Venice,¬† Fondazione Cini, San Giorgio Island
Sala Carnelutti: Interior
¬†Geneva Conversations, ‚ÄòMechanical‚Äô Energy
Andrew Jaffe: Looking at solids would be a good way to start combining the similar elements of our differing practices. The reason why this is of interest to me is because the universe is possibly made up of solids. We define them as typologies, the easy ones are cylinders and squares, but more complicated ones are tetrahedrons or hexagons as there is only a finite way that you can do it because you have to be able to tile the surfaces of the solids to be able to analyze them; just imagine a surface where you have to be able to repeatedly place the same shape with no gaps.
Attila Csorgo: It‚Äôs just like Islamic patterns.
Andrew Jaffe: Exactly, it has to repeat for it to make sense. This is called tiling; or making typology on a flat surface, but in cosmology the universe can be curved, it‚Äôs the surface of a sphere. There‚Äôs only a very small number of ways in which you can tile the surface of a sphere. One way of doing is by making narrower and narrower slices in the same shape; just like orange slices. This way wouldn‚Äôt work for the universe because the universe would then be long in one dimension and short in another dimension, so that‚Äôs not a good possibility because the universe isn‚Äôt always shaped as a sphere, it depends hw we look at it. When the universe isn‚Äôt shaped like a sphere, but shaped like a saddle for example, it‚Äôs hyperbolic in three dimensions, which means that it is the surface of a sphere, but with one extra dimension. The tiling of a hyperbolic surface is a very complicated mathematical problem, it‚Äôs much more complicated than the tiling of a sphere.
Attila Csorgo: is there a regularity to be found in the hyperbolic?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†It‚Äôs only in the last twenty years or so that we have been able to calculate the patterns that fit into a hyperbolic. It‚Äôs incredibly complicated because it needs many small faces and many large faces; the biggest challenge here is the mathematics. This all relates back to my science because you can start to identify repeated patterns, and start to put together information. But if you imagine that the universe has these weird connections, and you translate these points and patterns onto a screen which actually simulates a sphere, this means that each point is the same in value. But these points never make up the whole picture; they are just little points that match!
Shin Egashira: But in reality, in terms of the universe, the notion of sphere is notional.
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†Yes it‚Äôs notional, but when I look at a sphere that is one light minute away from me, what I see is all the light that could have gotten to me from a minute ago to now. It‚Äôs notional in the sense that there‚Äôs no Plexiglas sphere somewhere. It‚Äôs a very good approximation to think of a sphere as a surface of a cloud; there is no real surface of the cloud.
Attila Csorgo: How beautiful it would be if clouds where spherical!
Shin Egashira: ¬†Perhaps to start off our project with we could start thinking of some themes, such as the motivation behind our work. What for example would you call your overall agenda? Is it so that artists have a much clearer idea of this than architects for example?
Attila Csorgo: ¬†I don‚Äôt know. Personally I always feel there is an obsessive drive that you can‚Äôt explain. But I do see a lot of similarities with your practice. The mapping of space is very interesting for me, but in my work I try to show an image of the space that is different to the normal image. This could be a photo or a representation of a space. I always try to find an uncommon point of view. This is how I would explain my ‚Äòdrive‚Äô in a simplified way.
Shin Egashira: ¬†There are two important aspects of your work here: firstly there is that of your platonic forms and secondly the transformations you mention. One shows complexities and transformations that can be described quite geometrically. The other highlights the perfect impossibilities of describing a perfect geometry. I think that both the architect‚Äôs and the artist‚Äôs spatial views definitely adopt certain aspects from science to then apply them their own particular agenda. But how come that geometry has become your subject? You‚Äôre using it to exemplify something complex. Is there an aesthetic to it or are you mainly interested in mathematical equations?
