In our digital reality, is there still a place for building by hand? That question led Kyriaki Goti and Shir Katz on a visually powerful exploration of the potential of human touch as a primary design tool. Called Tangible Formations, their joint master’s thesis develops a structural system of basic building blocks that require no additional material in order to be usable.
The blocks are straightforward enough. They employ granular jamming, a process in which loosely packed particles are manipulated into a solid-like state when vacuum pressure is applied. Think sand granules inside a balloon. For Tangible Formations, the material base is woodchips packed into clear plastic bags and formed to the desired silhouette by squeezing and mashing, the same way you might shape a pillow before sleep. In this malleable state, the bags can be stacked and interlocked, but when air is sucked out, they turn into rigid forms.
Shir and Kyriaki didn’t just end up with parametric forms, they learned from trying and piling shapes that are almost like CMU blocks. There’s a lot of potential in looking at things that are generally hard, and then imagining them soft.” – Claire Weisz
In order to build a data archive, the designers went a few steps further, mapping each form’s geometry using a hand-held HTC VIVE controller equipped with sensors. The archive will ultimately provide users with a library of open-ended building options. A short video documents the project’s seamless transition from tangible to digital. With minimal text and no dialogue, it illustrates what is ultimately most fascinating about Tangible Formations: a drag-and-drop platform with potential to democratize the design process and empower even non-practitioners to build by hand.
University of Stuttgart, Germany
Kyriaki Goti and Shir Katz with Jan Knippers, Achim Menges and Lauren Vasey
With Tangible Formations, a student team from the University of Stuttgart created a building block made of woodchips packed into clear plastic bags that empowers people to construct by hand.