Today we were able to construct our first successful cable guided fabric formed origami pattern.  The structure is a modified barrel vault that possesses load bearing (spanning) capacities and also seeks a transition from a larger scaled opening at the front to a smaller opening at the back. This will help with fitting the structure underneath the sloping cable net above. As can be seen here, we have decided to forego the cable guided valleys as sharp transitions for a gravity induced sag which produces a catenary curved section in the valleys which will (in theory) give us a form capable of transferring load paths more efficiently in each diamond shaped “beam” spanning from node to node. Once iced, these beams will become the units that construct the spanning arches over the interior.

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Using optimal stress flow patterns developed by Caitlin Mueller and her team at MIT we tested a new cable pattern linking three main anchor points on the site (two areas along the shoreline and the lighthouse). By distributing the loads of the fabric structures between these three areas this cable pattern allows us to distribute the load evenly along the cables, achieve enough stiffness in the cable net to pull up to with sufficient tension, as well as create lateral stiffness (from the horizontal funicular outer most boundary cables) to be able to pull at angles down to the ice. This video shows a time lapse of us constructing the cable that onto our 1:10 physical model.

Today we began to explore possible cable arrangements to connect the lighthouse (the black pole) to the surrounding water pier mooring posts (screws around the perimeter shoreline) on our 1:10 scale physical model.  This new patterning study will allow us to explore the creation of several smaller buildings as an alternative to the singular larger structure we have been studying to date.

cable net

This week we attempted to study how the folding patterns developed through a tensile net using “ridges” and “valleys” might be further explored by replacing the sharp “valley” folds (previously created by downward pulling strings) with curved valleys created by the weight of liquid wax (to mimic the influence of ice on the fabric).  The model we used was the same interlaced diamond pattern that we had used previously that we now layered that with a synthetic/natural fiber blended fabric.  Using a heated modeling table, paraffin wax was used to simulate liquid water (pre-freezing). Magnets were used to hold down the fabric pattern to the table, while strings attached to the frame around the table introduced the tension necessary to achieve the vaulting form.  Once formed and the liquid wax was applied to the fabric layer, the heat was turned off to rigidify the model.

The resulting model showed some deformation of valleys caused by the wax, but some areas were less obvious due to the scale of the structure in comparison to the size of the folds in the pattern and the inability to create even and precise tension field on the cable net structure pulling up.  In addition, due to the overall stiffness of the fabric and the number of facets on the vaulting form (causing there to be shallower valleys between the peaks) this model proved difficult to decipher.

The next step will likely include a scaling up of the fabric model on this heated wax table as well as using a pattern that has deeper folds in order to gain a more dramatic topography between the ridges and valleys produced by the tension net.

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The pattern used to create the first origami form was studied to translate the folding of paper to the linking of cables to form the ridges and valleys. In order to do this we proposed that the fabric layer being folded would form ridges through the use of cables pulling from under the fabric, and form valleys through the cables pulling down on top of the fabric. This approach allowed us to divide a standard folding pattern into two separate patterns, a ridge pattern and a valley pattern. In physical form this would allow us to first construct a ridge cable pattern, then introduce a fabric layer and then conclude with a valley cable pattern on the top. The intersections of the valley and ridge patterns would be then coupled through a hole in the fabric.


By using an odd number of spaces between intersection points in the x and y directions, we are able to achieve a continuous woven pattern using a single cable for both the ridge and valley patterns.We first began to test this approach by leaving out the fabric and only building the cable model of the origami pattern. We used posts (screws) on a plywood sheet to weave the ridge pattern and valley patterns and zip tied them together. After attaching leads to each intersection we used the digital model to locate appropriate anchor points and then used a wooden frame to pull the intersections of strings to. The resulting form is shown in the pictures here. Because of the inaccuracies of the construction and the varying tensions in the pulled points the pattern had loose and overly taught areas, but the overall form was achieved as hoped. We will next try to introduce a fabric layer into the this assembly method.


Our interest in the direction of this project is to construct a relationship been the digital and physical design process so that one feeds into the other and influences the methods of full scale construction.

In this project we intend to utilize an origami folding pattern with a fabric formed ice sheet. The advantage of using origami as a forming technique is that it has the ability to produce rigid stable forms with shear planes, can be formed using non-stretch materials, and made using non-customized sheet patterns.

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In order to do this, we are intending to use high-tensioned cables to form the mountains and valleys in the folding pattern to shape the fabric panel. This process will require a translation to move from the techniques required to produce a folded rigid non-stretch plane (like paper) to a edge formed pattern that guides a non-stretch but pliable fabric plane. To begin this we developed a grasshopper model in order to visualize the folding pattern in real time. This model allowed us to develop a pattern language of “valleys” and “ridges” and to choreograph the forces required to manipulate this pattern through Grasshopper and Kangaroo 2. We are beginning with a simple folded pattern that would create a folded barrel vault (capable of being self supporting with an anchored base). With this test pattern we are attempting to find the mechanical behaviour of the ridges and valleys and the points of intersection which join them. Once this is achieved we will use this technique to allow for the exploration and rapid visualization of other origami folding patterns.

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The ongoing intent of the digital script is to mimic the physical properties of the material (cable, fabric) and actions (via construction techniques) being used in this project. This allows for the study of the digital through the representation of the physically built structure. At the present time the grasshopper script only mimics ridged body typologies (such as timber struts or planer faces) and not rope or cable topological forms.

POST_2_Digital Origami

The Durotaxis Chair is a fully 3D printed multi-material dual position rocking chair designed by Synthesis Design + Architecture and manufactured by Stratasys. The chair is inspired by the biological process of the same name, which refers to the migration of cells guided by gradients in substrate rigidity. The chair is an ovoid rocking chair which has two positions, as an upright rocker and a horizontal lounge, and is defined by a densely packed three-dimensional wire mesh that gradiates in size, scale, density, color, and rigidity. The chair capitalizes on the multi-material printing capablities of the Stratasys Objet 500 Connex3 to produce gradients of material performance. The varying gradient conditions are expressions of the combined formal, ergonomic, and structural properties of the chair.


This piece would not be possible at all without 3D printing. Not only in terms of the complexity and density of the three-dimensional mesh, which would be completely laborious in any other conventional manufacturing process , but especially in terms of the gradient distribution of material properties and performance which would be impossible without the Objet Connex3.  3D printing is having a profound effect on the design industry. At the moment, the focus is on rapid prototyping, but the shift towards rapid manufacturing is imminent. It has the potential to revolutionize the industry and induce a new industrial revolution that enables true file to factory processes. The key on the design side is not how we design for the technology, but rather how we design with it.

“Folding is a challenge with great individual properties – – Opening a fold in a surface creates spaces, which in our minds are filled with volumes.”  (Hans Cornelissen)


This week we experimented with patterns, paper-folding and tessellation.  The vehicle was an temporary exhibit for the Faculty of Architecture -Environmental Design Program.

The pattern was identical for each panel, variation being achieved through the differentiation of the folds, creating an undulating form and a structure with geometry.

The intention is that the Digital Lab at the University of Manitoba become a Resource and Laboratory for the exploration of digitally driven design, prototyping and manufacturing.  The desire is to foster a context through which students and faculty are better equipped to explore the potentials of digital design and manufacturing processes.

Join us this Fall for our Lunchtime Lectures and Thursday Evening Workshops!

FAUM Fablab Lectures and Workshops

FAUM Fablab Lectures and Workshops