Blending SOM’s cutting-edge structural engineering research with real-life application and constructability, the 27–foot long doubly–curved “Kinematic Sculpture” pavilion is made of 99 flat wood panels, connected at various angles with stainless steel hinges. The origami-like art installation explores kinematics—the science of motion—and is inspired by the mathematical relationships between force and motion. Through geometric design, the surface can shift with ease from its original geometry to take various new forms. The structure remains rigid throughout its pattern of movement. Initial inspiration for the structure came from "rigid origami" research conducted by Professor Tomohiro Tachi of the University of Tokyo.
The sculpture is a manifestation of how a small idea inspired by ancient origami techniques can become part of an artistic creation, highlighting the longstanding relationship between art, engineering, and architecture. Beyond remarkable artwork opportunities, future structures could be designed to morph based on programmatic needs learned from the process of constructing the Kinematic Sculpture.
To translate SOM’s research and understanding of mathematical dualities into the pavilion’s physical structure, teams across SOM’s global offices addressed a variety of practical considerations. First, a design of the sculpture was created using structural principles, which led to a small-scale model, followed by a series of mockups and laboratory tests to investigate materials and fabrication techniques. Then, extensive computer simulations and structural analyses helped realize the full-scale structure, which was built in SOM’s Chicago model shop. Since its inception in 2018, the Kinematic Sculpture has traveled from Los Angeles, Chicago, and Mexico City, as the firm explores new applications for structural ideas in different contexts and climates.
Credits: William Baker Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, Daniel Koroski Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP