Ruga Lumina investigates body–space relationships by leveraging digital fabrication and interactive technologies. Ruga Lumina is a spatial construct in the form of a smart luminous “skin” made of thin sheets of folded material that respond to the movement of live bodies within and surrounding its interior space. Spatial occupancy is registered through the use of smart technology; sensor information activates illumination and lighting effects, which, in turn, prompts perceptual and expressive aesthetic qualities as affects. This visual essay gives an account of the construction of Ruga Lumina at two exhibition sites: Detroit Center for Design and Technology (DCDT) in Detroit, Michigan, and 3Labs in Culver City, California. This account describes how bodies can be read and registered upon a spatial surface that points to a potential to re‐envision fundamental notions of surface interiority.
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.
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!
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).
My large scale folded art work, Ruga Swan, has been selected as part of a traveling national exhibition entitled Above the Fold: New Expressions in Origami (http://www.artsandartists.org/exhibitions-abovethefold.php). This exhibition also includes works by eight other well-known international artists and best-known names in the world of paper folding or origami, 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). The exhibition is organized by a highly reputable international nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C. and is curated by Meher McArthur, the former curator of East Asian Art at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, California.
The exhibition opened its first venue at the Springfield Museum in Springfield Massachusetts on January 20, 2015 (see the attached photos). The exhibition has been lauded as “a ground-breaking exhibition of sculptures and large-scale origami installations by nine visionary master folders from around the world” (http://www.springfieldmuseums.org/) and the initial response of the exhibitions has been very positive.
The exhibition opened its second venue at the Hermitage Museum & Gardens in Norfolk Virginia. Hermitage Museum and Gardens is a historic arts and crafts house and it provided an unique setting for Ruga Swan. Because of the scale of my work, the installation proved to be very challenging.
The exhibition will then travel to five other museums in the next three years, including the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences in Charleston West Virginia, the Longmont Museum & Cultural Center in Longmont Colorado, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles California, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach Florida and the Allentown Art Museum in Allentown Pennsylvania.
Ruga Swan is a part of my creative research on a new type of semi-structure and flexible interior skin, and it is also a conceptual piece in which I’m trying to understand how folding and patterning can be expressed mathematically, physically, and aesthetically; how it can be done using novel fabrication and construction techniques, and how these aspects work together with the conceptual spaces in which they occur.
“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. Ruga Swan is inspired by the use of folding to create complex topological forms from flat thin sheet materials with simple and low cost tools. Folded forms have inherently rigid properties and at the same time are flexible. There are many examples of folding-inspired design in architecture; however, folded architectural structures rarely make use of one of the main characteristic of folding design – the kinetic ability to morph from a two dimensional surface to a three-dimensional surface. The Ruga Swan project seeks to construct a deployable three dimensional semi-rigid structure that comes from fabricating two dimensional materials, such as corrugated cardboard, and can be collapsed into, again, smaller compressed forms. Hundreds of cardboard pieces were laser-cut by Noblitt Fabricating in Columbus, Indiana. (Noblitt Fabricating has generously supported this project by allowing me to pay for the cost of the laser cutting through an exchange of my Folded Light Art sculptures. See some examples at www.foldedlightart.com.)
Springfield Museums, Springfield, MA
January 20, 2015 – April 24, 2015
Hermitage Museum & Gardens, Norfolk, VA
May 2, 2015 – July 26, 2015
Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences, Charleston, WV
September, 2015 – November 2015, Dates TBD
Longmont Museum & Cultural Center, Longmont, CO
February 12, 2016 – May 1, 2016
Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, CA
May 28, 2016 – August 21, 2016
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach, FL
October 11, 2016 – January 29, 2017
Allentown Art Museum, PA
March 3, 2017 – May 26, 2017
Special thanks to Noblitt Fabricating, Curt Aton, Steve Dixon, Joseph Su, Renzi Huang, Daniel Green, Ron Day, Dexter Wu, Seiya Liu and Jianhuan Ruan.