Attila Csorgo: ¬†I know that what I‚Äôm making with shapes and solids is not a mathematical revolution, but it does reference to the world of mathematics, because the shapes, tetrahedrons or squares, are very ‚Äòburdened‚Äô, both philosophically and culturally. I like that all these shapes are a part of the work. I originally studied painting, but after a certain point painting was too shapeless! I didn‚Äôt know when a picture was good or bad so instead I tried to find better frames. This became a way of dealing with my work in both a physical and a mathematical way.
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†We could say that the one thing we all use is camera‚Äôs. In a similar way to yours our cameras also look at one thing at a time, we literally look at one part of the sky at a time. Then we make a timeline of all these different parts, and then we re-roll the timeline back to form a map of the sky.
Attila Csorgo: ¬†Is there some sort of a diagram to explain the relationships between the camera‚Äôs, monitors or scanners in your profession?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†There are lots of diagrams. What we do is we wait until we see a very bright thing, like Jupiter for example. We then reconstruct what we‚Äôve been told through existing diagrams. When Jupiter is somewhere else than these diagrams tell us we know that the diagram isn‚Äôt right. We then figure out exactly how the diagram works and explain others how these diagrams and models can be fixed.
Shin Egashira: ¬†Isn‚Äôt all the light you are registering light from many years before?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†Yes, all of these lights are 15 billion years old. Lights move in all possible directions, but we only see the ones that are coming towards us and didn‚Äôt do anything interesting along the way. That‚Äôs why it‚Äôs not always so trivial to figure this all out; there is also a lot of stuff out there that we don‚Äôt care about, and we have to learn how to clean these maps. This cleaning is very difficult and forms one of our big challenges. Most of the photons, or light particles, are 15 billion years old, but some of them are only a few thousand years old. Some of them are only a microsecond old at the time that we see them. As an example, here we have a picture from the Kobe satellite that was launched in 1989. This satellite had blurry spectacles and therefore could only see about seven degrees, so it blurred out everything outside seven degrees. The satellites all have different resolutions, some satellites can see ten degrees for example, but we can always only see a tiny part of the sky at a time. All pictures are taken from different points of observation to make up one spherical 360¬∫ perspective. Everything is seen from space, and so the coordinate system has nothing to do with the earth.
Shin Egashira: ¬†So where are we on this map?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†We are in the centre, but that‚Äôs not a really meaningful question because it‚Äôs just all around us. Our camera has a fixed distance: it focuses on infinity. That means it actually scans every point and that it takes about seven months to look at the whole sky.
Shin Egashira: ¬†I still don‚Äôt understand, your camera looks at one point, but it focuses on infinity?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†It doesn‚Äôt look at one point at a time; it only looks at a circle that‚Äôs about a tenth of a degree across, so it takes a very long time. It goes around once a minute, which it does 60 times and then it moves a little bit, about a 24th of a degree, and then it does the same again until, over a period of seven months, it sees the whole sky. Then it just does this over again and again and again. The actual data that we find is light intensities and noise that we receive from the satellite as numbers in a big file that we download from the satellite. The colours, red, blue and green that form the patterns in the graph refer to light intensities. Red is hotter or more intense, and blue is less intense. The patterns change much slower than human evolution; if we wait a hundred thousand years, we might see a small change.
Attila Csorgo: ¬†Can you make maps that predict how the universe will change?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†Yes. But statistically we don‚Äôt ever come across one point more than once. If we look at the different pictures the satellite creates, they are actually all very homogeneous and very similar. That‚Äôs seen as a hint that the universe started in special places in the universe. So if we statistically understand what it‚Äôs like in one place we can statistically understand what it‚Äôs like in another place, an example of this is the Milky Way. That‚Äôs how science is done; you make an observation in one place and you assume that that observation tells you about something else.
Shin Egashira: ¬†Have you ever looked at Mandala paintings? They are considered maps of the universe. Do you think there is any similarity?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†On some grand philosophical level there is, as we‚Äôre trying to do a similar programme, we just have very different methods.
