I’m finally offering an elective class that I have been wanting to teaching in Spring 2020: Advance Architecture Drawing! I will be introducing parametric design to the students in Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture, and Design. I’m hoping this class will also attract students from the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. The projects will be ranging from designing small scale objects to large scale installations.
In the recent years, the culture of digital fabrication has heavily influenced the practice of architecture and interior design, as well as design pedagogy. This course aims to further develop students’ advanced digital design and modeling skills by considering the digital-physical workfl ow in the context of contemporary interior design. The main software will be Rhino and Grasshopper. Rhino is an 3D CAD program that uses NURBS mathematical model to represent curves and free-form surfaces in digital environment. Grasshopper is a visual programming language and environment that works with Rhino, Grasshopper allows you to quickly change fundamental attributes of a complicated model, to make complex formations through repetitions of simple forms, and to use mathematical functions to control or generate shapes. In addition to designing in Rhino and Grasshopper, students will have hands-on experiences with a range of digital fabrication tools such as 3D printer, laser cutter, and digital cutter. Through a combination of exercises and projects, the students will design a set of interior objects, from small-scale lighting and furniture to large-scale interior partitions and surfaces.
• To be familiar with the culture of digital fabrication in the context of contemporary interior design practice • To understand how algorithm and data can be incorporated into the development of fundamental design method and digital-physical work fl ow • To be competent in the development of the fundamental design method including research, critical thinking, reiterative design process, design criticism, design communication • To learn to incorporate the concept of digital-physical workflow into the development of the fundamental design method • To learn to integrate algorithm and digital-physical workflow with the development of the fundamental design method • To be familiar with the digital fabrication tools such as 3D printer, laser cutter and digital cutter.
Citation: Wu, J. (2108). From Paper Folding to Digital Modeling in Beginning Interior Architecture Studio, IDEC Exchange: A Forum for Interior Design Education, Winter 2018.
Paper folding is easy to do by hand and does not require sophisticated tools. The form generation in paper folding is a direct result of material manipulation through a series of actions by hand. While paper folding can be easily done by hand, describing paper folding scientifically and representing the morphology that happens when a flat sheet of paper is folded, however, requires complex mathematical and computational modeling. Current CAD technologies, such as 3D modeling tools such as Rhino and Revit, are inadequate for such a tactile design process. In courses such as Beginning Interior Architecture studios, it is extremely difficult for the beginning design students to generate innovative forms directly using 3D modeling tools, which they are just beginning to learn. However, when they are asked to work with pieces of paper using their hands in free experiments, they learn to discover new ideas and find new forms, which then inspire them to generate digital alternatives that can be used in various scales in their interior design activities.
In an introductory
interior design and architecture studio, paper folding was introduced to the
first year students to help them understand basic design principles such as
symmetry, repetition, and modality. The goal was to produce a small-scale paper
folded light sculpture that is volumetric and that can enclose a light source. The
project was divided into three small parts that serve as learning scaffolds.
In the first part, the students were asked to create small units of paper
folds from pieces of small square paper. Students were asked to draw simple
line drawings based on two-dimensional compositions they made in a previous
project using straight edges and compasses. They then were asked to give
mountain and valleys assignments to the line drawings and they started folding.
The students quickly found out that preconceived mountain and valley
assignments often didn’t give rise to successful volumetric paper folds.
Instead, they learned that folding paper was a very tactile experience and that
each paper fold works like a small mechanism. To manipulate these small paper
mechanics, one needed to cut, fold, pinch, pull, roll, tuck, and pop through a
series of freehand experiments, similarly in ways to how a sculptor works with
lumps of clay. While they started with some predesigned line drawings, they had
to add new crease lines and ignore some original lines in their new paper
folds. In the second part, the students were asked to connect four to eight units
of their paper folds together. Students were taught to connect the units by
using ways to make symmetries, such as translation, rotation, reflection,
glide-reflection. They learned that to connect units together, they must pay
attention to the boundary conditions of their paper folds. Complicate
boundaries of a paper fold might be difficult to connect in modular form. In
the third part, they were asked to use as many units as they needed to create
their final design. They learned that by connecting these small paper mechanisms,
they would end up with larger pieces of mechanisms which they need to
manipulate again by hand to create the final stable volumetric forms. In
addition, they were also taught to use polyhedral geometries, including
icosahedron, dodecahedron, rhombic dodecahedron, etc., to connect the units
into fixed three-dimensional volumes.
