Installed on the site of Eero Saarinen’s North Christian Church in Columbus, Synergia is a public pavilion by the students of the IU School of Art, Architecture + Design in Bloomington, who were directed by me in my D475 design studio in Spring 2017 and in the summer of 2017 as volunteers. The graduate students of the IUPUI School of Engineering and Technology in Indianapolis, directed by Professor Andre Tovar and myself in our ME59700 course in Spring 2017 on designing complex origami-inspired structures, also participated at this project by conducting the structural analysis and optimization. Synergia is open to the public at Exhibit Columbus between August 26th and November 26th, 2017 in Columbus, Indiana.
Synergia embodies the reality of life, community, and harmony through its simple parts working together to create a complex and light-filled space. Sitting next to Eero Saarinen’s North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana, the translucent quality of the light found in Synergia in the daylight alludes to the hushed secondary light radiating from the perimeter of Saarinen’s structure. Colored LEDs further illuminate Synergia at night, creating an ephemeral atmosphere as Saarinen’s concrete façade serves as a backdrop. The interplay of light and shadow, acting in conjunction with the movements of compression and expansion, creates a space that fosters peace and reflection.
The generative seed for Synergia is a bisymmetric space-filling polyhedron that tessellates the space when stacked in interlocking layers. Over five hundred of the polyhedrons, measuring about two to three feet each, work together to form elongated hexagonal units. This hexagon geometry echoes the overall geometry of Saarinen’s mid-century modernist architecture and at the same time serves as the building block of a complex and diverse structure in a way that is similar to the development of biological forms, soap bubbles, and crystal patterns.
Synergia is constructed of translucent corrugated plastic sheets that are made from recycled plastic and are one hundred percent recyclable. The plastic boards were laser cut at Noblitt Fabricating in Columbus Indiana and then hand folded like origami to form each of the structural units in the studio at IU. With a thinkness of about 4mm, the plastic corrugated boards are super lightweight and can be easily bended along the flutes. The simple origami folds add significant structural strength to the otherwise light and flexible plastic sheet material. Furthermore, when connected together to form the overall installation, the folded hinges produce an interconnected and interlocking self-supporting space lattice that is light and yet structurally sound, eliminating the need for additional framing and assemblage and thus minimizing the material wastes.
The IU School of Art, Architectuare + Design is participating in Exhibit Columbus as a part of the University Installations together with five other schools including Ball State University, Ohio State University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Michigan. For more information about university installations at Exhibit Columbus, visit https://exhibitcolumbus.org/exhibition/university-installations.
Faculty: Jiangmei Wu (with Andre Tovar)
IUB Students: Amy Cunningham, Marguerite Fisher-Heath, Siqiao Gao, Hannah Holloway, Kylie Knipscheer, Guanyao Li, Tristin Moore, Anna Mui, Ariana Nunes, Michelle Smith, Emma Walsh, Ye Wang, Zhanhua Yan, Simin Yu, Lu Zhang, Jin Zhu
IUPUI Students: Aaron Berndt, Ryan Comer, Shweta Daule, Shantanu Sabade, Ashutosh Salunke, Pratik Shelke
Special thanks: I would like to thank many individuals, including my colleagues at IU SoAAD (Kelly Wilson, Marleen Newman, Peg Faimon, Ryan Mandell, Tai Rogers), Exhibit Columbus members (Janice Shimizu, Josh Coggeshall, Anne Surak and Richard McCoy), community members of Columbus (Tricia Gilson, Jerry Karr, and “Bill” who lives near the North Christian Church and who is helping to ensure that the lights are on every night), and my most dedicated students Tristin Moore and Guanyao Li. Thank you all very much for helping with this project during its ideation, fabrication, construction, and installation process.