Wednesday 28 November 2012

Curved Folding | Paper Giants

I was recently involved in a 2-day workshop with Ankon Mitra in New Delhi, India, exploring curved folding as a means of lending structural stiffness to paper. After having worked on the ZHA Venice Biennale installation with the rest of the ZHA Code Group, I was keen on taking the idea further and Ankon, having extensively worked with Origami tessellations and straight-line folding for several years, was an excellent person to have on board with all his experience and expertise. A really big thanks to him for organizing this and getting everything together on such short notice, the hosts, Amit and Monika Gulati, and all the participants for making this happen.

Being an intensive 2-day workshop, the first day involved developing an intuitive understanding of material behaviour and basic thumb-rule principles of curved folding. Participants started with folding some known tessellation patterns by Jeannine Mosely, Andrea Russo and Richard Sweeney, and then went on to draw up their own patterns, learning what could fold and what could not. The first half of day-2 involved folding hypars (hyperbolic paraboloids) and corrupting, distorting and modifying them to create derivatives and satiate curiosity of what will or will not fold. Below is a small selection of the work done by the participants.

The second half of day-2 involved collectively making a 5 feet tall installation out of 210gsm (ivory) card paper to test if curved folding was strong enough to make it stand with such thin paper. The design process (illustrated below) started with a dodecahedron whose faces were further subdivided into smaller pentagons and planarized. The entire process of evolution is best explained by the illustration below:

This process gave us developable surfaces that were flattened into 6 modules and mass produced by a combination of hand cutting and using a digital vinyl cutter. Each of these building blocks was hand folded and stuck together using thin strips of paper as backing-plates and ordinary glue. Below an image sequence and time-lapse video of the assembly process.

I have to admit that before we started assembly, I was quite nervous if it this would stand: I was expecting the cap to collapse towards the centre like a bean-bag. But much to our amusement, not only did it stand, it was decently resilient to bending and external forces.

Having completed this and being pleasantly surprised by how well paper behaved, now I almost wish we had made this out of ordinary copier paper. Perhaps in some ways, I secretly did want to find the point where it would fail :)

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