My consistent tardiness prevented me from finding out about this assignment on time. I grasped the idea of the assignment, but lacked a great idea that would allow me to make something that could serve as a model, and as a useful item. The notion that all other students seemed only interested in designing an indoor room led me to try something different. I experimented with solar ovens, which can slowly cook foods at temperatures between 100-250 degrees Fahrenheit. I always thought that this design could be improved through a separation similar to racks in a conventional oven or compartments in a refrigerator. I made a cardboard box covered with tin foil (which is the most homemade, rudimentary form of a solar oven) covered with Plexiglas. I inserted a tinfoil wall that partitioned the space into two triangles, which would allow 2 different items to be cooked simultaneously.
I also experimented with a wall separating my driveway from the patio. Instead of taking the whole thing down and discarding the wood, I took down every other piece on both sides creating a screen effect at certain angles while also allowing light from the patio and kitchen into the darker parking area at night and a better view of the hills during the day from the patio. All the4 excess screws and wood were used either as shelving units or in a tree house that has yet to be constructed.
The recommended materials for these assignments also presented challenges. All of the examples from previous years were made from impractical shapes that were easy to construct as a model, but posed no concrete use otherwise. The issues of accessibility were a constant concern of mine, as was sustainability. This prevented me from making a cardboard or construction paper assembly of colorful shapes. All cardboard used in the project were found on campus. Using it in the most effective way to create strenghts, and preserve construction material, was difficult to plan, but simpler in the end.
For this assignment we were either given marbles or encouraged to go to an art store and buy Styrofoam balls. I didn’t want to use either as a material, and as I arrived late to the class I was unable to join a group. This left me some time to ponder the assignment on my own. Outside of my room I found an inedible nut tree that had been decimated by squirrels, leaving round little balls with small holes in them. I thought these holes might make them easier to join together, but that was not the case. After struggling to make a simple connection with only 5 spheres, I decided that these were not the best materials for the job. Then I thought about how triangles and spheres were some of the most common shapes found in nature. We had an abundance of oranges and those seem to stack easily and support themselves, so I used oranges to make more elaborate polygons without anything but a basket foundation to support them.
Tensegrity can exist in a vast array circumstances and shapes, but unless all lengths are equal it is considered irregular. To make a project that was equal I found 3 bike tires and a stainless steel double u frame. I wrapped the tires around the frame 4 times with 1 tire on each of the 3 sides. The result is a small ottoman that can also be used as a lightweight, portable seat. This design is one of my favorites and might inspire a new line of furniture.
After much thought about he use of a wire frame type of sculpture, I decided against it in favor of something more out of the ordinary. I thought of the different ways that tensegrity is used in my everyday life, elevators, bridges, and overpasses and then I thought about the deadline for the project. I chose to make a model of my bed, which is uses forces of tension and compression to suspend loose knit cord over a metal frame. The result is quite a good nights sleep… if you can find the right spot. To assemble the model I found an old piece of aluminum, formerly a piece of a window screen that was approximately 1/4 scale of my hammock. I then stole some bamboo chopsticks from the kitchen (4), 2 for the base and 2 for the rope, which was made from hemp. First I tied the cut pieces of hemp twine to the bamboo chopsticks. Then once each end had been connected to the bent aluminum by a protruding screw, the two suspended chopsticks were connected.
A few years ago I might have approached this assignment much differently. I would have gone to the art or model store to buy manufactured materials and supplies. Many would contain or produce as a byproduct, toxic chemicals. I do not want to contribute to environmental devastation so I try to minimize the amount of new things I buy.
Over the summer, I was able to visit Japan and go to the worlds fair. A popular item was a branch from a tree, with notes hanging all over it. I later found out that these were all wishes that people had written down as a superstition hoping they would come true. I wanted to make something that was sturdy, so I turned to nature for design advice. Trees and plants are balanced very well through symmetry and balance, and furthermore, they use tensegrity at the molecular level. I wanted to use the tree in the same way a genealogist uses a family tree, to make a visual image of many independent parts.
This assignment came as a surprise to me, not only that it was assigned on the first day of class, but also that it involved almost anything other than a pen, and paper, or computer. For me the decision was easy after I thought about the materials and design for a little while. I didn't want to have to go to the art store and spend money, and I wanted to make something out of all the junk that was beginning to accumulate in the backyard. I remembered a tree I saw over the summer that people were writing wishes down on a piece of paper and attaching them to a tree branch. So I cut down and shrub that was dying and trimmed off most of the leaves. I also found a juice bottle that was in the trash and filled it with concrete rubble that was left over after I removed some slabs of cement. I took pictures of myself and printed them on recycled paper, and put them on the branch. I also attached some magazine photos and old sketches I had drawn. A candle made of beeswax was put on a back branch to symbolize illumination. I thought of leaving a blank surface to project video images onto it, but I don't have a projector.