Monday, January 14, 2013

Design vs function--bookshelves


"Interactive Geometric Bookshelf Brings Design to the Crowd"


Nathan Hurst

January 14th, 2013


If you’ve got a stack of old geometry textbooks lying around, Alan Rorie’s bookshelf is the perfect home for them. The artist and neurobiologist’s Kickstarter offers the opportunity to design your own bookshelf based on the clever Voronoi pattern method of subdividing space into polyhedrons.

The Voronoi pattern has been around for hundreds of years (more, if you count natural polygons like the ones on dragonfly wings and giraffes). But what Rorie has done is create software — a Java applet — that allows users to design their own pattern by introducing a series of “seed” points within a 5-sided frame, which is then CNC routed out of white birch plywood. Thus, it’s a collaborative, generative exercise in bringing design to the customer.

A Voronoi diagram is a set of complex polygons whose sides are defined by their distance to user-generated points such that each wall is equidistant from the two closest points. Every point within a cell is closer to that cell’s seed point than any other. With Rorie’s software, each point placed in the shelf space creates a series of walls to pop up around it, spaced to fit the geometric constraits of the Voronoi pattern. The effect is intuitive when demonstrated (see the below video). It is especially useful, says Rorie, for dividing space based on the location of retailers — say, to find the optimal location for Manhattan’s nth Starbucks.

“It became really popular in architecture as digital fabrication kind of took off over the past, say, 10 years or so,” says Rorie. “The interaction is very simple; all you do is put down a bunch of points, but you get a tremendous amount of complexity out of it.”

Rorie’s girlfriend saw him working on a Voronoi pattern, and thought it would make a good bookshelf. “It fits very well in our apartment, because we’re not straight-line people,” he says. “The idea of ordering all your books on little rows is not for us.”

Rorie plans to use the funds gained from the project — which launched on Dec. 18 and with eight days remaining had received $2,547 of a $6,500 goal — to develop a better version of the software via Javascript programming. But that’s not the end; Rorie wants to develop similar tools for other interactive designs, such as tables or wall hangings based on radWedge, a system to fit together rounded wedges.

“The Kickstarter in particular is about more than just this bookshelf,” Rorie says. “It’s about developing this set of tools that will enable us to do a whole bunch of designs.”

“I think, in the future — in the not-too distant future — people will expect that there are some designs that you can influence and interact with,” he says. “I think it will really change the way people perceive design, and the role of design in their life, when design isn’t just something you consume, but it’s something that you participate in.”

Generative Voronoi Bookshelf prototype demo from Hero Design on Vimeo.

A few other weird bookshelves.

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