Most Epic Computational Cardboard Architecture Ever


Michael Hansmeyer’s incredible construction. Via E. Stephen, thanks!

Fast Co Design has posted a fascinating article and slideshow called The World’s Most Complex Architecture: Cardboard Columns With 16 Million Facets. An intrepid builder named Michael Hansmeyer has been using complex algorithms invented by Pixar and jaw-dropping handicraft to create a cardboard column that looks a bit like a cross between a honeycomb and a Beksinski painting and a Dubai skyscraper and the most fractalicious, psychedelic fever dream imaginable:

When people mistake photographs of your physical prototypes for computer renderings, you know you’ve achieved something amazing. That’s exactly what happened when Michael Hansmeyer showed off his “computational architecture” column, created by iterating a subdivision algorithm over and over again and then fabricating it out of cardboard.

Hansmeyer’s column stands nine feet tall, weighs about 2000 pounds, and is made out of 2700 1mm-thin slices of cardboard stacked on top of wooden cores. It contains somewhere between 8 and 16 million polygonal faces — too complex for even a 3D printer to handle, according to Hansmeyer. “Every 3D printing facility we spoke to turned us down,” he tells Co.Design. “Typically those machines can’t process more than 500,000 faces — the computer memory required to process the data grows nonlinearly, and it also gets tripped up on the self-intersecting faces of the column.”

But Hansmeyer’s prototype is very real — in fact, it can even support weight, and the designer wants to experiment with more robust materials so that he can actually start building real structures with his “computational” architectural forms. So how did Hansmeyer actually get this thing out of his computer and into the real world? Take a look at this slideshow to find out.

“Detroit Thrives.”


The Michigan Theatre. Photo by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre.

Yesterday, having recently seen links about them in a couple different places, I tweeted: “Haunting, tragically beautiful photos of derelict Detroit by Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre: http://bit.ly/fwDwPg [from the UK Guardian]”

They really are breathtaking images. A lone copy of Marchand and Meffre’s (rare?) book The Ruins of Detroit is currently on sale at Amazon, if anybody with a whopping $237.94 to spare is interested.


The ruined Spanish-Gothic interior of the United Artists Theater in Detroit, and Light Court, Farwell Building. Photos by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre.

Here’s the thing, though: in American cities like New Orleans, the Salton Sea, and (most vocally) Detroit, frustrated residents who see scores of photojournalists touring their neighborhoods just to take pictures of the sexy devastation and leave again have started calling these sorts of de-contextualized photo series of their backyards “ruin porn”.

“Here in Detroit, we’re sick of how the ruin porn runs rampant around the world, and everybody loves to use it to show how things have degraded here. Know what? There is a big resurgence happening here, and things are getting better.” That’s a quote from Ryan Cooper, a Detroit resident reacting to Dangerous Minds’ coverage of the Ruins of Detroit photobook.

Only I hadn’t read that, yet. I’ll admit it: when I linked out to the Guardian feature, I’d never even heard the term “ruin porn” before. About an hour after I aired that tweet, someone in Australia called datacorrupt responded bluntly with: “Detroit Thrives.” And a link.


Photo by Jon DeBoer. Mural by Philip Lauri, founder of “DETROIT LIVES!

Clicking through to Palladium Boots dot com, I promptly had my ruin porn-disseminating ass handed to me by the following half-hour documentary featuring not just several of those same sprawling abandoned spaces that captivated Marchand and Meffre, but also a rich variety of local entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, urban farmers and prodigal shopkeepers of Motor City who have been steadily reclaiming and reviving substantial portions of the urban grid, creating robust communities in a crumbling realm that was:

“Once the fourth-largest metropolis in America–some have called it the Death of the American Dream. Today, the young people of the Motor City are making it their own DIY paradise where rules are second to passion and creativity. They are creating the new Detroit on their own terms, against real adversity. We put our boots on and went exploring.”


Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Williamsburg anymore…

Product-shilling and Johnny Knoxville-yukkstering aside, Detroit Lives is an inspiring point of entry into the tenacious world of modern DIY Detroit. After watching the doc, I spent several more hours online exploring other links and sites (several of which are listed below). These kids are making and growing and building and yes, thriving. They seem committed, fierce, and in fucking earnest. Check ‘em out.

Any Detroit badasses reading? Please forgive me; I… I still love my ruin porn. Can’t help it. But in all sincerity, I love what you are doing far, far more. I’m surely not alone in that. Long may you thrive. Please come say hello if you like. We would love to hear more from you, and about you.

Detroit revival links:

Other Coilhouse posts of possible interest:

A Beautiful Grid of Art and Science

The superbly-designed website SpaceCollective dedicates itself to study of topics such as transhumanism, robotics, experimental architecture, and pretty much anything else that one can equate to “living the life of science fiction today.” Most of the site’s activity centers around blog posts and collaborative university projects, but one of the most stunning portions of the site, dense with complex, inspiring visuals and information, is the gallery.

