From August 28 to September 5, the Black Rock Desert in Nevada will fill with thousands of people who will construct a city complete with homes, cafés, a public works department, and law enforcement. For five days, the builders of Black Rock City will live in their created metropolis until September 5 rolls around and the whole thing vanishes, leaving only sand and cacti. It’s the Burning Man festival – cultural and ecological experiment, giant party, and celebration of art and creativity.
One of the central purposes of Burning Man is to generate art, and as soon as the city arises, so do the art installations and performances. It’s all temporary, of course – one of the festival’s rules is to “leave no trace,” so all works of art disappear along with their creators at the end of the week, but while they stand, they’re marvelous. This year, among the installations will be “Tangential Dreams,” a towering, spiraling structure made out of wooden strips, or tangents, on which will be written people’s dreams and inspirational thoughts.
The tower is the work of Arthur Mamou-Mani, an architect and professor at the University of Westminster, along with several of his students and the engineering design studio Format Engineers. The structure is stop-in-your-tracks striking to look at, resembling a cluster of wings from above and a friendlier, prettier version of the Tower of Barad-dûr from the side. And it’s all made from strips of wood, in a fascinating method that combines digital and manual construction.
“We use algorithms to maximize inexpensive materials such as timber or bio-plastic,” explains Mamou-Mani. “Throughout the process we link our digital models (Rhinoceros3D, Grasshopper3D) with fabrication tools such as LaserCut and 3D Printers to improve the design and make the project possible. The technique behind our designs are open-source, and can be realized and improved in most makerspaces around the world. We believe that everyone is creative and would like to inspire and empower everyone to create.”
Mamou-Mani, who has been taking his students to Burning Man for several years to give them the experience of building projects in the real world, is one of the creators of Project Silkworm, a technique that manipulates a 3D printer’s G-code to print freer, less traditional structures, many of which resemble the delicate strands generated by silkworms. Mamou-Mani recently used this technique to design and print a set of stools for Food Ink, a 3D printing-themed pop-up restaurant currently making its way around the world.
The luminous white stools have the appearance of delicate vases – a deceptive appearance, since they’re sturdy enough to serve as functional furniture. They’re also one of the rewards for supporting the Tangential Dreams Kickstarter campaign, which is attempting to raise £15,000 ($21,876) by July 21. You can get your own 3D printed Smoke Stool, complete with your name or logo etched on the acrylic top, for a contribution of £270 ($394).
Other rewards include Tangential Dreams pendants or earrings for a pledge of £15 ($22), T-shirts for £55 ($80), or, for £165 ($241), you can get a wall or ceiling panel from Mamou-Mani’s “Wooden Waves” installation in London. For £40 ($58), you can have your own dream written on one of the wooden tangents comprising the Tangential Dreams sculpture; it will be sent to you once the installation is taken down. For £75 ($109), Mamou-Mani will give you a one-hour tutorial on parametric design via Skype, Google Hangouts, or in person, if you happen to be in London.
It’s a fascinating project, and one well worth supporting, in my opinion, especially as it involves immersive, real-world educational experience for students in digital design and architecture. Watch the Kickstarter video below, and learn more about Mamou-Mani’s digital design methods in a keynote speech that he gave at FabCon3D. Discuss further in the Burning Man & 3D Printed Works forum over at 3DPB.com.