Boreas: Flat-foldable Parametric Design


Wu, J. (2016). Boreas: Flat-foldable Parametric Design. Proceedings of the Interior Design Educators Council Annual Meeting, Portland, Oregon

Origami has inspired many designers and engineers to come up with novel ways to fabricate, assemble, store and morph objects and structures that are safe, efficient and energy saving from collapsible medical stents for hearts to airbags for cars. However, coming up with flat foldable and collapsible volumetric design of any arbitrary shape is continuing to be a great challenge to designers. Boreas project attempts to understand how to combine origami principles and parametric design process in form-finding, fabricating and assembling collapsible volume in a case study of folded light art.

The seed for the form genesis of Boreas is an origami Waterbomb module, a flat-foldable origami tessellation whose creation is credited to computer scientist and mathematician Ron Resch. In Boreas, this Waterbomb origami module is transformed by a simple truncating operation and is further digitally manipulated. Through an algorithm based design process this simple module seed is rhythmically repeated in a series of definitions and mathematical functions in the software program Grasshopper so as to create complex assemblies that is flat-foldable and collapsible. By changing the mathematical parameters in the algorithmic structure, a myriad of distortions and transformations are generated in order to study the relationship between form, structure, and global flat-foldability.

A symmetrical design is chosen for final fabrication in this case study. Symmetrical design results in a more simplified fabrication process and an overall reduction of material consumption. 128 three-dimensional modules, of which only eight are unique, are unrolled into two dimensional shapes, modified by adding assembly details, and nested onto large sheets of High-Tec Kozo for digital cutting. This entire digital workflow is accomplished through the very same algorithmic structure that generates the forms, thus streamlining the process from form finding to digital fabrication and assembly. The resulting two dimensional forms are then folded by hand and assembled with small plastic buttons.

Hi-tec Kozo is a type of tear-free Shoji paper, which has a three-layer structure, with eco-friendly polyester film as core and Kozo Washi on both sides.  Kozo Washi is a type of renewable material that is made from the inner bark of Kozo, a type of mulberry tree that can be sustainably harvested each year. Unlike conventional paper manufacturing that contributes heavily to water, land, and air pollution, the manufacturing of Kozo Washi borrows from traditional hand-made paper processes and techniques and uses very little chemicals. The result is a type of paper that is much stronger and greener than conventional paper.

Boreas is part of the Anemoi Light Art collection. Visually similar to the soft and swaying body structure of the sea anemone (in Greek, Anemoi means “winds” and Anemone means “daughter of the wind”), Borea, doesn’t require any structural support to hold up its volumetric frame. When suspended and illuminated, Boreas sways into ephemeral and gentle patterns of light and shadow, softening their surroundings with pristine, mathematical geometry and rich, natural textures.


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