Folded Light in Beginning Interior Architecture Studio

fullsizerender-1_editedIn 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.

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.

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.

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.

Folded Light Art at SIGGRAPH 2016

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Folded Light Art, the design brand that I have established since 2013,  was chosen by SIGGRAPH Studio committee to be highlighted at SIGGRAPH 2016 in Anaheim, California. It was very interesting and exciting for me to be invited to SIGGRAPH, the world’s largest, most influential annual event in computer graphics and interactive techniques. At SIGGRAPH, participants were invited to have hands-on experience in paper folding and making small-scale folded lights.

The curator of SIGGRAPH Studio this year was Gerry Derksen, who is Associate Professor in Visual Communication Design at the Winthrop University. He described to me that there have been increasing interests at the culture of physical making with tangible materials among academics and professionals who primarily work in digital environment. Digital environment, unlimited by its virtual power, is quite different from paper folding, which is bounded by material realities and sets of mathematical and physical rules. So why do people who primarily work in digital environment become interested at paper folding? While paper folding can be simply done by hands, to design original crease patterns for paper folding is not so simple. Furthermore, to simulate the paper folding in digital space indeed is a very complicate computational task. Therefore paper folding is a perfect medium that bridges the digital world and the analog space. Understanding how paper folding works both in digital and analog environments might provide us with new insights on creating innovative digital tools to mitigate the difference between the virtual and the real.

Folded Light Art attracted great interests from SIGGRAPH community. Pieces of cardstock paper were laser cut and scored with sets of pre-designed crease patterns on site and were handed to participants to fold and assemble. During the five-day event at SIGGRAPH, there were such high demands and interests at Folded Light Art that laser-cut paper ran out frequently. The most common question I received from the participants at SIGGRAPH was how I came up with an original origami design . My answer to these questions was always the same: I came up with the design by folding and playing with a piece of paper by hand first.

Many thanks to Adam Roth, Haodan Tan, and many other student volunteers at SIGGRAPH for helping with this installation. Without all your help, the installation won’t have been possible.

Folding into Light: Sustainability, Making, and Materials

Citation:

Wu, J. (2015). Folding into Light: Material, Form, and Making, International Journal of Design Objects, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp. 34-45, 2015

Link to PDF

Environmental issues (such as pollution, climate change, and natural resource depletion) are increasingly becoming the core factors in consumer manufacturing industries.  Designers, manufacturers and marketing strategists are more conscious of taking account of sustainable product development in their design strategies (Kloepffer, 2003). Today, more and more products are designed by reducing the amount of materials and energy used, and by increasing the recyclable content and its potentiality for reuse. This trend has resulted in sustainable product designs that incorporate the use of green materials. One such green material is paper, due to its high level of recyclable contents. Paper is often thrown away or recycled after one-time or short-term use because of its fragility and commonality. Due to recent advances in the material science of paper development, paper has started to be used for technical components and for three dimensional products (Schmidt, 2009). According to Schmidt, technical paper is a new type of material that is manufactured in a similar way to conventional paper and consists of similar raw materials. It is processed and shaped using the same technologies or processes as conventional paper and possesses qualities similar to conventional paper, such as its feel, weight, and format. Technical paper that is water- and weather-proof, tear-proof, and chemical resistant, is now being used for the manufacturing of light-weight and long lasting products. Product designers have begun to turn their attention to this cheap and common material and have started to recognize the sustainable value in it. For example, renowned architects such as Frank Gehry and Shigeru Ban and renowned designer Issey Miyaki have used paper to produce their furniture, buildings, and even fashion.

Paper may be cut, scored, torn, rolled, or folded. In particular, folded paper design, using techniques that are similar to traditional origami, have inspired designers to come up with innovative design products. One of the early design explorations through paper folding was found in Josef Albers’ preliminary design class in the Bauhaus (Wingler & Stein, 1969). When a flat piece of paper is folded, the stiffness of the paper is significantly increased. When paper is folded in certain tessellation patterns, the mechanical behavior of the paper is altered as it becomes deployable and kinetic. Origami-inspired paper designs have been the subjects of many scientific research projects.  For example, mathematical theorems concerning geometric properties in folded paper have been studied (Demaine & O’Rourke, 2008). Computer algorithms have been developed to help fold desirable objects and to understand the best ways to fold tray cartons (Mullineux, 2010). Finite element analysis has been used to study the behavior of paper during the folding process (Beex & Peerlings, 2009). Curved folding and creasing have been investigated. Many more research projects focus on understanding the computational complexity and geometric algorithms of paper folding and unfolding. While research into paper folding has been conducted in computer science, mathematics, engineering and material science, little research has been conducted on paper folding in the field of design practice. This article is an attempt to fill this gap by systemically exploring practical means of using paper folding in product design in order to understand the making process and the materiality of paper in product design.

