Exhibit Columbus University Installation: Synergia

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Synergia at night, Columbus, Indiana. The building in the background is the North Christian Church by Eero Saarinen. Photography by Tony Vasquez

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.

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Synergia during the day, Columbus, Indiana. The building in the background is the North Christian Church by Eero Saarinen. Photography by Tony Vasquez
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Synergia during the day, Columbus, Indiana. Photography by Tony Vasquez

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.

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Synergia at night, Columbus, Indiana. Photography by Tony Vasquez
Synergia at night, Columbus, Indiana. Photography by Tony Vasquez
Synergia at night. Photography by Tony Vasquez.
Synergia at night. Photography by Tony Vasquez.

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.

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Bisymmetric space-filling polyhedron, the generative seed for Synergia. Photography by Tony Vasquez

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.

Credits:

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.

Body, Form, Material and Surface Making of Ruga Interior Skin

Citation:

Wu, J. (2017). Body, Form, Material and Surface Making of Ruga Interior Skin, Interiors: Design/Architecture/Culture, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp. 73-87. 2017

Link to full paper in PDF

Abstract

In design history, the concept of ‘skin’ has been used to refer to the outermost tissue that encloses a physical body. So, if the concept of ‘skin’ can be understood as a generator of ideas for interiors that lie in between the flexible spaces around the body and the rigid spaces within the building, what new form and context can an interior skin take in adding to the contemporary interiority? Borrowing from the metaphor of ‘skin’ in fashion, interior design and architecture, Ruga Interior Skin (RIS) explores the ambiguous and conceptual realm connecting the act of wearing, inhabiting and its relationship between body, form, material, and surface-making of a novel interior semi-structural wall and partition. ‘Ruga’ is the Latin word for making wrinkles, creases, pleats, and folds. RIS is inspired by the use of wrinkling and folding to create flexible frameless topological forms that can be suspended in a way that is similar to a piece of cloth or textile. Both flexible and rigid, RIS draws the connection between the body and the interior surface, placing the dichotomy of permanent vs. ephemeral, solid vs. light, and material vs. digital at the center of the concept.

Ruga Swan at Clay Center for Arts and Sciences, Charleston, VA
Ruga Swan at Clay Center for Arts and Sciences, Charleston, VA

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 are 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 (LHC), 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 rollout 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-tech 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)

 

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.

C481 Workshop on Digital Fabrication and Interior Design

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This post has been rewritten and published in IDEC Exchange: A Forum for Interior Design Education, Spring 2016.

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!

(C)olumn: Data Visualization in Public Sculpture through Participatory Process

Commissioned by the city of Bloomignton, Indiana, (C)olumn project realizes complex data visualization in the form of public sculpture through a participatory process that uses of social media and web technologies. The project is a collaboration with my colleague Jon Racek.

(C)olumn at night. Photo courtesy: Jon Racek
(C)olumn at night. Photo courtesy: Jon Racek

Participatory public art is an approach to making art in which the public are engaged directly in the creative process, changing their roles from being merely viewers to creators. Participatory art challenges the notion that professional classes of artists/designers are dominating the form-making process and that the public are the passive observers. But how can the public be effectively engaged in the form-making process, particularly in the making of a monolithic-like gateway sculpture? Can the social media and web technologies mediate the public’s direct participation? (C)olumn project intends to understand the relationship between public participation, data visualization and form making in public art.

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(C)olumn details. Photo courtsey: Jon Racek
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(C)olumn details. Photo courtsey: Jon Racek

Approximately 11 feet in height and 5 feet in width,  (C)olumn  is a tapered “C”- shaped architectural room with myriads of words about Bloomington cutout and inscribed onto steel panels. The “C” in the name “(C)olumn” represents the values of connectivity, culture and community.   The design is meant to act as an “urban room”, an architectural folly that allows passers-by to stop their busy lives, stop, enter the (C)olumn site and look in a variety of ways.

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Fabrication process. Photo courtesy: Jon Racek.
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(C)olumn installation. Photo courtsey: Jon Racek

Bloomington public was directly involved in order to come up with a visual concept that truly represented Bloomington community, a college town with a population of roughly 80,000. During a three-month period, Jon and I set up web interfaces to solicit inputs from Bloomington community through social media sites. Answer Garden, a free web 2.0 tool, was used to collect the words from the residents anonymously and posted their words instantaneously. These words were then displayed in a word cloud format in which the size of each input word indicated its popularity and frequency among Bloomington residents. Hundreds of residents submitted inputs in Answer Garden. The final word cloud, consisted of roughly three hundred unique words ranging from words like “Over-priced” to “Basketball,” were collected at the end of the three-month period and were used as the base for a final design that was produced in CAD programs such as Rhino. This finished word cloud design, was then sent to a local sheet fabricator to be laser cut onto six large ¼ inch thick steel panels. These large panels were then rolled into the three dimensional forms and were welded into one structure.

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Website that calls out for participatory design.
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Website that calls out for participatory design.

Sitting quietly next to the historic park and illuminated at night, (C)olumn is brimming with the energy of vibrant night scenes of the nearby BEAD district, full of words from the people of the community.

Ruga Swan at Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, Charleston, West Virginia

A few weeks ago I traveled to Charleston, West Virginia for a new installation of Ruga Swan at Clay Center for the Arts and Science, a 240,000-square-foot facility dedicated to promoting performing arts, visual arts, and the sciences. The installation went extremely well and fast. The staffs of Clay Center were very experienced and  professional. It took less than four hours to suspend Ruga Swan’s huge wing-like structure. Now Ruga Swan is siting at the center of a 20,000-square-foot exhibition space what is dedicated to eight other visionary origami artists including Erik Demain and Martin Demaine (both from MIT), Vicent Floderer (France), Paul Jackson (UK/Israel), Robert Lang, Yuko Nishimura (Japan), Richard Sweeney (UK) and Miri Golan (Israel).

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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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