Shin Egashira: ¬†I once attended a seminar on Mandala paintings, and I was quite shocked when they told us that if the drawings are a depiction of the universe, where we live isn‚Äôt in the centre, but in a corner on a tiny island. And that you have to go to another island where you will die. The distance in between these two islands was some scientific number, which bizarrely enough was indicated. Is the type of mapping that you apply developed to achieve a similar type of measuring between solids? Or is it developed from a particular applied science?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†No, I think that with a lot of these things we drive the technology ourselves. The detectors are called bolometers, which are small thermometers. Related to this technology are the scanners that they have at airports with which they can look at your whole body at once. They have similar frequencies. Because they‚Äôre thermometers, they basically see different frequencies in heat.
Shin Egashira: ¬†It‚Äôs quite interesting how often advanced sciences has to do with data, and that what you are actually mapping is that what has happened millions of years before – where light comes from for instance. This notion of distance is quite amazing. The idea of size here is also quite significant; it has something microcosmic and is at the same time something really abstractly far away. So the work you do is not instant, it‚Äôs more like a filmstrip because each point has a different time, and when you put them all together then you have a combination of different times. You said it took seven months to record everything, but relatively, if you look at the millions of years that that light has travelled, that recorded moment probably counts as nothing! Can this technique then also be applied to relatively shorter distances? Can we scan the unknown surface of the sphere in this room around us or use it on a city scale for example?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†It all depends; it‚Äôs the universe that picks the surface. If you would do the same thing in this room the outcome would be very much like what we can see here.
Shin Egashira: ¬†In my recent projects I have been looking at concrete, and the fabrication of concrete in certain geometries. They are mostly very simple parabolic formed shapes, very minimal structures with mirrored parabolic surfaces. The technique is to apply plaster onto the surface of soft materials. We then use this as a mould to cast concrete. Of a basic geometric pattern made of these shapes we can make 96 combinations: 6 multiplied by 6 multiplied by 6, etc. Each component is different but made up from the same patterns that are repeated. Like this we made wall units where each unit is the same, so it can be built up like puzzle parts. We also created furniture that you can configure and connect in different ways by twisting and double twisting tubes to fit in different ways. My interest goes out to the application of certain elements to an environment, elements that in first instance seem ridiculous or useless; for me these are the most beautiful things. I would say that I am equally interested in the principles and technologies of mapping the unknown and then creating models to describe it. I imagine you to see every day life to completely different than us architects. When you look at the sky, your knowledge allows you to see something completely different than when I look at the sky. It may sound quite na√Øve, but it‚Äôs always when I hear about these universe things that I realise what a short life we have!
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†I feel like that as well, but I also think that it‚Äôs amazing that we have gained all this knowledge and that it‚Äôs possible for us to do all these experiments. Here we are, incredibly finite beings, that have actually been able to do so much, and that have been able to understand things over 15 billion years old. As far as we know there are no other creatures in the universe that can do this.
Attila Csorgo: ¬†It seems that another coinciding element between our practices is photography. I use photography because it allows me to show mechanical movements during a longer moment, to fix the moment of movement. In my work I have built kinetic structures with moving lamps that move in a circular motion, like this a very atmospheric structure comes into being. These mechanisms, as the mechanical part of the built structure are a part of the work and are therefore also presented in the exhibitions, in photographs. Originally I was only interested in making kinetic structures, but I needed to document the movement. I then noticed that with the means of photography the movement of lights in the mechanic structure made stripes appear on the photograph, therefore showing the same phenomenon in a different way. In another kinetic structure that I built, which is similar but more complicated, we see three rotational parts. This is actually a growing model, it expands and grows in a spiral manner. It‚Äôs a long exposure for these photographs, and I can‚Äôt shake too much because it‚Äôs one long exposure. They are about the disappearing aspect of machines and the image taking its place. I have now created five constructions like this that each consist of sticks that are moved by a string that is connected to a motor and where contra-weights create a distortion of this movement by pulling back the sticks.