The beginning students
often achieved great results in making a paper light and they were very proud
of their work, which motivated them with later designs using digital tools. They
were sometimes asked to produce digital alternatives of their paper structures.
These digital alternatives were merely approximations of the paper fold
structures. The digital models can then be used later in their other interior
design projects either as small-scale light shades or as large-scale interior
In March 2018, I worked with two contractors and a group of volunteers to move the Synergia installation from the North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana to the Indiana University Bloomington campus. The volunteers included my former students Tristin Moore and Siqiao Gao, and Bloomington High School South students Dexter Wu-corts and Levy Burdine. The site was the nice and quiet green space between the Simon Hall, Chemistry building, the Lindley Hall, and the Kirkwood Hall. It took us about four days to complete the job. While Synergia was originally designed for the site at the North Christian Church designed by Eero Saarinen, it also fitted well on IUB campus. The white pristine geometry worked in contrast with the Collegiate Gothic style structures in the background. The installation definitely had caught the eyes and curiosities of students and faculty who happened to walk by the area. For one instance, Molecular and Celluar Biochemistry professor Adam Zlotnick took his entire class to see the pavilion as Synergia’s cellular structure resembled the viruses they had been study. For anther instance, biology student Ari Williams, found peace and serenity in the pavilion while playing some guitar. He was amazed at how the cellular structure enhanced the acoustic experience in the outdoor on windy spring days (video above, shot with a iphone).
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.
Students scoring the plastic board using a template by hand..
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.
Folding a piece of paper can be simple and doesn’t require any sophisticated tools. I often tell the students who participate my workshop that paper folding can do a lot more than computer CAD modeling. Since paper folding is unstable and flexible, manipulation of the paper surface to achieve depth and volume is dynamic. The fold stores kinetic energy, which allows the folded form to contract and unfurl. It can then be balanced, connected, hinged, suspended, pulled and popped up to alternate states of disequilibrium and equilibrium. Paper folding is unforgiving and honest. A folded form embeds the memory of a series of actions of scoring, creasing, twisting, wrapping, pressing, bending and folding. Unfolding folded paper reveals a patterned map of creating and generating. Paper folding is generative and evolving. It is difficult to describe an abstract folded form through its visual characteristics. Paper folding is improvisational and unpredictable. A simple fold has many possibilities and can generate many visual results, and it can only be discovered by folding.
About twenty students from the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University participated the workshop. The workshop was conducted in the gallery The students are from Interior Design, Architecture and other programs.
I often begin my process using a step-by-step procedure, or algorithm, first by hand only. I demonstrated this technique to the students. They started by folding smaller pieces of square paper into simple designs, and they then repeated the same steps for a multiple of times to create repetitions of these simple designs. And finally, they worked on connecting the folded pieces to create a larger form. The students learned that small seeds can be compounded and aggregated to create something that is a lot of complex than the original simple design.
In my Beginning Interior Architecture Studio in Fall 2016, co-taught with Jei Kim and Jon Racek, the first year design students were asked to use paper folding design methodology to understand basic design principles, such as unity, repetition, symmetry, contrast, etc. They were also requested to use the assembly and construction process in paper folding to produce a small scale light sculpture. The project was divided into three cohesive small parts that serve as scaffolds for the students. Before this project, the majority of students had never folded before and had never made any design objects. Therefore learning scaffolds were necessary.
In the first part, the students were asked to create small units of paper folds from pieces of small square paper based on simple line draws they made using straight edges and compasses. They were asked to explore these patterns in both bilateral and quadrant symmetries. They were given a couple of examples learn about how to assign mountain and valley folds to the lines patterns and then they were asked to turn their own line patterns into crease patterns by exploring various ways of folding and cutting by hand. The students were intimated at first as they were not comfortable working with their hands. They soon gained confidence when they observed how flat pieces of square paper changed into something that had sculptural depths.
