I had an opportunity to take a summer workshop with Woodbury University titled RE_FAB. The workshop was a crash course in using a CNC routing, 3d printing and laser cutting with the goal of producing final products with these tools.
The jumping off point was an exercise in "hackitecture." What is hackitecture you ask? Essentially it is taking a made or found object, digitizing it, then tearing it apart to create a different object. This topic could be its own blog post, but I will explain it in terms of our process. We used a program called 123DCatch (http://www.123dapp.com/). It takes a series of digital photographs and stitches them together in order to make a 3d object. It is a powerful, yet imperfect tool which is exactly why we used it. Through the digitizing process, all sorts of weird things happen to the model that then inform how to create a new object.
I chose to use the Eames LCW chair scale model that we used as our wedding cake topper as my starting object. The goal was to take this beautiful chair that most designers revere and treat as a museum piece, chop it up, and create a piece of art that would really turn it into art rather than a chair that you sit in. That was the goal. The process and final object is something very different!
After fighting with the program for two weeks with horrible results, I decided a new approach was needed. I took a step back and looked at the essence of the Eames LCW. There are two groups of components that make up the chair, the base and the seat. Both are iconic shapes. I spent some time exploring what happens when one of these components was reinterpreted. Taking an accurate 3D model of the LCW, I modeled a series of new bases for the seat. This approach did not lead me very far either, but I realized the essence is really the seat component and not the base. That is where the project diverged...again. The LCW seat and seat back are bent plywood shapes that are easily recognizable, both in 3D and in plan. My new goal was to break that component down and use it to create a new object that still was identifiable as the LCW. What was not clear was what that new object would be.
The first move was to unfold the model and flatten each component. I then took the seat and seat back and projected the outline onto a sphere to create a radiating image that could be tiled. This was not particularly successful, but led to the next turn in the process. The curved surface from the radiating projection interested me more than the pattern. I took the curved surface, combined with the negative space from the radiating pattern, and ended up with two shapes almost cellular in shape. It was an abstraction from the LCW seat in 3D, but it still held the image in plan.
The next step was to produce this new object. I chose the Makerbot as my tool for reasons of time, cost and availability. The Makerbot is a whole other blog post as well. It is a very popular, but sort of crude machine that prints 3D objects from models. It carries a success rate of about 32% and at a cost of $3,000, has probably led to many unhappy buyers. But...I was determined to get something out of it. After 3 or 4 failed attempts and some crazy partial prints, I got some good results. I took this time to create a laser cut version of the extruded shapes as well, as a study model.
This new object had led to a few paths of study that are still in progress. I see two approaches to defining the new object. The first is a product, in the form of a light fixture. It could be a single hanging fixture or a grouping of the same object at different heights or scales. Renderings to follow. The other, more in depth approach is to examine this object as a building facade or tile. If the object is arrayed on a surface, it can create a series of apertures that project out of that surface. They could be openings in a building that are computer controlled to adjust the amount of daylighting in a space. It could be an exhibition piece, where the object becomes a place for display, or reacts to movement by opening and closing.