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Module 4 - Reflection lantern inspired by the pattern of coral

Interesting patterns can be found everywhere in nature,the chosen natural pattern to be the inspiration for this lantern is coral. The coral has strong primitive patterns that give the lantern a bold, jagged and strong feeling.

Luke Dempsey (638407) Due: 10/6/2013


Ideation - Pattern Development Interesting patterns can be found everywhere in nature, the following is an analysis of coral. I find that, this species in particular, that coral has strong patterns from which primitive shapes can be easily recognised. In Poling and Clarks reading about Kandinsky, they outline his proposition that simplicity could be found in everything in the world, especially everyday objects. These were held together by primitive shapes and tensions and can be found in natural patterns such as, in this case, the geometric structure of coral. Drawing on the Tooling reading from Aranda & Lasch, this geometric pattern follows the process of packing and scaling. Through simplifying the natural pattern into its primitive elements, a general recipe has been developed to describe it, hence combining Kandinski’s and Poling and Clarks interests. From this source picture, a recipe was formed so that from any set of points, this basic pattern could be generated.

Coral source pattern for intended design

Pattern Recipe - Take a set of points - Draw a circle around one point, where the radius is larger than half the distance, but less than the whole distance, between itself and neighboring points. - Repeat for each point in the set. - Where neighboring circles intersect, draw a line joining the two intersections. - Repeat for all circle intersections.


Ideation - Modelling Pattern Recipe An initial prototype to test the panelling ability of the pattern generated by the recipe. The extrusion model was constructed by simply copying the cells seen in the top orthogonal view and extrude them up with the same height showing the pseudo-honeycomb cellular structure.

Rhino Model of Skeleton of Pattern

Paper Model of Skeleton of Pattern

Paper Model of Skeleton of Pattern

An architectural source of inspiration which helped bridge the gap between recipe and panelling model was the Beijing Aquatics Centre that was built for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.


Ideation - Interaction with Body The lantern has to interface with the body, initially the only options considered were that of direct contact interaction (ie holding the lantern). This is illustrated in the following three diagrams brainstorming the interaction type.

A designated reading for week 4 was Thomas Heatherwick’s TED Talk on his works with the main theme being ‘using design to create special effects’. This talk inspired me to borrow his book and I became interested with a completely different theme to the intended reading questions; many of Heatherwick’s designs aren’t actually his. For instance, the form for his Bleigiessen sculpture was actually from dripping molten steel into a bucket of water and the resulting frozen shape was the form to be used.

This is the first model considered. The bulbous shape is similar to that of the shape of the coral that the original pattern is from but is quite bland and boring. The main feature that I like in this sketch is how the top of it spirals around the arm as an interface with the body. Instead of just one, monotonous scale of pattern, this design adds a little bit of variance and looks more abstract and aesthetically appealing. The lantern has large primary cells making it up with flat faces, and within those primary cells are secondary smaller cells. As the cells get lower down the This sketch is the exact same as the previous, instead it is worn above the arm instead of hanging below. I believe that this would look better, and also better serve the purpose of the lantern - but it would be difficult to keep the lantern upright. Therefore it is unlikely that this design will be chosen as the final design.

1:5 scale interaction of intended form with body

It was not until later on in the fabrication process where it was decided to instead hang the lantern from a piece of string. This virtually flipped the design on its head so that the model was upside down.

Heatherwick is a brilliant example of taking inspiration from nature. In this lantern design, the form isn’t directly taken from nature, nor is the panelling pattern, but a recipe developed from nature is what inspires the panelling pattern. In his design of the BMW Pavillion, Heatherwick scrunched pieces of paper and then panelled them and digitised them, hence creating the form for the building, taking 6 seconds to model a building. In the primary form for my lantern, a speed model of modelling clay resulted in the main form, similar to Thomas Heatherwick’s technique. However, this form was altered many time along the design and fabrication process.

Bleigiessen Sculpture by Thomas Heatherwick


Ideation - Lighting Effects There are two different categories of lighting effects that I wish to achieve with this model. The inner pattern of light that can be found on the ‘skin’ of the lantern, and the outer pattern of light that is casted by the lantern into the surrounding environment ie. shadows.

Inner Glow:

Outer Shadow:

As the pattern on the skin of the lantern is similar to that on the skin of the Beijing Aquatic Centre, the pattern of light on that skin will be similar, at least that is the aim. The compartments each have their own slightly varied intensity of glow dependant on the size of the cell and also the walls of the each compartment. When lit, the cell divisions will become more obvious as the light will not pass through the dividing walls. But all of these slightly different cells compliment each other as an assemblage (a collection of related ideas into one composition). This uniform glow would be complimented by a warm colour temperature of the LED lights, so cellophane would be wrapped around the diodes to create a warm soothing glow.