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†This notion of documentation and research into the correct way of making projections could be another interesting connection. Remember how we spoke about tiling a sphere with bigger parts, that are not arbitrary but that are set up so that every pixel has the same area. These areas can be different shapes; depending on which part of the sphere you are trying to tile. This is a very complicated maths problem where never one answer is the best answer.
Attila Csorgo: ¬†Yes, it could be, but it‚Äôs difficult to compare that to my approach, because what I do is essentially quite primitive.
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†Do you use a mathematical formula in the building of your structures? Perhaps we can apply it to the machine that I have, and then we can see what it would look like.
Attila Csorgo: ¬†I wrote a programme. It‚Äôs a very primitive programme, but it can calculate these curvatures. I‚Äôve tried this method on the building of other spatial entities but the method is not so evident for me anymore. In another project I applied a different method; I built a small light into a dice that I photographed in the dark so it leaves the trace of the die‚Äôs movement on the exposed film. But in this case photographing from one point is usually not enough because the object tends to move away form the camera. This forced me to construct a multi-view system with mirrors making it possible to follow the object constantly. It‚Äôs a very big camera that puts six images into one same slide. Of course every fall of the die is different, and so each photograph is different.
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†So, what shall we build?
Shin Egashira: ¬†The other teams seem to be more directly related to energy than our team, which has been asked to focus on mechanical energy. Besides this, I do think that our work has quite a lot in common in terms of vocabulary and its interest for mechanical aspects. Also, I think the idea of scale is quite significant for all of us: we have the scale of the artist, my scale, which is architectural, and then we have the scale of the universe, which is endless! I don‚Äôt know exactly yet how we can use this idea of scale in our project, and so in order to understand this better, could you perhaps explain what you yourself really specialize in, in this specialized filed that you work in?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†It‚Äôs a very long story, but yes, I can explain it to you. I will start by giving you the whole overview, and then I will tell you what I personally do within this. The sky is made up of many galaxies, like the Milky Way for example. For the rest everything else is mainly ‚Äònoise‚Äô + ‚Äòcosmic‚Äô. During one hour we focus on the cosmic. Then, in the second hour, the cosmic won‚Äôt have moved very much but it will have moved a little bit further along and could have some longer or shorter distances in between the lights; so it‚Äôs similar but not exactly the same. We repeat this process for days on end, and then we have to wrap the outcome back onto the sphere. Each point of focus overlaps with the next point of focus, and when you wait a long time, there‚Äôs a lot of overlap, especially on the poles, where you cross a lot. On the equator you don‚Äôt overlap very much. You use these overlaps to further get rid of the noise and get a clearer image, because that means that every time you pass by one point, you see the same exact same thing but from many different perspectives. We can then take all this information and start making the map.
Shin Egashira: ¬†So do you write the programmes for this?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†The last fifteen years I have spent figuring out how one ought to write these programmes, because the mathematics for this isn‚Äôt trivial. I don‚Äôt write the programmes myself but I figure out what formulas the programme should solve. When we have the maps we need to correct the focal points, which is the geometry of where everything is pointed. So we have to iterate and correct our model of the instrument based on these results and hope it eventually starts to make sense. This is the moment we can actually start to do science! Basically this is the general idea because you start from these time strings, which you use to refine your instrument, and then from that outcome you can start doing the science. We are still in an early stage, because we have only been able to see the sky once in its totality over the last seven months. We now have one full map of the sky, but that means we have only done a quarter of the work we want to do, it‚Äôs not enough yet. This is the hard part, it‚Äôs the moment that you really need to understand your instrument very well, and whilst you build it, you have to keep fixing and adjusting your understanding of the instrument. So we are still in this early stage, but if we are fairly na√Øve about our analysis of the data it‚Äôs pretty clear that it will be the best experiment of it‚Äôs kind ever done. The idea is good, so it seems that we‚Äôre on track.
