Upcoming Exhibition: Light Harvest

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A photograph of one of the three chains of Light Harvesting Complex. Photo courtesy of Kyle Overton

Light Harvest will be part of a group exhibit, (Re)imagining Science at Grunwald Gallery at Indiana University. It is also part of Themester 2016 exhibitions that is centered on the theme of Beauty. The show opens on Oct 14th 2016.

This project is inspired by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s work on form and growth and the structural biology. In 1917, Thompson first published his magnum opus “On Growth and Form,” with a second edition appeared in 1942. Thompson studied the system of forms and structures found in all species of nature. He was the first bio-mathematician who used mathematical and geometric analysis to study the myriad living forms as a product of dynamics at work at cellular and tissue level within all organisms. For Thompson, the beautiful world we live in can be understood as an ethereal palpitation of waves of energy making up all things. Thompson’s book has inspired generations of artists and designs in search of beauty found in natural structures that reach into vastness and smallness beyond our human sensory range.

Proteins are essential to all forms of life on earth. Without proteins there would be no life as we know it. Proteins are small molecular machines with unique folding structures. Their various functions rely on their proper structural architecture; this is called the structure-functional relationship. Protein structures cannot be seen with the naked eye, therefore structural biologists use X-ray Crystallography to determine the structure of proteins, which can be visualized in 3D. This allows not just analyzing the folding structure to understand a protein’s function; it also reveals the beauty of nature’s design on the atomic level.

The particular protein that is presented in Light Harvest is called Light Harvesting Complex, which is the solar sail of the photosynthesis components in plants and some micro-organisms that uses bundled sunlight and together with water to create sugar and oxygen, thus providing the basis for life on this planet. It is made of three amino acid chains with 207 amino acids in each of the chains. Computer algorithm-based program Grasshopper was used to create the scaffolding of the three-dimensional protein chain. 642 pieces of roll out patterns, of which 207 were unique, were laser-cut and etched at Noblitt Fabricating in Columbus Indiana and were hand-folded and assembled at my studio at Smith Research Center. The material is high-tec kozo, a type of Japanese-made paper that comes from renewable mulberry trees.

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Layout of three canopies of Light Harvest at Smith Research Center

Video projection mapping technologies will be used to bring the light, colors, and the interactivity to live. For the artistic meanings and the science behind Light Harvest, please come to the show on Oct 14th and make sure to check out www.foldedlightart.com for more information.

Acknowledgement: This project is supported by New Frontier of Creativity and Scholarship and the Grunwald Gallery of Art at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

Project Credits: 

  • Science: Susanne Ressl (Assistant Professor, Structural Biology, Indiana University)
  • Technology: Kyle Overton (Ph.D. student, HCID, Indiana University)
  • Fabrication: Steve Dixon (Noblitt Fabricating, Columbus, Indiana)
  • Production: Siqiao Gao (Undergraduate student, Interior Design, Indiana University)

 

Boreas: Flat-foldable Parametric Design

Citation:

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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Chromatic Points of Light: Form Finding through Computational Physical Simulation

Chromatic Points of Light is a proposal for a public art installation. The project is based on  my interests in form finding through computational physical simulation. The main tool used is Kangaroo, a plug-in for Rhinoceros that work within Grasshopper interface. Kangaroo is developed by Daniel Piker, who used to work at the Specialist Modelling Group (SMG) at Foster + Partners. Essentially, Kangaroo is a collection of algorithms that simulates certain aspects of the behavior of real-world materials and objects, enabling geometric forms to be shaped by material properties and applied physical forces such as spring forces and gravity forces.

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A rendering of Chromatic Points of light
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A rendering of Chromatic Points of light
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Detail of rendering of Chromatic Points of light

The minimal surface found in Chromatic Points of Light is the result of simulations of spring forces on a mesh surface. The main material proposed for this tensile structure is some type of architectural fabric. Potential fabrics might includ vinyl coated polyester (PVC), Teflon coated fiberglass (PTFE), or HDPE, a high density polyethylene mesh. In addition, digitally controlled LEDs is proposed to wash the canvas of this architectural mesh with ephemeral and changing patterns of light.