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A Procedural Approach to Ornament
The Subdivided Column project explores how a purely operations-based geometric process can generate complex form. It involves the design of an ornamented column using subdivision processes. The allure of these processes is that despite using a very simple input, they can produce something that is extraordinarily complex. One column variant is fabricated as a layered model using 1mm cardboard slices.
In this project, an abstracted doric column is used as an input to a subdivision processes. This input form conveys basic topographical and topological information about the form to be generated. It contains data about the proportions of the the column's shaft, capital, base, as well information about its fluting and entasis.
Column exhibited in ETH Zurich HIL lobby (D-level)
A full-scale prototype of a column was built as a layered model using 1mm cardboard sheets. A program was written to divide the sixteen million faces of the subdivided column into a sequence of of 2700 slices. This program produces files that can be printed directly on the RapLab's laser-cutters. The slices are hollowed out to reduce their weight, and they have common perforations to allow for an easy alignment. The fabricated prototype has a height of 2.7 meters and a mean circumference of 50cm. Despite the 50cm circumference, the laser's cutting path for each slice exceeds 8 meters due to the surface detail. Despite the hollowed out sheets, the column weighs approximately 650kg. The final paint was applied in several coats by Modellbau Zaborowsky.
Stack of cardboard sheet, the negative that the column was cut from
Interior views of the column negative
Subdivision processes have traditionally been used to create smooth rounded forms. For this project, these processes were modified to enable the generation of a much more heterogenous output. Specifically, a series of weights was introduced to allow for specification of new vertex positions as interpolations of previous-generation vertices. In addition, weights were added to control extrusion and rotation of new vertices relative to their parents. The output from each iteration of the process can determine the weight values that are used in the next steps.
Column prototype studies (second image with 9x magnification)
The subdivision concepts involved in this project were explored in the CAAD elective theory courses Numerical Sculpture 1 (Spring 2010) and Numerical Sculpture 2 (Autumn 2011), taught by Michael Hansmeyer. Both the subdivision program to generate the form and the program to slice the form and produce print files were written in Processing, a programming language that the CAAD department teaches in the bachelor level courses. Please check back for a link to student projects from these courses.
Conception, design, and programming: Michael Hansmeyer
Initial column prototype constructed and designed by Florian Hartmann and Jan Wasser.
Page last modified on April 11, 2011, at 02:01 PM