There are six pages of scienctific psychedelia – a absorbing mixture as varied as Googie architecture, macro shots of hydrozoa, renderings of magnetic structures, jellyfish automatons, microchip embroidery, concept art from sci-fi films, and much more along the same lines. Two random images from this gallery may not have much to do with each other, but all together, they make a surprisingly cohesive whole. Quotes from the likes of Verner Vinge, Buckminster Fuller and Jorge Luis Borges cycle between the imagery, and most images are hyperlinked out to further sources. Enjoy!

Her Highness Sheikha Mozah

I can’t stop looking at pictures of Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned. This should come as no surprise to long-time readers of the blog, given both my love of chic politician Yulia Tymoshenko (obsessively chronicled here and here) and interest in Islamic fashion blogging, its tensions between faith, religion, fashion, and personal style.

In the image above, Mozah (51, mother of seven, the second of the Emir’s three wives) looks like she just killed James Bond.  (And I say that with perfect love and awe. Because Bond is such a douche.) Mozah’s bio in the Forbes Top 100 Most Powerful Women list reads:

The wife of the Emir of Qatar has used her growing influence to promote education and development in the Arab world and in her country, home to gas-rich reserves and Al-Jazeera (owned by her husband). This past May, Sheikha Mozah toured the U.S. giving speeches on Western misconceptions of Muslim women and the need to combat violence by eradicating poverty and hopelessness. Sheikha Mozah recently announced the creation of the Arab Foundation for Democracy with a $10 million endowment from the emir. The foundation will encourage the development of a civil society and freedom of the press, among other things. Sheikha Mozah already promotes free speech through the Doha Debates, monthly forums of controversial topics featuring guest speakers like Israeli president Shimon Peres. One of her biggest achievements is Education City, a 2,500-acre campus outside of Doha that is home to branches of Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon and Virginia Commonwealth universities.

Blogs such as HuffPo and ONTD have already caught on to Mozah’s fierceness, and equally fascinating are her presence and drive. In the clip below, she discusses one of her biggest projects, Education City. (By the way! In keeping with her sharp personal style, Mozah’s Education City has some incredible, futuristic architectural designs, worthy of a blog post of their own). She’s the kind of person who inspires me to write characters, research cultures, make stories. What’s it like to be her? What would be like if you added a little fiction to it? Like… maybe some science fiction? More images of Mozah, after the jump. [Via Holly Jones].

Realistic Fake Vintage Photo of Tatlin Tower

At 1,300 feet, this structure of iron, glass and steel would have dwarfed the Eiffel Tower. Designed in 1919 by Vladimir Tatlin, the building – officially called The Monument to the Third International – was planned to be erected in St. Petersburg as the headquarters of the Comintern. The tower was designed to contain twin spirals tapering upwards and encasing a cube-shaped lecture hall, a smaller pyramid for executive meetings, and a cylinder housing an information center, delivering bulletins and manifestos via radio, telegraph and loudspeaker.

Each part of the building would rotate at a different speed.  The cube was proposed to rotate and complete 360˚ after 365 days, the pyramid would complete a full 360˚ rotation every month, and the cylinder would complete its rotation within 24 hours. There were also plans to build an open-air screen on the cylinder, and for the cylinder to project messages onto the clouds. The building was never constructed due to financing and structural concerns, though an interesting build effort took place in 2006.

There’s also this short film by Lutz Becker. The first YouTube comment below the video captures it perfectly: it’s “mad, impossible, brutal, audacious and beautiful.”

[image via]

Forest I Carry Inside

Guest blogger Olga Drenda writes about war crimes and home-made drugs for a living, but it’s fluffy rodents who are her true love. She hails from the land of pierogi, supermodels and death metal bands, and is an editor at seelebrennt.com.

When going on an urban exploration trip, what do you expect to find in an abandoned building? Non-functioning devices, dilapidated furniture, calendars from 1975, some good graffiti on the walls, traces of cybergoth photo sessions. Sometimes you might even come across unexpected peculiarities like a carpet made of adult magazines and empty vodka bottles with rainbow-like, holographic labels (the last two, I’ve seen myself). However, occasionally you find something even more surprising, just like it happened earlier this year in Riga.

Inside a crumbling building (property the Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art), the duo of fashion designers Mareunrol’s, together with Austrian scenographer Rūdolfs Bekičs, light artist Krišjānis Strazdītis and sound designer Kaspars Groševs created an unusual installation called Eden: a road to a luscious forest growing inside the structure. While the building was left unused for years, trees grew there on their own. With the help of Mareunrol’s and team, this abandoned space became a temporary shelter from the constant noise and hum of the outside world. After conquering a labyrinth of claustrophobic, somber corridors, the visitors entered a wild indoor microcosm, an urban garden of Eden.

