Ten architecture students from Columbia University GSAPP have recently completed Polymorphic, a kinetic installation utilizing an innovative design and engineering solution inspired by the kinetic action of a see-saw and the reverberating motion of a slinky. The group consisted of Charlie Able, Alexis Burson, Ivy Chan, Jennifer Chang, Aaron Harris, Trevor Hollyn Taub, Brian Lee, Eliza Montgomery, Vernon Roether, and David Zhai.
The installation is comprised of a double-sided bench which transforms through a series of 119 unique and interconnected sections into a chaise lounge and finally an interactive balance board. These sections are connected via an inventive pivot and bolt system which allows the vertical movement of one section to be picked up by others down the line. Together, this motion allows the installation to transform from a series of leveled sections into an undulating form that becomes activated through interaction with its occupants.
While the overall form of the bench is realized as a continuous landscape, each seating condition was designed according to existing ergonomic profiles in order to maximize comfort and functionality. This is further realized by allowing the tolerance of its motion to conform to the postures of the occupants using simply their weight as a point of activation for the movement of the sections. A series of internal notches linked together by elastic bands and reinforced by couplings located on the central pivot rods prevent lateral movement and ensures safety during motion.
The design of Polymorphic was inherently sustainable, due to the financial constraint of a one thousand dollar budget. The design was broken down into small and linear pieces that maximized the quantity fit on a sheet of plywood. In total, the entire installation only used 18 sheets of plywood, which were utilized at over 90% efficiency.
At its core, the design of the installation is not only an inventive solution to a design idea, but also a test of the limits and capabilities of digital fabrication and its role in advancing architectural and industrial design practices. While the installation had a designated scale and dimension, the developed system has the ability to grow much larger and wider depending on the availability of resources and materials. The form of the design can likewise be readily adjusted to suit the conditions and contextual requirements of various spaces and environments. The scalability of the joint system and design together creates a truly parametric system in which its use is not only for aesthetics, but for construction, functionality, and comfort as well.