Shin Egashira: ¬†Is there any other institution doing similar experiments?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†Just to make it clear, this isn‚Äôt just me. This project is huge! It involves 400 PhD‚Äôs around the world. There was a previous satellite, the W-Map, which had a technically different approach. It made the same sort of map but technically it was a very different kind of experiment. There is also a whole generation of different experiments, which don‚Äôt take place in space but where similar things are done from ground-based telescopes, or from balloons. In fact, I‚Äôm involved in a couple of experiments from the ground and from balloons, which can do similar things. Because of this technicality, they can be a bit more cutting edge. The fact is that when you put something in space, you simply have to use ten-year-old technology that‚Äôs absolutely proven, where there‚Äôs no question that it will work because it can‚Äôt just break when it‚Äôs in space. But on Earth you can experiment.
Attila Csorgo: ¬†This is very interesting! And it makes me think of someone that analyses economy, who might look at things in similar ways. It would be an idea for them to map all these different behaviours and patterns, but I don‚Äôt think they have such a map.
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†That‚Äôs exactly right, because we know the coordinate system that we‚Äôre working with, and they don‚Äôt.
Shin Egashira: ¬†But your analysis, it is an actual product, isn‚Äôt it?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†Yes.
Shin Egashira: ¬†Could you explain us why is this map important? Of course the map is very useful for someone like me, because it‚Äôs the first time I see something like it, but there must be some kind of an agenda beyond the mapping; what sort of potential could this mapping have?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†I‚Äôm not sure exactly what you mean, but it‚Äôs basically just to be able to do the science. Its agenda is to figure out what the early universe was like, and what the future universe would be like and besides that to find out how much dark matter there is. It‚Äôs all about being able to answer these questions.
Shin Egashira: ¬†But for example these patterns are created by light and noise, can they be directly related to dark matter?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†Yes, definitely. If there were no dark matter, the patterns that we are looking at now, would look very different. I don‚Äôt know exactly how they would look different, but the sizes and differences would all be very different. But what I haven‚Äôt explained to you yet is what I mean with ‚Äòdoing science‚Äô. For example, when you have a relatively expensive stereo, you have a mixer on your stereo that has different bars with different frequencies that takes the sound and splits it up into different frequencies. That means that you are taking a one-dimensional curve and splitting it up into these long-wavelength things, the lower notes, and the higher frequencies things that are split up into the short-wavelength, which are the high notes. You can now assign a number for any particular frequency; this is a one-dimension. It turns out that you can do that in two dimensions, and you can even do that on a curved surface, on a sphere.
Attila Csorgo: ¬†But if you have an unknown factor that needs to be mapped, do you need rules and regularities that keep doing the same thing, like a pattern that keeps in a constant movement and that‚Äôs not interfered with, because otherwise this interference is registered too?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†That is the idea behind revisiting the same thing various times. One way you go about this is to add up all the information you receive and that you take the average of this data. The other way is to subtract them in order to find out where the noise was. So yes, we do try to set up rules and regularities. Another way we do this is by sending out a satellite that only registers differences. It spins around and has two detectors, in the hardware of the machine the information it sees in each detector is subtracted. The satellite keeps revisiting and like this only calculates the differences. We essentially do these calculations with the software itself to check what has changed in between the different times that you‚Äôve looked at the sky.
Shin Egashira: ¬†The reason why I ask you these questions about the relationship between the universe and machines, what you do and that data you use, is because in relation to my own work, my main motivation in architectural terms are either landscape or the interior. This could be the city and interior landscape seen as an installation because these are always places with a lot of imagery or noise ‚Äì it‚Äôs not dark matter as such, but I do occupy myself with how all these elements can be re-coordinated to form some form of interior space. For me photography and video introduce another method of bringing the outside landscape into the interior. It can recreate a space that uses the world outside or the notion of outside in the interiority it creates. In this same atmosphere, maps become models, but for me your approach to the mapping of the universe is very mixed ‚Äì sometimes you speak about geometries, and sometimes you speak about transformations of patterns. I‚Äôm wondering whether, if we think about the prototype, if we could think about the modern relationships between various machines, objects and patterns. How is it possible for us to comprehend a larger structure, and to see things as a mechanism? An example for us could be the inventing of imaginary, impossible machinery that hasn‚Äôt existed but that we try to invent with our limited knowledge and expertise about certain things.
