Subdivided Columns   (2010-)

This project involves the conception and design of a new column order based on subdivision processes. It explores how subdivision can define and embellish this column order with an elaborate system of ornament.

An abstracted doric column is used as an input form to the subdivision processes. Unlike the minimal input of the Platonic Solids project, the abstracted column conveys a significant topographical and topological information about the form to be generated. The input form contains data about the proportions of the column's shaft, capital, and supplemental base. It also contains information about its fluting and entasis.

The input form is tagged to allow the subdivision process to distinguish between individual components. This allows a heterogeneous application of the process, with distinct local parameters settings. In addition to distinguishing among tagged components, the process parameters can be set to vary according to the input form's topography as well as its topology.

Design

Effectively, the architect designs a process that produces a column, rather than designing a column directly. This process can be run again and again with different parameters to create endless permutations of columns. These permutations can be combined into new columns, and can form the point of departure for new generations of columns. The architect assumes the role of the orchestrator of these processes.

Unlike traditional design processes, the single subdivison 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.

 

Fabrication

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.

The calculation of the cutting path for each sheet takes place in several steps. First, the six million faces of the 3D model are intersected with a plane representing the sheet. This step generates individual line segments that are tested for self-intersection and subsequently combined to form polygons. Next, a polygon-in-polygon test deletes interior polygons. A series of filters then ensures that convex polygons with peninsulas maintain a minimum isthmus width. In a final step, an interior offset is calculated with the aim of hollowing out the slice to reduce weight.

While the mean diameter of the column is 50cm, the circumference as measured by the cutting path can reach up to 8 meters due to jaggedness and frequent reversals of curvature.

Sixth Order: Gwangju Design Biennale 2011

The Sixth Order installation at the Gwangju Design Biennale 2011 continues the development of a column order based on subdivision processes. It 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.

When entering the exhibition room, the viewer at first perceives sixteen columns. This effect, created by the use of two floor-to-ceiling mirrors on adjoining walls, is intentionally accentuated by the columns' design. Thus, the columns are symmetrical along only a single axis, and they have different appearance when seen from the front or the back. In effect, two permutations are united in a single column - with eight virtual models for the four physical objects.

Learning to Imagine

Effectively, the architect designs a process that produces a column, rather than designing a column directly. This process can be run again and again with different parameters to create endless permutations of columns. These permutations can be combined into new columns, and can form the a point of departure for new generations of columns. The architect assumes the role of the orchestrator of these processes.

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.

Subdivided Column I in Figures



Material:   Greyboard, 1mm laser-cut sheet
2700 sheets total
Wooden core

Dimensions:   270cm height
45-70cm diameter

Venues:   Museum of Arts and Design (New York, 2013)
TED Global (Edinburgh, 2012)
Le Lieu du Design (Paris, 2012)
Smallspace Gallery (Berlin, 2011)

Reviews:   Architectural Record
Archithese
CNN
Design Exchange
Frame Mag
Frankfurter Allgemeine
New Scientist
Ling (Vueling)
KM Kunst & Techniek
New York Times
Spiegel Online
城市建筑 Urbanism & Architecture
Wired
   

Sixth Order Columns in Figures



Material:   ABS plastic in 1mm sheet
10,800 sheets total
Steel and wooden core

Dimensions:   Columns: 270cm height, 45-70cm diameter
Room: 6.8m x 4.7m x 3.15m

Venues:   MAAS Museum (Sydney, 2017)
Martin-Gropius-Bau (Berlin, 2016)
Palais de Tokyo (Paris, 2015)
FRAC Centre Archilab (Orléans, 2013)
Gwangju Design Biennale, 2011

Reviews:   Archithese
Domus 国际中文版
时代建筑 Time + Architecture
Vogue Living
 

Team and Partners



Subdivided Column I:   Manuela Koller
Thomas Raoseta
Edyta Augustinowicz
Fabricated at ETH, Zurich


Sixth Order:
 

Hua Hao
Fabricated in Nanjing

 
Research for the subdivided columns was carried out at the Chair for CAAD at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich.

Two Sixth Order columns were acquired by FRAC Centre, Orléans, for its architecture collection.

Further information:

Maerchenwald | Venice Architecture Biennale, German pavilion competition 
Astana Columns | Expo 2017 in Kazakhstan, and at Grand Palais Paris