Monday, 16 May 2016

Transforming Polyhedra

Spaces that can transform have important potential for architecture and building design, weather it is for logistical reasons (transporting buildings as a smaller volume) or for operational uses (if the building needs to expand to open and shrink to close, for example).

We have been experimenting with different types of transforming polyhedra at Architecture for Kids, looking at the Jitterbug, Hoberman structures, Juno Spinners and others.   In addition to any Architectural value, creating mechanical moving structures has proven a lot of fun.

Experimenting with transforming polyhedra

A discovery attributed to Buckminster Fuller, transforms between octahedron and cub-octahedron. It also demonstrates to kids the inherent structure found in triangular shapes, and how this lack of structure in the quadrangle can be used to the advantage of the Jitterbug's articulation.

We have been assembling Jitterbug's using modular origami.

A quickly constructed origami jitterbug
Hoberman Structures
We love the Hoberman Sphere!  It's always great fun in class. The immediate attraction is that an operation to one joint affects the whole model. Different Hoberman spheres work with different members of the Archimedean Solids which has increased class interest in polyhedra, their differences and how they work. 

Polyhedra-head: Playing with the Hoberman Sphere
and framed structures.
Expand-a-ball similar to the Hoberman Twist-O

Juno's Spinners
My favourite, Juno's Spinners were developed by Junichi Yananose.  They are polyhedra held together with an internal structure which also acts as a mechanism to allow them to expand. Rotational joints at the junctions between the structure and panels allow this movement, and like the Jitterbug and Hoberman Structutes, the model expands and contracts uniformly. 

Making Juno Spinners

At first they look complicated, (they are ingenious) but the templates are available on Juno's website and they are straight forward to template, cut out and assemble. We've been using polycarbonate sheet with eyelets for the joints. For most models no real instructions are required because the geometry constructs itself. 

These are useful exercises to de-mistily geometry and the apparent complexity of movement. It is also good to help develop kid's motor skills with the tracing, cutting, folding and assembly involved, but these tasks don't take long and the goals of finished models are quickly realised.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Drawing in Space

I'm sure Alexander Calder would have taken to 3D pens if they had been available. His wire sculptures of faces and figures and experiments in 'drawing in space' might have been a lot quicker to produce and resulted in many more studies.

From the Calder review in Culture Whisper

But for kids, artists and architects today they are a very useful resource for creating sculptures and spacial studies quickly, to capture ideas and demonstrate skills in 3D thinking. 

Instinctively working in 2D

To begin with it does take a little practice and thought. When used by kids for the first time, they often set out their work on a flat sheet of paper and replicate a single 2D design. This produces a result but might not have the depth of character as a 3D line sculpture, which takes on a new life when seen using shadows, like Calder's work. 

Trying to replicate 'drawing in space'.

Creating the design in a number of parts, using a flat paper surface to create a series of single curve components, allows the overall piece to be constructed into a 3D assembly which is closer to what Calder was trying to do. We could all be great artists! 

A family of sculptural heads

It demonstrates how the simplicity of the line is a such a powerful tool for representing an idea, provoking thought or raising a reaction.