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†Absolutely! Maybe we should write down some words, such as the area of communality.
Shin Egashira: ¬†This is a great opportunity, because we will all be trying to do something that none of us has done before, something we are not familiar with.
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†That‚Äôs what I‚Äôm looking forward to.
Shin Egashira: ¬†One of my students put a video camera into a washing machine!
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†Did it survive?
Shin Egashira: ¬†Well the camera didn‚Äôt but the film was ok!
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†This is really quite similar to my machine, maybe a little less random. It turns out that the more random you can observe the sky the easier it is to reconstruct the map, even though that would seem harder to do when it‚Äôs more random. When it‚Äôs done in a more random way, you end up visiting the same point in lots of different ways and that makes the reconstructing easier, rather than it turns out to be more difficult.
Attila Csorgo: It‚Äôs interestingly funny that whilst observing these tiny particles, these almost little insignificant things need so much equipment to be registered!
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†The reason why you need the experiment to get bigger and bigger is because its done in relation to increasingly higher and higher energies; higher energies correspond to a smaller scale. So, in order to be able to observe on the scale of such a small particle you need your experiment to get better, which means bigger on a physical scale. The computer does all the work, but so much of the data is thrown away afterwards.
Shin Egashira: ¬†When you‚Äôre trained as an architect you are always expected to materialise some form of abstraction. So here data means something different because when you see the drawings it‚Äôs clear that something has to come out of the work; as an architect you are continuously translating into scale, objects and structures. I could say that my expertise within that is that I have a certain knowledge about how to put things together. Something I didn‚Äôt put much emphasis on when I explained my practice before was what I would call the notion of a situated technology. I‚Äôm referring to how to place certain things in a certain context, or how to deal with things that are or aren‚Äôt available in a certain way. This is often speculative. Perhaps for us it coiuld be interesting to think about how to apply certain knowledge of technologies, perhaps by improving or through the interference or the breaking of some existing boundary in communication. How do you see architects, for example, do you think we draw elevations and plans and build buildings?
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†That‚Äôs certainly some of what you do! I‚Äôm quite interested in architecture, I understand that there‚Äôs a very conceptual part of architecture although presumably most architects don‚Äôt apply that to their practice very much, for example when they are contracted to fix someone‚Äôs kitchen up or something like that… Let me ask you a question, because I can‚Äôt think of a good way to answer yours. From what I saw during both of your presentations, I wouldn‚Äôt necessarily have said that you‚Äôre an architect or that you‚Äôre an artist, so why do you consider yourself an architect? Because the things you do, a priori don‚Äôt seem like architectural projects if you look at their medium scale, they are not typical buildings, they are not the things that I necessarily associate with architecture.
Shin Egashira: ¬†I think that‚Äôs exactly the difficult part, because in my practice I choose to focus specifically on mechanical parts; the making of machines is a part of my practice. In the programme that I teach at the Architectural Association we often look at the situation of some particular environment. This could be an environment where the master plan has failed, where for example they are stuck and they can‚Äôt build. In such a case, certain alterations could be implemented, such as alternative transformations of building conditions. This could be the removal of buildings and the insertion of something new, or the staging of a demolition process in order to interfere with new types of building language. My interest here lies in the ability to stage the disappearance of the building of architecture. Another project we did was more about a rural community, which was a very different project. We tried to communicate with the local inhabitants through art and architecture related projects. We made some gadgets to record and document these attempts and to give us some tools that allowed us to work together with the community. All the projects are quite different, but I never realise commercial work, mainly because I don‚Äôt believe in it. I prefer to work only in a contextualized way or with special techniques and the realms of contemporary architecture is very good for this because I think contemporary architectural practice is actually very ambiguous in terms of it taking place on the boundaries of contemporary art or contemporary architectural discourses. Some units in the AA also do absolutely politically orientated projects, where they look at the diverse controlling forces of the city, which is probably not so very far from what economical analysts occupy themselves with. So in contemporary architecture the starting points are not always purely architectural. I always find it quite difficult to explain those things. In some terms architecture may still have a function, in terms of security, or even in terms of some level of stupidity.
