• form, force, matter

    form, force, matter
    brooklyn NEW YORK

    Pratt Institute | Spring 2011
    Critics: Ronnie PARSONS + Gil AKOS
    Team: Wilson CHENG, Chelsea MAILLER, Woo Young “Joseph” KIM, Paul SCRUGHAM, Eri SEMERZAKIS, + Gillian SHAFFER

    suckerPUNCH: describe your project.

    FFM: Form Active Tension Systems offer an intuitive means of gaining direct and tangible knowledge of systems with degrees of complexity typically beyond our capacity, or desire, to engage as designers. Form, Force, Matter investigates this territory through simulation and its application within architectural design.


    As a design tool, simulation is capable of finding stable configurations within complex systems that include temporal, physical, and material pressures. The spatial and organizational effects of this methodology can be traced through the work of Antonio Gaudi, Heinz Isler, and Frei Otto, as well as a multitude of contemporary practitioners. Implemented through both analog computing and digital simulation, such an approach is inherently instrumental because of the direct proportionality found between actual and virtual environments, therefore simulation is tangible, to-scale, and non-representational. These characteristics allow us to effectively analyze the performative aspects of our systems of inquiry, synthesize operative design strategies from this research, and redeploy these strategies through architectural prototypes. Through an understanding of form, force, and matter we may design operatively on the world and effectively for the contingences inherent to thinking and making in architecture.

    This course engaged the topic of simulation through a series of lectures and technical workshops focusing on material and digital techniques of form-finding. Student research began with creating and rigorously analyzing an analog computer, such as the wool threads or soap film experiments of the Institute for Lightweight Structures. The majority of the semester’s research was dedicated to developing virtual environments and custom interfaces for prototyping material behaviors. The parametric plug-in Grasshopper with the physics engine Kangaroo allowed for digital prototypes to develop in parallel with material investigations. The course culminated in a group installation that combined key aspects of each student’s research as a means to understand the transformative effects present in Form Active Tension Systems as prototyping moves from one scale to another.

    The installation and accompanying research represents the first semester of an on-going body of research into Form Active Systems and was conducted in a cross-listed/cross-disciplinary seminar at the Pratt Institute over the course of 15 weeks.

    sP:what or who influenced this project?

    FFM: Frei Otto, Antonio Gaudi, + Michael Hensel

    sP: what were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?

    FFM: Lars Spuybroek: “The Structure of Vagueness”
    Mark Burry: “Beyond the Algorithm”
    Jesse Reiser + Nanako Umemoto: “Atlas of Novel Tectonics”
    Fever Ray/The Knife

    sP: whose work is currently on your radar?

    FFM: The body of work from our professors and other Pratt faculty.
    Studio Mode/modeLab
    Coop Himmelb(l)au
    Visible Weather
    The Living