A line pattern design. Student: Julia Gilstrap
A line pattern turned into foldable crease pattern. Student: Julia Gilstrap
Four unit drawings. Student: Julia Gilstrap
Four folded units. Student: Julia Gilstrap
In the second part, the students were asked to connect at least eight units of their paper folds. The goal was to generate somewhat seamless designs. Students were taught to connect the units by using ways to make the symmetric pattern in a plane, such as translation, rotation, reflection, glide-reflection. They were also taught to use polyhedron geometry to connect the units into spherical volumes. They studied platonic solids such as icosahedron and dodecahedron, Archimedean solids such as cuboctahedron and rhombicuboctahedrons, as well as Catalan solids such as rhombic dodecahedron and rhombic triacontahedron.
A single unit. Student: Abigail Stawick
A structure constructed by translational and gliding symmetries. Student: Abigail Stawick
A crease pattern. Student: Yuning Ding
A dodecahedron construction. Student: Yuning Ding
In the last part, the students were asked to add more units to create a volumetric paper sculpture. They were graded on the craftsmanship and the final lighted presentation. Many of the students turned in interesting works. Most students did a good job creating their units design. However, they had more difficulty connecting the units to generate structure volumes.
A crease pattern. Student: Noelle Zeichner
Folded Light. Student: Noelle Zeichner
An icosahedron construction. Student: Noelle Zeichner
Special thanks to Noelle Zeichner, Abigail Stawick, Julia Gilstrap and Yuning Ding for providing some of the pictures shown on this blog. For my Folded Light Art brand, please visit www.foldedlightart.com.
Citation: Wu, J. (2016). Materialization Matters: Weekend Workshop on Digital Fabrication and Interior Design, IDEC Exchange: A Forum for Interior Design Education, Spring 2016
This one credit hour weekend workshop introduced design students to tools, work-flow, and considerations in digital fabrication and its creative application in contemporary interior design. In recent years, the culture of custom digital fabrication has heavily influenced the practice of architecture, interior design, and design pedagogy. The focus of the workshop was to materialize a digital design to a 1:1 scale interior skin installation as a group. The learning goal of the workshop was to understand the basics of work-flow and considerations between digital design and physical making in the context of large-scale installation. Besides the hands-on making and learning, the students also had the opportunity to visit an industrial-scale fabrication shop, Noblitt Fabricating, in Columbus, Indiana.
The center of this workshop was the latest iteration of Ruga Interior Skin. The free-form geometric surface was modeled in Grasshopper and Rhino before the workshop. The main folding pattern was Yoshimura pattern. It was made up of 68 unique pieces of panels that were folded and connected to form a large semi-structural interior skin that stood about 8 feet in height, 15 feet in width and 12 feet in length. It was the first time I conducted this workshop, I was a bit nervous and not sure what to expect of the installation outcome. We started by folding the laser cut cardboard pieces, fabricated by Steve Dixon at Noblitt Fabricating, at 10 am on Saturday. By 1 pm, 68 unique pieces of cardboard were all folded and ready for assembly and installation. Because of the free-form geometric design, these 68 panels cannot be connected to a flat surface. The only way to connect these panels is to hang them sequentially in segments and to allow the gravity to fold the pre-scored mountain and valley crease lines while connecting them using rivets, nuts, and bolts. While this process proved to be a challenging task, the students in the workshop were enthusiastic. This hands-on experience required them to self-organize and figure out a system to piece together the panels. In three hours, the large interior skin installation was completed! What a great job! Special thanks go to Steve Dixon and to the following students who work extremely hard: Yueyang Chen, Madeline Collins, Anqi Fan, Flute Fu, Xinhui Fu, Renzhi Huang, Tianxing Shen, Erin Stump, Han Sun, Zhiyu Wang and Zhanhua Yan. Congratulations to you all!