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†What do you mean with a level of stupidity?
Shin Egashira: ¬†Well, stupidity is also human nature isn‚Äôt it, when we make fun of ourselves, or do unnecessary things, or enjoy certain things. In a way this is also a part of the camera we built in the rural village. It became a demonstration of the disappearing village, where we made something absolutely dysfunctional functional. The camera is very slow and very very heavy, it takes lots of time for it to take one picture. This is also something it has in common with art, where you take something very ordinary, something we already know or think we already know but where we believe in its essence, and make the thing bigger in order to highlight it. For example, by taking something that is science and combining it with something that art we gain knowledge of the universe, which doesn‚Äôt make our lives especially useful, but it is very enjoyable!
Andrew Jaffe: ¬†I would say that it doesn‚Äôt make it useful, but yes it does make it enjoyable, and that‚Äôs why I do it.
Shin Egashira: ¬†It‚Äôs all out of curiosity and to expand our knowledge.
A few weeks ago I wrote about my visit to Geneva as part of the¬†Beyond Entropy art/architecture/science collaboration sponsored by the Architecture Association. We continued our work last weekend in the Dorset woods visiting the AA‚Äôs Hooke Park site, a 350-acre forest with a bit more space for workshops than their Bedford Square buildings in central London.
Our group‚Äôs brief was to explore the concept of ‚Äúmechanical energy‚Äù and we took as our starting point ‚ÄúHow To Build A Time Machine‚Äù, by the French pre-absurdist Alfred Jarry (who I remember first encountering as the inspiration behind the name of Cleveland proto-punks Pere Ubu and as an occasional character in Zippy the Pinhead). Like Wells‚Äô Time Machine from the same period, Jarry envisions time as a fourth dimension, and equips a massive cube with giant flywheels. Conservation of angular momentum (real physics) keeps the machine from moving in space, and also in time (that‚Äôs the absurdity).
We started by playing with some store-bought gyroscopes, trying to fix them to the faces of a cube, but soon realized that it was difficult to connect the edges of the cube to the axes of the spinning disks, although we did make this lovely machine out of small electric motors, rotors from tape decks, and machined metal disks (where by ‚Äúwe‚Äù I must admit that my mechanical prowess doesn‚Äôt quite rate much beyond kibbitzing on my part).
But we wanted something more substantial, and more symmetric. The design breakthrough, and my only major contribution, came with the realization that we could join the axes of the flywheels and the corners of the faces of cube with a triangle ‚Äî a simpler and more stable shape than the cube itself.¬†Shin EgashiraÔªø, the architectural side of our triangular collaboration, took this forward to an actual design. We cut it from thick plywood with a magnificent CNC machine‚Ä¶which we then put together to make this:
The flywheels spin on bearings, and can actually generate quite a bit of angular momentum. We couldn‚Äôt yet work out an efficient way to get and keep all three wheels spinning at once, but the whole mechanism is stable (and well-built!) enough to spin around rather amazingly on the ground:
Next, the work of our collaboration and the others in the Beyond Entropy ‚Äúcluster‚Äù will be presented at the Festival dell‚Äôenergia in Lecce, and then this summer in Venice for the Architecture Biennale. Sadly, we weren‚Äôt able to travel in time any faster (or slower) than the usual one second per second, so these events are approaching fast.