rectangular Column family.

NS.21. Select one of the columns and click on the Edit Type button to create a smaller column.


NS.22. Click on Duplicate in the Type Properties window.

NS.23. Name the new type.

NS.24. In the Type Parameters window you can change parameters like dimensions. Our column will be 10" x 10". Change the values for Depth and Width in the window. The height will be specified when you locate the columns. Click OK when done.

NS.25. To insert the column return to the Build panels of the Architecture ribbon.

NS.26. Select your new column type from the pull-down list.

NS.27. Locate a column a the lower left intersection of grid lines. 

NS.28. From the South Elevation you can see the columns with its default settings. The column has been selected. Its parameter settings are visible from the Properties window.


NS.29. Parameters can be changed in the Properties window. Change the settings so that the column is offset from Level 3 by 1'-0". The floors and beams will sit on top of the column. 

NS.30. Return to the Level 1 view. Click on the column and select the Array tool. Change the settings as follows. Snap to the first grid line from the left and then the 5th so that the spacing is 14'-6".


NS.31. Array the four columns to create a 4 x 4 grid. You can select the four columns using a window.

NS.32. To see the grid of column in 3D, change to a 3D view.

NS.33. Revit has beam components that can be loaded into your project and placed in your model. For this exercise we are less interested in the construction means and methods and are more interested in the form and space generated. Therefore, we will be using a floor component to generated floors and beams. Now that you have a grid of columns, you can begin to think about spaces within the frame. You are asked to add floors and walls within the frame. The shape and arrangement of the floors and walls is your choice. One goal of the exercise is to articulate spaces within the frame. The purpose of the structure is unimportant.

The video below will cover how you can create horizontal surfaces like floors and beams.

NS.34. Go to Level 2 and begin adding floors and beams. 

NS. 35. The video below will cover how you can insert walls in Revit. 

NS.36. Next go to your Level views and begin adding walls. Attempt to generate some enclosures within the frame. Walls can be one-story or two-story elements. No windows or doors are needed. Use the Edit Profile tool to make openings as necessary. When prompted, go to an elevation view to make the profile revisions.



NS.37. Add a roof plane or planes at Level 3 using the generic floor plane used on Level 2.

NS.38. Stairs and railings are components that can be added to your Revit project. The video below will cover how you can bring stairs and railings into your project.

NS.39. Insert a stair or stairs connecting your Levels. The previous video shows a straight run, but the configuration is your choice. Insert railings at floor edges where no walls occur. 

NS.40. Upload your Revit file to the Google Drive. 

NS.41. Perspective views can be generated using the Camera tool. The video below shows how to set up a camera and make adjustments to the view.

NS. 42. Create a total of four camera views. Two views should be within or very close to the grid of columns. One view must be a view showing the composition in context at street level. One view must be an aerial view looking down at the composition and showing the context surrounding the site.

NS.43. A number of materials are already loaded into the Revit model. Additional materials can be loaded into the project or you can create a new material. Materials can be assigned to the component categories in the project. Materials can also be editted. The video below shows you how to create materials, assignment them to categories, and how to edit existing materials.

NS.44. Assign a material to the walls, floors, columns, stairs and railings. You are welcome to create a material or use a predefined one. 

NS.44. Alter the color of the material assigned to the Mass category.

NS.45. Save your file before proceeding to the next step.

NS.46. Render your camera views.  You are welcome to make changes to the settings as you like or leave the default settings. Begin with the draft setting and make changes as necessary. 

NS.47. If you are pleased with the draft view, run your rendering at a higher rendering setting. The High setting is the minimum level.  You are encouraged to render at the highest possible setting. IMPORTANT. Make sure that you have turned on the Mass category. This can be done in the Visability Graphics within the Properties window. The surrounding buildings should appear. Also, there should be a ground plane that receives shadows as shown in the image under the next instruction.

NS.48. There are a few ways to save your rendered views. One way is Save the image to the project. 

Give it a name. 

It will appear in the Project Browser.

NS.49. To create an image file from a view that has been saved to the project, go to the rendered view. From the menu browser (big R), choose Export, choose Image and Animation, choose Image and provide a name for the view.

NS.50. Another way is to export the file to a separate image file after you have rendered the view. To save your image click on the Export button. Name your renderings with your name followed by NineSquareView1, 2, 3 & 4. Shelley Clemson would name her first file ShelleyClemson_NineSquareView1.

For all 4 cameras, save the view to the project and create an image file outside the project. 

Change the scale of the view so it is not to scale. Click on the view in the Project Browser. Rich-click on the scale at the bottom, and choose Custom. Change the Display Name as shown. 

NS. 51. Upload your Revit file (Save it first) and your four rendered images to your Google Drive folder. 

NS. 52. Create a topographic surface by going to the Site view in the Project Browser.


NS.53. Go to Massing and Site and select Toposurface.

NS.54. Place a point at each corner of your site plan. This will establish a surface of earth material as a base for your site.

NS.55. For the next steps, you will be setting up a Presentation sheet. A sheet like this might be used to make a presentation for a class or client. The sheet will include two plans, two sections, and four rendered images. The process involves formatting a sheet, dragging views to the sheet and editing the views and graphics to make a clear and logical arrangement. Begin by watching the videos below. 

NS.56. The Level 1 and Level 2 plans will be included on your sheet. Adjust the crop window of your plans.

NS.57. Create two sections. One must be cut in the north-south direction, and one must be cut in the east-west direction.

NS.58. Verify that, Level 1, Level 2 and your sections are at a scale of 1/8”=1’-0”.

NS.59. Fill the walls, floors, columns and topography will a light gray solid fill.

NS.60. Revit allows you to add lines as if you were drawing manually. Add hidden lines for any overhead planes on Level 1 and Level 2. Begin by turning on the Level 2 underlay while you are on the Level 1 plan.


Add the lines using a hidden linetype for any objects that are overhead.

NS.61. Turn off the categories for the column grid and the level datums on your plans and sections.

NS.62. Create a titleblock that is 22” x  34”. Right-click on Sheets and select New Sheet. Click on Load. From the Titleblock folder select the 22" x 34" sheet. 

NS.63. Edit the titleblock by clicking on the titleblock, and clicking on Edit family. Erase all of the content on the titleblook except the border as shown below. Load the revised titleblock into the project.

NS.64. Drag the plans, sections and rendered views to the sheet. Refer to the videos above for guidance with the next few steps. 

NS.65. Adjust the crop views as required.

NS.66. Adjust the locations of the detail titles as required.

NS.67. Align views to make a clean, well-organized sheet. View types should be kept together (i.e. levels together, sections together, and rendered images together). Detail numbers should be left to right and top to bottom.You can change the number as shown below. Click on the detail title, and change the number in the Properties window.

NS.68. Print your sheet to a pdf.

Name the pdf as shown below.

NS.69.Upload the Revit file and the pdf to your Google Drive folder. 

(exercise in progress)