Subdivided Columns - full scale
Prototypes - full scale
Subdivided Columns - zoomed in detail
Prototypes - 3X zoom
Subdivided Columns - zoomed in micro-detail
Prototypes - 9X zoom


Can the subdivision algorithms developed in the Platonic Solids project be applied to architectural form? How? And a what scale?

This project involves the conception and design of a new column order generated through these algorithms. Columns are chosen as an architectural archetype that has historically conveyed both technical skills and aesthetic values. Greeks and Romans spoke specifically of an order - something designed according to specific rules.

This project builds upon this rule-based approach to design - not by specififying geometric proportions or by combining idealized components - but rather by expressing rules as procedural operations. These operations are applied again and again to an abstracted doric column that serves as an input form. A rich geometry develops that embodies an order whose origins are difficult to decode or deduce.

One Process - Endless Scales

Unlike traditional design processes, the single subidivison process generates the form at all its scales: from the overall proportions and curvatures, to smaller local surface formations, down to the formation of a micro-structure. The process adds information at all scales without resorting to any type of repetition.

The result is a series of columns that exhibit both highly specific local conditions as well as an overall coherency and continuity. The ornament is in a continuous flow, yet it consists of very distinct local formations. The complexity of column contrasts with the simplicity of its generative process.

The columns are purely algorithmic artefacts. In their extreme resolution and level of detail they would be undrawable using traditional means - whether with pencil or mouse in CAD program. Can they be conceived of by traditional means?

Negative of laser-cut subdivided columns
Negative of laser-cut subdivided columns
Column Negative - stacked cardboard layers

Fabrication of the Initital Prototype

A full-scale, 2.7-meter high variant of the columns was fabricated as a layered model using 1mm sheet. Each sheet was individually cut using a laser cutter. Sheets are stacked and held together by poles that run through a common core. While the mean diameter of the column is approximately 50cm, the circumference as measured by the cutting path can reach up to 8 meters due to jaggedness and frequent reversals of curvature.

A by-product of the production process was the column's negative that is pictured above. These are the sheets that the column itself was cut out. They form a large, highly articulated void.

Initial Subdivided Column at ETH Zurich
Subdivided Column on display at ETH

Sixth Order at the Gwangju Design Biennale

The Sixth Order installation at the Gwangju Design Biennale 2011 explores not the design of an object, but the design of a process to generate objects. This procedural approach inherently shifts the focus from a single object to a family of objects: endless permutations of a theme can be generated.

For the Gwangju Biennale, a single process was used to generate four individual columns. These four columns have not a single surface or motif in common, yet due to their shared constituent process, they clearly form a coherent group.

Each column itself is a synthesis of two separate column, and it has different appearance when seen from the front and the back. Thus when entering the exhibition room, the viewer at first perceives additional columns - those which are seen through mirros on the walls.

Subdivided Columns at Gwangju Design Biennale 2011
Sixth Order installation at Gwangju Design Biennale
Subdivided Columns at Gwangju Design Biennale 2011 - interior space
Sixth Order installation at Gwangju Design Biennale 2011 - interior space
Sixth Order installation at Gwangju Design Biennale 2011 - detail of ABS sheets
Sixth Order detail

Venice Biennale 2016 - German pavilion competition

Architecture overcomes the boundaries between natural and artificial worlds. In the pavilion a forest arises - a romantic landscape - composed of freely moving columns, grouped into ephemeral configurations of an ornamental wilderness. Freed from historical models, a space opens up for the visitors that disorients through a new sensory experience.

In the main room, 12 individually ornamented columns move on autonomous robot platforms. Each column has its own topology is specifically illuminated. The forest of columns oscillates slowly - suspended between defined configurations - interacting discretely with the visitors. The exhibition halll’s wings show abstract video projections of this choreography. The pavilion is in a constant flux.

German pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale 2016
Pavilion central hall
German pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale 2016 - column detail
Column detail
German pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale 2016 - competition
Column micro-detail