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.

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.


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.

Washi Art + Design at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center

Washi Art + Design at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, Bloomington, Indiana

Washi Art and Design, an international paper art exhibition, is the first group exhibition I curated and organized. The show runs from August 26th to September 21, 2017, at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center in Bloomington, Indiana. The participating artists are Yuri Kawai (Japan), Sachiko Kinoshita (Japan), Amanda Ross (U.S.), Rowland Ricketts (U.S.), Koji Shibazaki (Japan), Jenny Stopher (U.S.), Mikao Suzuki (Japan), Ruigan Zhou (China), and myself.

The Exhibition is focused on the theme of Washi and other paper art. Washi paper is made from the long inner fibers of three plants: Kozo (mulberry tree), Mitsumata, and Gampi. Due to these raw materials and the traditional craft techniques, Washi papermaking has no adverse environmental impact. The paper is very durable and can last as long as a few hundred years.  In Japan, Washi has played a significant role in the lifestyle and culture of the Japanese people. In addition to its more common uses in stationary and in the fine arts, Washi is used in many different cultural activities such as in religious and ceremonial events. Its fabric-like quality makes it suitable for applications in fashion, interior lighting, and interior furnishing. Though there is a long history of Washi papermaking in Japan, today only a few Washi papermakers are continuing their papermaking traditions, and Professor Koji Shibazaki’s Washi research lab at Aichi University of Arts is one of them.

A Surihaku (gold foil painting) workshop was conducted by artist Mikako Suzuki at the Waldron Arts Center. For more information about the workshop, please visit here.

The exhibition and workshop are supported in part by a workshop grant from Indiana University’s College Arts & Humanities Institute.

Washi paper light by Professor Koji Shibazaki of Aichi University of Arts
Jiangmei Wu explaining to Professor Katy Borner about the intricate Kirikane art by Japanese artist Mikako Suzuki as Professor Hamid Ekbia watched on
Japanese textile artist Sachiko Kinoshita’s Swing Circle is made of yarn and Kozo paper fiber

Method for Folding Flat, Non-rigid Materials to Create Rigid, Three-dimensional Structure


Wu. J. (October 31, 2017). Method for Folding Flat, Non-rigid Materials to Create Rigid, Three-dimensional Structures. Patent No: US 9,803,826 B2. Washington DC: The United States Patent and Trademark Office

Published_Patent in PDF

Priority Claim: The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent App. No. 61/893,519, filed Oct. 21, 2013, the entire disclosure of which is hereby expressly incorporated herein by reference.

Field: The present disclosure relates generally to creating rigid three-dimensional structures by folding flat, non-rigid materials. More particularly, the present disclosure relates to a method of folding a non-rigid material with a score or crease pattern into a three-dimensional structure for covering a light source.

Applying Helical Triangle Tessellations in Folded Light Art (Bridges Conference Paper)


Wu, J. (2017). Applying Helical Triangle Tessellation in Folded Light Art. In D. Swart, C Séquin. & K. Fenyvesi (Eds.), Proceedings of Bridges 2017: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (pp. 383-386), Phoenix, Arizona: Tessellation Publishing


This article describes how I created a collection of lamps made of folded sheets of material using helical triangle tessellations, which are also called Nojima patterns. I started by working with a periodic helical triangle pattern to fold a piece of light art that is shaped in a hexagonal column. I continued by modifying the periodic pattern into a semi-periodic design by adding variations so that the tessellation could be folded into a light art that is shaped in a twisted column. I further developed tessellations that consisted of self-similar helical triangles by using a geometric construction method. These self-similar helical triangles form algorithmic spirals. I folded the tessellation design into a work of light art that is shaped in a conical hexagonal form.

External Links:


Link to PDF


2017 Mathemacal Art Exhibition Awards

light_torus_night_1.jpgThe 2017 Mathematical Art Exhibition Awards were made at the Joint Mathematics Meetings last week “for aesthetically pleasing works that combine mathematics and art.” The three chosen works were selected from the exhibition of juried works in various media by 73 mathematicians and artists from around the world.

“Torus,” one of my folded light art, was awarded Best textile, sculpture, or other medium. I’m interested in how paper folding can be expressed mathematically, physically, and aesthetically. Torus is folded from one single sheet of uncut paper. Gauss’s Theorema Egregium states that the Gaussian curvature of a surface doesn’t change if one bends the surface without stretching it. Therefore, the isometric embedding from a flat square or rectangle to a torus is impossible. The famous Hévéa Torus is the first computerized visualization of Nash Problem: isometric embedding of a flat square to a torus of C1 continuity without cutting and stretching. Interestingly, the solution presented in Hévéa Torus uses the fractal hierarchy of corrugations that are similar to pleats in fabric and folds in origami. In my Torus, isometric embedding of a flat rectangle to a torus of C0 continuity is obtained by using periodic waterbomb tessellation.

The work is made of Hi-tec Kozo Paper and measures 45 x 45 x 20 cm.

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


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.

Zushiki light art: form finding and making through paper folding


Wu, J. 2016. Zushiki light art: form finding and making through paper folding. In ACM SIGGRAPH 2016 Emerging Technologies (SIGGRAPH ’16). ACM, New York, NY, USA

Paper folding allows for complex and innovative structures formed with simple and low cost tools at the point of assembly. From simple pieces of paper, folded designs can be easily deployed into a three-dimensional volume and can be flattened to a two-dimensional shape for ease of shipping and storage. The goal of this workshop is to demonstrate practical means of using paper folding, the art of origami, in product design in order to seek innovative ways of form finding and making.

Zushiki, or図式, is a Japanese word for plan, scheme, pattern and design. Zushiki Light Art is inspired by modular origami in which multiple sheets of paper are used to create a larger and more complex design.  These designs are not possible using single-piece origami techniques. Historically, modular origami first appeared in a Japanese book published in 1743 called Ranma Zushiki. The book shows a modular origami cube called tamatebako, or玉手箱, translated as “magic treasure chest.”

Three unique light art design, Gokakukei, Sakuru, and Sankakei, will be available for participant to make at Studio in SIGGRAPH. Predesign crease patterns will be sent to a laser cutter to be perforated and cut.  These laser-cut pieces will be then hand folded connected by small plastic snap buttons and small metal rings. The number of pieces required for each light will be varied from four pieces to twelve pieces. A small battery-powered LED will be used to illuminate each folded design.

Zushiki Light Art is designed using super light-weight, natural material coupled with low impact digital fabrication and making techniques. Each of the Zushiki Light Art presents a minimal carbon footprint and ecological impact. It invites the ephemeral interplay between the light and shadow throughout the night, providing a soft ambience that highlights the intricacy and the mathematical complexity of each piece.

Lighting Architecture Movement Project, an international lighting design competition


I participated in the 2015 Lighting Architecture Movement Project, an international lighting competition based in Vancouver, and was selected as one of the finalists for my folded light art titled Eurus. The theme in 2015 was Crystallize. The competition was evaluated based on aesthetics, function, creativity, social and environmental responsibility and creative interpretation of the theme. The 2015 judges include some very well known names in design such as Tom Dixon, Michael Anastassiades, Omer Arbel, Falken Reynolds, John Patkau, Nancy Bendtsen and Andlight. The competition was covered in many major Canadian design magazines and newspapers, including Gray Magazine, the Globe & Mail, Western Living, The Vancouver Sun, etc. As a finalist, I had the opportunity to exhibit at the LAMP event at Jan Kath showroom in Vancouver in February 2016. Below are some pictures from the exhibition, photos courtesy of When They Find Us.