Machining Aesthetics 9+1


The project is to exhibit a collection of crafted objects as part of the Craft Cubed Festival; with the themes of 'A Better Blueprint'. The concept is simple: a vessel located in the center of the gallery to contain all the models produced by the 9 design projects. It is a curatorial tool to display the objects within a coherent gesture; like a vitrine in a museum it embodies the matter and information of the artifacts. Architecturally, it invites visitors to walk through the structure and experience the vessel like a Melbourne lane way. Composed of a field of 275mm squares, volumes are subtracted from the primary structure to form useful compartments to house the artifacts. It is constructed using 16mm thick lightweight white core rigid foam panels. A series of LED light boxes are distributed around the vessel for displaying drawings. The effect is a pulsing form with glowing vibrancy comparable to the active street facades of a city center metropolis.

When the project was first conceived, the design team had no knowledge of the size of the artifacts on display. The design of the vessel was concurrent with the design and making of the artifacts by the various artists. In a sense, we had the concept but no actual content yet. We faced a challenge to design the vessel 6 months prior the installation of the exhibition; not knowing the number of models or their size it had to contain. This posed an interesting issue for design of the vessel. The design team resorted to designing the information structure of the vessel. A series of computation scripts was developed that can be parametrically adjusted to cater for the unknown information; the number and the size of the artifacts.

The innovation of the project lies in the process of the design as much as the aesthetics of final vessel. The vessel is itself a blueprint, incidentally the theme of the Craft Cubed Festival 2013. The vessel is constructed using 16mm lightweight white core rigid foam panel cut using a CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) router. Each panel is dry slotted together. The biggest challenge of the vessel is to ensure that all 342 components lock together to give stability to the structure; with some interlocking in two direction like a Jenga puzzle. There was a limited time for installation and the design team had to ensure that each component was clearly labelled so it can be assemble in the gallery. Installation of the vessel started at 10am on Monday 29th of July and by 2:30pm, the entire vessel was fully assembled. Behind the scenes, the design of the vessel was not straight forward. After 3 failed prototypes (we built 1:5 scale models to stimulate the joint and assembly sequence), and a mock trial run a week before the installation, the team became more confident about the stability of the structure. Of course, at each of the prototype stages we fine-tuned the design; removing odd glitches generated from the computational script and evolving the computational aesthetics in line with the ambition of the exhibition.