But Eden isn’t the only indoor forest in existence. Another, completely different example, is Singapore’s Elok House. Constructed by Chang Architects, the “purposely wild”, however paradoxical it may sound, green area inside an utterly modern building is an oasis of foliage within one of the most industrialized cities on Earth.

Even if Elok House may be more designed rebellion than high art, the project is more than a mere decorative garden and and is still worth noticing. The architects indeed endeavored to equip the house with realistic forest qualities. Leaving enough room for plants to grow freely, letting rainwater collect in an indoor pond, covering the interiors with layers of moss is certainly more extreme than what most designers set out to achieve. The smell of wet soil completes the picture. I wouldn’t mind a squirrel or a deer running around, but even without them, the place – aseptic and nobly minimalist on the outside – appears to be alive enough to be called a radical statement of eco-design.

So how do you decorate an indoor oasis? Ayodhya‘s moss table certainly seems fitting – just looking at this photo makes me turn into a forest pixie in my imagination! The table would perfectly match a meal of blueberries and morning dew. And what about music? Apart from field recordings, which appear to be a natural choice when we think about forest surroundings, consider Pyramids and Stars. This little-known, but worthy of attention, music act with its aptly named song makes for a good soundtrack here.

Contribute Sound Art to SYZYGRYD


Syzygryd Software Preview
from nicole aptekar on Vimeo.

Currently in the Bay Area, a team of artists, engineers, hackers, musicians, designers and makers of all stripes is working around the clock to produce an ambitious interactive sound/light/fire sculpture called Syzygryd. As you read this, chances are someone is welding, grinding, riveting, plasma cutting, wiring up LED lighting, finalizing the touchscreen control panels, or installing fire effects at the Nimby DIY space in Oakland, where the project is rapidly coming together – tube by tube, cube by cube, burst by burst of flame.

A collaboration between Interpretive Arson, False Profit Labs, Gray Area Foundation For The Arts (GAFFTA), and Illutron, this 2.5-ton, 60-foot sculpture will act as a giant electronic musical instrument. Designed as a traveling installation, Syzygryd will debut at Burning Man in under a month. The Syzygryd user experience, as explained by Interpretive Arson’s Morley John, will be as follows: “Three strangers [will] come together and visually compose a unique piece of music. The beauty of Syzygryd is that the entire sculpture responds to what you’re creating in sequenced light and fire. Each touchscreen controller has a grid of buttons which allow you to input musical patterns.” The initial Syzygryd proposal elaborates further:

Syzygryd is a collaborative musical instrument for three non-professional players. We are not naive. We’re not shoving guitars into the hands of novices and expecting symphonies. This is a very carefully designed canvas that guides beginners to harmony (in fact, discordant notes are literally impossible.) The interface is rhythmic, visual, and dead simple. We’ve been meticulously developing the software for months, playing with iPhone prototypes on busses, tweaking sounds, testing it out on our friends. We knew we were getting warmer the first time that three people, with no formal training in music, got bystanders grooving involuntarily…

Though most of the heavy lifting takes place Oakland, people from around the world are invited to contribute to the build.

How can you help build Syzygryd? By submitting sound sets. You’re basically submitting 3 (or more) types of sounds that mesh well together, and people will make music with them. For Syzygryd’s sound palette is not limited to the three electronic tones you hear in the software demo above. You can make it play anything: chirping bird noises, breathing, machine/factory sounds… the more creative the combination, the better. To submit a set, all you need to do is have Ableton Live, download Syzygryd’s MDK (Musician Developer Kit), and consult this handy video tutorial for extra help as needed. There’s also a forum where you can ask questions and get advice. All submitted sets will be reviewed by Syzygryd’s Music Team, and a selection of the top sets will played by the sculpture.

Having observed and participated in the Syzygryd project build, it’s clear that everyone involved is deeply invested in crafting an experiential zone that will be the first of its kind. As the proposal states, “[Syzygryd is] the most beautiful expression we can imagine of the joy we take in community, music, technology, fire, sculpture and architecture. We have assembled an international team of artists with extraordinary talent and experience. All of us are in love. Every day we see things that no one has yet imagined, and it’s been our delight to work within a community to make them real. We’d like to create a space in our city where others — people who don’t normally do this sort of thing — can feel at least a little of that.” That’s a wonderful thing to be part of on any level, and in Syzygryd’s case, people from around the world can get involved.

The deadline for submitting sounds sets to Syzygryd is Tuesday, August 24th. More info on the sculpture and music submission process, after the jump!

Support the LifeSize Mousetrap!

