Site specific installation, Woodbury University
suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.
john BROCKWAY: This installation is the winning entry to the NOVEL competition at Woodbury University, formed to promote faculty research through fabrication. It offers funding to pursue a research proposal within the framework of juried competition. Selected proposals were given free access to the digital fabrication facilities, funds for materials, and three months in which to complete a project for a juried exhibition.
At the core of minima(maxima) lies an infatuation with the possibility of creating much out of little, and of the ability to harness productive overlaps among oft-isolated realms. Structural theory, physics simulation and digital fabrication are brought together here through the use of advanced parametric modeling.
The processing capability of modern computing has brought about great form-finding potential, though often at the expense of legibility, efficiency and construct-ability. minima(maxima) seeks to recapture these traits through the deployment of a 3-D tensegrity structure. An initial sketch network of compression and tension members is digitally translated and refined using real-time physics simulation, yielding an optimized structural solution. This optimization process, combined with the efficiencies native to tensegrity, helps to ensure the reduction of structure to the absolute minimum. Fabricating the structure is (in theory) a straightforward and easily scale-able mode of production.
One of the greatest challenges to the deployment of mass-customization technologies in the real world has been the indeterminacy embedded in projects as a result of unforeseen conditions. This is especially true while building with tensegrity—the “final” formal outcome is dependent on material behavior. Furthermore, there is an embedded flexibility and sway to the system—at once problematic but also poetic. To accommodate this constant state of flux, the historical approach has been to deploy stressed skins—flexible fabric, meshes, nets—which can accommodate a high degree of formal malleability. minima(maxima) seeks to re-evaluate this relationship toward greater visual consequence through the use of a large-scale prismatic textile composed of laser-cut 3-D tetrahedra. Once again, real-time physics simulation is deployed to determine an optimized stressed-skin solution, which is subsequently subdivided into triangulated components.
The fabrication strategy is one of simplification and swap-ability, designed to make maximum use of the available fabrication tools. Compression members are lengths of off-the-shelf aluminum T section, while tensile wires are assembled and “tuned” thru the use of cable and turnbuckles. Prismatic textile units are unfolded, nested, and laser cut from glossy card-stock. Each component is then folded and joined through rivet connections.
This proposal posits a non-linear approach to the use of advanced technologies, making productive work of the overlaps and feedback to be found among the realms of design, computer science, engineering, and fabrication. In working beyond the scale of the model, there exists the possibility to bind these diverse fields together through a process of full-scale prototyping, tuned toward the use of common digital fabrication technologies.
sP: What or who influenced this project?
jB: Kenneth Snelson, Frei Otto, Stressed Skins, Rapidly Deployable Structures, Camping Tents.
sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
jB: Joy Division, The 4 Skins, EODM/QOTSA, Neil Young, Dropkick Murphys, Danzig, David Bowie, Iggy & The Stooges.
sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
jB: ICD Stuttgart, MATSYS, TheLiving, Aranda/Lasch.
Additional credits and links:
Woodbury University Digi-Fab Lab, Michelle Wilson, Ahmed Shokir, Robbie Mehring, Brandon Kemp, Anali Gharakhani, Esther Sahagun, Michael Kuroda, and others.
The project was realized thanks to the support of Woodbury University and a grant from Maxine Frankel. It opened at the WuHo Gallery in Hollywood CA, running through Sept. 28, 2012.