A system for designing complexity – NILAs
One process with many surprising outcomes

For our NILAs sculpture, we developed a system for transforming simple geometric solids, through iterative subdivisioning, into complex geometric objects. The subdivision process produces intricate fractal geometry. The process is both manual and automated. Through a series of tests we developed an intuition for how to generate interesting geometries. The process runs step-by step. We start by creating a simple solid consisting of only few planar faces. The scripts that we wrote are working with these faces by manipulating their geometries and at the same time subdividing them into smaller and smaller units.

The in-between steps of this process have a big impact on the final outcome. It is easy to end up with just clutter, in a similar way a painter ends up with grey when mixing all colours in a colour palette. The designer is in control of the process, delicately guiding it towards the desired results. We tested the computational design tools with a very simple geometry. By executing the subdivision steps in different order and with different parameters, we gradually developed an intuition of how these would affect the final outcome. The iterative subdivision process can be used to produce almost infinitely intricate complex geometry. The resulting forms resemble of biological systems at very macro levels. The digital design explorations created at this point of the design research do not yet consider the limitations of the different fabrication methods.

The final form of the sculpture gradually emerged through exhaustive testing and re-iterating the design process. The simple base geometry has a big influence on the final shape and much time is used in modeling its form. The same design process can produce infinite amount of variation.The final design has a smooth and less detailed surface, compared to some of the design explorations done during the design research process. This was due to the chosen fabrication method of laser cutting 2mm acrylic sheets and the material properties of the clear acrylic. The smooth and clear object refracts light in a similar fashion as melting ice, creating playful light patterns on surface. The sculpture is a direct reference to the themes of the exhibition; nordic & light.

The Finnish Museum of Architecture
Eero Lundén
Markus Wikar
Toni Österlund