The Butterfly has evolved through a detailed research into the system of knitting, which can be described as the art of systematically knotting thread in order to create a piece of fabric. It is interesting to consider how each stitch, essentially a different knot, produces a different effect, all previously calculated.
The proposal for Burning Man, aims to use the rules learnt through exploring “knitting systems” and apply them to a design. An “s-shape” component was adapted in order to create a clean, solid component, with generic joints. Physical modelling demonstrated the shapes that were possible through utilising the same symmetrical planar shape. The variation was caused from the side the material was bend, or which components went together. From this “pattern codes” were able to be written, meaning the butterfly, after its death, can be recreated, using the laser cutting templates and code.
The scale of the component relates to a person interacting with the proposal, either climbing on it or using it to sit in. 3mm birch faced plywood was used, as the thickness allows the material to be bent, but also retains it’s strength, through the layers built up in the plywood. The plywood, becomes malleable once soaked in warm water and can be shaped into the component and bolted in place. The assembly process is simple and uses no high tech gadgetry.
When a butterfly emerges from its pupal stage, it is not able to fly until its wings are dried. The installation uses this principle, for the components to be joined, they must be soaked in water. The installation evolves in this wet stage and once dry the true beauty of the wings materialise. The wood’s structural capabilities and sturdiness return once the plywood is dry.
The Butterfly is made from four wings, which are symmetrical. Each are made from the same code, but another row of “stitches” is added on two of the wings, to create the variation in the height of the butterfly. Like a butterfly, it lightly interacts with the ground plane, with rebaring grounding the proposal.
The height of the design is kept purposely low, to allow for extreme wind conditions. The design has a central core, where the plywood components meet the ground. The space provides refuge in the vast expanse of the landscape, at a scale more manageable. However, it is not secluded, all participants can access the space and you are able to see out past or through the structure to the rest of Black Rock City. Purposely there is no defined entrance to the butterfly, with the only hierarchy defined as the large arch, with more rows added. This means, from different angles the butterfly gives a different appearance, it encourages participants to explore the proposal, in order to fully understand its purpose and construction.
The Butterfly is not just for interaction during the day time, however its main purpose is at night. Each column of components have the same colour LEDs embedded in them, with each wing of LEDs connected to each other. As the light fades over Black Rock City, the LEDs become active on a predetermined lighting sequence programmed into an Arduino processing board. Each column in the wings have a different colour LED meaning it is possible to programme the Arduino board, to allow the columns to come on in sequence. The darker the playa becomes the more columns of LEDs will come on, meaning participants are able to tell when night fall is. Eventually all LEDs come on to signify it is midnight and the sequence is reversed.