The outer shadow should project interesting patterns on the surrounding environment. The pattern projected by a disco ball is quite an interesting one, and that would be nice to replicate. In order to mimic that, inside of the cells are hollowed to allow light to pass through unmodified in an irregular pattern of little specks. The planned effect would be similar to that of a disco ball and/or the bokeh effect found in photography.

Secondary Cell Structure with windows for light pattern

Beijing Aquatic Centre

Projected light to mimic bokeh effect in photography

Light Pattern from a Disco Ball


Design - Primary Modelling These clay models illustrate the intended design and the progression of the panelling on the surface of that form. Although the final design doesn’t look very similar to this, it is still an important step to finding that final form. The original prototypes aren’t supposed to be exactly alike the final product.

Original form, cut up and cross sectional forms observed (one square on the background grid is 10mm x 10mm).

Early form clay model prototype


Design - Digitising Form Prototype & Panelling Experimentation Panelling Pattern #1 The sections of the clay model were scanned and then transferred as 2D sections which were then lofted. This made a terrible looking model (below), so instead a new model was made from various transformations to a primitive cylinder surface until it looked near-identical to the clay model (left). Note that isocurves are visible in these figures to illustrate the form of the shape. Without isocurves, the shape of the failed forms are not correctly expressed.

Using panelling tools, the surface was divided into a grid of points. A 3D custom pattern was made using the below recipe and this is what made the panels have the shape that is evident in the model (immediately left). It still need finetuning, especially around the top of the lantern. But this is the most satisfying result out of the 4. This is because it most closely replicates the pattern of the coral, the whole aim of the project. I dont like the top of this design however, the surfaces intersect too much and are messy

Front View of Final Primary Model

Failed attempts from direct modelling

Top View of Final Primary Model

Panelling Pattern #1

Model #1


Panelling Pattern #2

Panelling Pattern #3 This shape was created with a higher density pattern which is closed-faced. Meaning that there are no holes into the middle of the lantern. This will create the inner glow effect rather than the outer shadow effect (as discussed in the previous module).

The fourth design incorperates a much simpler design of a tapered box with a hollow top as the base pattern for the model. This effect will create exterior shadows in a box/diamond shape radiating outwards from the centre of the lantern.

However, if a dashed line is used for the folds, and interesting pattern will occur from the light. The serrated pattern from the card cutter will create a dotted light pattern.

I especially like how this design performs at the top of the lantern; where all of the other designs fell short as a result of messy intersecting surfaces.

This is quite a nice looking form, but it doesn’t represent coral as much as I would like it to, more a pineapple pattern. It is also inpractical to work with due to its complexity.

It was thought that maybe the final result could be a hybrid of the top of this form and the bottom of a different pattern in the future if another is found to be more desirable.

The base pattern of this model is as below:

Model #2

Panelling Pattern #2

Model #3

Panelling Pattern #3


Design - Lighting Effects The second arrangement is a row taken from the Digitised Model Alternative #3.

Lighting is very important to the lantern, apart from the obvious as it is after all a lantern, but also because it gives an atmosphere - a mood.

The hollowed boxes cast quite a nice shadow radiating outwards.

There will be three different arrangements that we will be looking at the effects of lighting on.

Because the pattern isn’t as interlinked as the previous one, it feels a lot more flimsy and can easily be mistakenly deformed (as visible in the top right image).

Only a row of the pattern was chosen for a lighting prototype because that is all that is need to get a sense of what the lighting effect will be like. The first arrangement is the pattern off of the Digitalised Model Alternative #1. When lit, the model emits a symmetrical shadow which resembles a star. I quite like this one.

Top View of Pattern #1

Top View of Pattern #2

Isometric View of Pattern #1

Isometric View of Pattern #2


Design - Lighting Effects Here I experimented with different paper weights and the lighting effects that they produce. The ‘skeleton’ of this pattern from form #1 was made using 120 GSM paper while the inside ‘holes’ of the cells were filled with 50 GSM paper, letting light leak through it more easily than that of the skeleton. This creates the ‘internal glow’ effect previously mentioned and evident in the Beijing National Aquatics Centre.  This effect will be amplified when using the card-cutter’s 250 GSM paper which will let minimal light through the ‘skeleton’ so the holes will practically be the only source of light. However, with this effect comes a tradeoff. When the holes are covered with the 50 GSM paper, the shadow cast becomes very dull. The main attraction of the shadow is the hexagonal holes that it casts, with those holes covered it is very faint.