The Lifesize Mousetrap is exactly what it sounds like: an astoundingly cool, “big kid” version of the classic board game. Created by Mark Perez, constructed from leftover metal/nuts/bolts/spare wood over the course of thirteen years, and operated and maintained by a small, scrappy collective of bay-area based engineers, artists and performers, it’s “a colorful assemblage of kinetic sculptures fantastically handcrafted into a giant, 25 TON Rube Goldberg machine.”

The mechanical spectacle is enhanced by a vaudevillian style road show featuring tap-dancing mouse women, live music, and several dapper “clown engineers” who endeavor to “achieve a chain reaction using Newtonian physics and bowling balls! The action culminates with the spectacular dropping of a 2 TON bank safe from a 30-foot crane.”

This 50,000 pound contraption and its stage show must be seen to be believed. Preferably in person, not on a computer screen– which is why they need our help getting to Maker Faire Detroit and Maker Faire World in New York City. They’ve setup a Kickstarter project to help raise funds for the labor-intensive, rather expensive cross-country trip. There are 10 days left on the clock, and they’ve still got a ways to go before they reach their goal of $6,600 — a buck for every mile they travel.  If you’re inspired by small, indie, gloriously strange community art and outreach, here’s a chance to express it. You guys know how this works: a buck here, a fiver there, and spread the word. It adds up so quickly.

Best of luck, you guys!

The Friday Afternoon Movie: Russian Ark

I must admit, I’m afraid I might be doing a great disservice with this week’s FAM. Not in the sense that the film chosen is of inferior quality or offensive; indeed I have plenty of those which I will no doubt post in the future, without any feelings of guilt. No, my unease comes with the inferior method of delivery. It arises from the fact that I may be exposing people to a film that should only be viewed in the highest possible fidelity which the above offering on YouTube is decidedly not.

Today’s FAM is Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark from 2002, a film that I might describe as “decadent” and “luscious” were I a man given to pithy, vague descriptors, which I assure you I am not [Editor's Note: He is.] Filmed in one fluid take we follow the disembodied voice of our narrator (in actuality the voice of Sokurov) and unseen gentleman who intimates that he, in fact, died in a horrible accident. Accompanying him is “the European” (based on the Marquis de Custine). Together they explore the Winter Palace, which is now the centerpiece of the Russian Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. As they wander from room to room, so to do they wander through Russian history, though those well-versed in said history will note that events depicted are not in chronological order.

What follows is a technically astonishing [Editor's Note: See?] piece of film-making. Meandering through 33 rooms and featuring over two thousand actors and three orchestras, the result is a history lesson within a dream. As such, it’s all the more frustrating to not be able to see all the small details present on the actors’ costumes are the information overload presented by the splendor of the Winter Palace. I urge you to track down a copy if you enjoyed it here as the experience is really night and day.

The Jonas Lara Legal Defense Fund


All images by Jonas Lara.

Jonas Lara is a celebrated artist and photographer who “has made a career tilting his camera toward the unconventional terrain of urban landscapes. He first developed his unique visual approach capturing high school friends’ nighttime antics in skateboarding and graffiti. Lara strongly believes he shares a visual language with architects, engineers, painters and other artists who challenge the conventionality of gravity and space.”

Last February, Lara was arrested while documenting graffiti artists painting a mural in Los Angeles. The photographs he took that night were intended to be part of a series Lara’s been developing for years– a “body of work [that] involves documenting artists both in their lives and in the process of their artwork.” This series focuses on a wide range of artists, not only graffiti writers.

Lara was “apprehended” along with the two graffiti artists by the LAPD, and charged with felony vandalism. His camera and equipment (lenses, memory cards, batteries) were all taken as evidence, and have yet to be returned to him, in spite of his dependence on them to make a living. Lara’s charges were later lowered to a misdemeanor, then changed to “aiding and abetting”, which carries the same sentence as the crime of graffiti-painting. Lara says:

“I have gone through the several stages of this case and my next step is the Jury Trial. If I lose my case, I can face up to a year in jail and have my license suspended. I need your help raising money to cover costs to hire a private attorney and related legal expenses…  Part of the artist portrait series was featured in an exhibition put together by the Cultural Affairs Department of Los Angeles.”

According to a PNDPulse article about Lara’s arrest, the artist appealed for help with the case to rights organization like the ACLU, but was told him they do not get involved in criminal cases. “If convicted, the Art Center College of Design graduate and former US Marine would be unable to enter the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts, into which he was recently accepted, in September.”

Does something about this irrational, bullying, trumped up, effed up charge rub you the wrong way? If so, donate to the Jonas Lara defense fund. You know how it goes, comrades. A dollar here, a 5-spot there… it adds up so quickly. Let’s make sure this artist gets a fighting chance.