The goal of this paper is to understand the overlapping issues of sustainability, making techniques, and material choices by applying the art of paper folding in product design and the development of light sheds. Geometric tessellated patterns that can produce flat-foldable and rigid-foldable designs are focused, and variations of these crease patterns are explored to generate a variety of folded designs that can be used toward light sheds. A wide variety of durable conventional paper and technical paper materials that are appropriate for light sheds are compared and tested in terms of their material properties, functionalities and sustainability attributes. In order to investigate such issues, we will examine a lighting brand, Folded Light Art. Currently technical production processes for cutting and etching sheet materials, such as digital cutting or laser cutting, as well as traditional hand folding, are used to produce the scale paper models and 1:1 scale prototypes for the works of Folded Light Art. Luminary hardware is fabricated at local sheet metal shops. Potential CNC technologies of creasing and folding sheet materials are further explored in this article.

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Ruga Architectural Skin (RAS): Towards Building Smart Self-Folding Topology

Citation:

Wu, J., Anwar, S. (2016). Ruga Interior Skin (RIS): Towards Building Smart Self-Deployable Structures,” International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp. 17-30, 2016

Link to PDF

In architectural design, skin is a familiar metaphor for building envelopes that provide flexible layers of protection and are often dependent upon rigid structural supports. With advances in material technology and sustainable development, architectural skins are changing, creating new topological forms, providing new visual and tactile experiences, and becoming the conceptual bridge between our body and our environment. Can a three-dimensional architectural skin be self-assembled or self-folded from two-dimensional sheet material? Can this architectural skin be made of non-rigid material and yet provide semi-rigid structural support? What are the design considerations, tools, techniques, methods and processes of building such an architectural skin? And how can a new approach to developing an innovative architectural skin contribute to our ongoing search for energy-efficient building design, self-assembling deployable shelter, as well as sustainable construction techniques? This paper will introduce Ruga Architectural Skin (RAS), an ongoing research project exploring the potentiality of a new type of architectural skin.

“Ruga” is a Latin word for making winkles, creases, and folds, and the word has been recently used by material scientists to describe the various physical qualities of these various folded states. RAS is inspired by the use of folding to create complex topological forms from flat thin sheet material with simple and low cost tools. Folded forms have inherently rigid properties and at the same time are flexible. In comparison to other fabrication techniques, folding or bending allows for complex and innovative structures formed with simple and low cost tools at the point of assembly. From flat sheet material, folded designs can be easily deployed into a three-dimensional volume and then can be collapsed back to a two-dimensional flat shape that is much smaller for ease shipping and storage.

Many folded designs are inspired by origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. The original purpose of origami is to obtain various shapes, ranging from animals figures to objects, both abstract and figurative, by folding a flat sheet of uncut paper. Constructing a three-dimensional surface from two-dimensional sheet material in origami has inspired designers and engineers to come up with novel ways to fabricate, assemble, store and morph structures that are safe, efficient and energy saving (Edwin, Hartl, Malak, & Lagoudas, 2014), from collapsible medical stents for hearts (Kuribayashi et al., 2006) to airbags for cars. In architectural design, one of the earliest examples of exploration of paper folding and topological design of architectural system was conducted by Ron Resch (Ronald D Resch, 1973). In the last two decades, folding, both as a theoretical idea and as a means for form generation in architecture, has inspired a new generation of architects and designers to create morphogenesis architectural volumes with continuous variations and interpolations that overlaps gaps and avoid fracture (Lynn, 2004). Morphological architectural structures are starting to make use of one of the main characteristics of folding design – the kinetic ability to deploy and collapse in three-dimensional space (Liapi, 2002; Motro, 2009). More recently, researchers have been looking into using active materials that can convert various form of energy into mechanical work for folding to create self-folding (Edwin et al., 2014). However, low cost architectural skins that are deployable, configurable and that are in large scales, continue to be very challenging for architects and designers.

This architectural skin comes from two-dimensional sheet materials that can be pre-fabricated off-site and then shipped flat to the site, thus tremendously reducing the required amount of energy and resources in comparison to conventional structures. Once arriving on the site, it can be self-assembled or self-folded, suspended and reconfigured differently into various semi-structural surfaces. Although this architectural skin has roots in a paper folding art form, it proposes not only to significantly advance the technology of the art form, but also to transform this technology to the self-assembling structures that can potentially shift the paradigm in building temporary architecture.

This paper starts with a discussion of the application of origami in self-assemble and deployable architectural topologies. While objective of this paper is towards building smart self-folding architectural topology, this paper currently focuses on identifying the design considerations, tools, techniques, methods and processes of making and installing of several 1:1 scale mock-ups in corrugated cardboard, testing of varies materials, and surveying of the self-folding mechanism design and remote micro-processor control system design. Pending funding opportunity will allow us to build a 1:1 scale smart architectural skin prototype.

This research is a collaboration between Jiangmei Wu and Sohel Anwar.

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