Beijing Aquatic Centre

Form with 50 GSM paper covering ‘holes’


Design - Hybridisation The original design was literally flipped on its head so that the best feature, the original bottom, was put on display. Instead of the lamp wrapping around the arm which would have made a sketchy final product, the lantern is now held by a string that runs straight through the middle of the top showcasing the simplicity and boldness of the panelling in that area.

Original Panelled Model

Consequently, this inversion of the original design makes the lantern look stronger and bolder than previously - reflecting the hardy nature of the coral that inspired it.

Revised Design


Fabrication - Unrolling & Tabbing The panels were unrolled and tabs were applied so that they could be cut out by the card cutter in the fablab. A problem encountered during this process was the Grasshopper file messing up the tabs so most of them had to be drawn in manually. The wastage percentage has been calculated at approximately 73%, this has been calculated by measuring the area of one panel and then multiplying by how many similarly-shaped panels there are.

Examples of the Grasshopper plugin mishaps

Unrolled surfaces arrayed on paper outlines ready for cutting


Fabrication - Unrolling & Tabbing


Fabrication - Cutting & Assembly The panels were unrolled and tabs were applied so that they could be cut out by the card cutter in the fablab. A problem encountered during this process was the Grasshopper file messing up the tabs so most of them had to be drawn in manually. The wastage percentage has been calculated at approximately 73%, this has been calculated by measuring the area of one panel and then multiplying by how many similarly-shaped panels there are. The card cutter was used to cut out the panels, the card cutter is a very useful and easy method except when it goes wrong. One of the sheets of paper was stored in a tube, when it was taped onto the card cutter bed, it was still a little bit raised. Occasionally the card cutter would catch on these raised bits and rip the paper.

The card cutter automatically cut out the unrolled panels

Panels were removed from original piece of card

After the panels were cut out of the original sheet of card, they were folded according to the 3D digital design and then glued together. The glueing technique took some time to perfect, this is evident in the early prototypes in that there was lots of residue on the model. To cleanly glue the panels together, it was found to be most effective when the PVA glue was first squeezed onto a sheet of paper and then applied thinly to the tab of the panel with a credit card. The reading entitled “Architecture in the Digital Age – Design and Manufacturing” by B. Kolarevic describes how new technologies allow digital representations of concepts. This incidentally allows precise designs and fabrication techniques. The reading also goes on to define different methods of designing and also fabrication including reverse engineering from real forms to 3D digital models (attempted in page 7 - Digitising Form Prototype & Panelling Experimentation) and 2D fabrication such as card cutting – the fabrication method used in the creation of the lantern.

It was found that clips were very useful when gluing

Panels were glue together, emerging the 3D form

It was found that clips were the best way to hold the tabs together until the glue dried. Excess glue could be wiped off with a cloth, never fingers as it was found that it just made the residue more dirty. Glue residue was quite a big problem


Fabrication - Cutting & Assembly

To light the lamp, a homemade circuit was made by soldering LED lights to a battery pack with switch. In a previous module, it was discussed that the desired lighting effect was a diffused glow where the LED lights cannot be directly seen through the lantern. To combat this and make the diffused glow, a thin baking paper was rolled up and the LED lights were placed in that. Originally the baking paper was cut into strips and glued onto two ivory card rings on each end. This was overly complicated, the LED lights were still sometimes visible from the outside, and also it couldn’t support itselft under its own weight. The less-is-more approach was then taken with the baking paper rolled up and then placed in the lantern. The resulting effect was the expected uniform soft glow of the lights. The dotted fold lines made interesting lighting effects as did the different angled panel faces, creating a texture over the whole of the lantern.

First Diffuser Attempt

First Diffuser Attempt with lights

Second, less-is-more approach

Assembling the LED circuit

Final Lantern with lighting. Note the pattern that the fold lines create


Reflection - Response to Constructive Criticism It was suggested that the bottom of the lamp was re-panelled as the execution looked quite poor. I agree with this criticism, therefore the bottom of the lamp was removed and new panelling was attempted. However this new panelling experienced a similar problem to the old section, even though the faces were triangulated, the panels were clearly off-scale. Three times the scale was manually adjusted to try and compensate for this mistake and the final result is the point where it didn’t seem worth removing the bottom for a fourth time. This is because each time a panelling section was removed, the tabs and neighbouring panels would deteriorate; this is clearly evident in the final model. There came a point were it was not worth continually stripping down the model, so the final product is quite disappointing. It was also suggested that the design should be flipped back to its original orientation. I kept the upside down orientation of the model for the following reasons. Corals exist as many different species; the species that I am basing my design off is a solid, concrete-like species. I feel that the upside down orientation of the lantern tapering down supports that solid feeling of the coral. Also, some of the best panelling is on top of the lantern, if that was flipped back upside down, it would not be seen.



Module 4 - Reflection