Translucent fractal ball animated by dancing color changing lights symbolizing the very first spark at the beginning of the universe as well as the spark of life that our species is on both an eternal mission to keep alight and is in the final stages of creating anew with artificial intelligence.
A 20 foot diameter translucent form, made of twelve identical five petal polypropylene origami flowers arranged as a dodecahedron each with two smaller flower at their centers and intricately lazercut with a 2d filigree depicting the overall form. All the flowers are tied to each other and to a timber dodecahedral internal skeleton with concealed zip ties. The creased polypropylene held in tension by the origami folds themselves provide the rest of the stability. LED DMX lights sit in the five points which touch the ground, facing upwards, illuminating the entire form.
At the end of Isaac Asmiov’s book ‘The last question’ a disembodied AI is the last mark of the human race left in an empty entropic universe. It remains calculating the answer to the last question it was asked, and, unable to find a recipient for it’s solution it says ‘Let there be light’ and creation begins again.
This piece is shaped as a tangible interpretation of this spark. The spark at the first second of the universe and the spark of life which our civilization is racing to create in a sentient self learning AI. This moment, when our creations become self aware, is the theme of burning man 2018 and also likely to be the most important moment in our species’ history. Self teaching AI will rapidly become so powerful it will effectively be a deity. This pavilion’s purpose is to draw the visitors attention to this rapidly approaching moment and consider how we should design this mind before it is too late.
Burners can pass by or play with the spark and think it is just a cool shape, but those who climb up inside what is figuratively a snapshot right at the beginning of new life and the universe, can take a moment to pause and ponder from within, whether their life’s endeavor is relevant in the face of coming AI, what our species’ current knowledge may lack and how it could be codified and explained to a machine and how lucky we are as a generation to have both been born late enough to see AI’s birth, and early enough to have known life before it.
As our studio dipped into the complexity of fractals, it became easy to get lost. Suddenly, these geometries were everywhere. Trees, clouds, coastlines, our own bodies – all examples of fractals. Systems, that are made up of smaller self-simular parts until they reach infinity. Systems, that travel between dimension (more about it here https://wewanttolearn.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/shapes-fractals-time-the-dimensions-they-belong-to/). Wanting to understand these geometries better, I found a Fractal plugin for Grasshopper by albertovalis on Food4Rhino. Playing around with various parameters and GH components gave me interesting shapes, but which seemed far away from an architectural object. I then decided to give it a try and allow the program to randomly select elements by assigning different true/false patterns. Finally, an error happened and it was beautiful.
Error 101 is a visual representation of relationships between machines and humans. It illustrates what we can learn from each other (what does this mean?). The geometry was generated through a combination of fractal mathematics properties, parametric design tools and finally a computer error, which were all guided by human decisions.
The artwork will be made out of ‘chaotically’ arranged ribbons that, together, form a tetrahedron. From far, the geometry will look well defined – a triangle or pyramid. As you get closer you notice the complexity. When you experience is physically, you find logic in the chaos. Inside the tetrahedron is a void.
Error 101 will be constructed using bent cross-laminated timber modules that are interlocked together with flitch plates. Their arrangement will allow the object to be self-supporting. The whole piece is 18’x18’x18’ (5.5 metres). Timber strips create the outer shell and are 25 inches wide (635 mm). Their surface will be treated to achieve a smooth finish to protect both the piece and visitors. Light strips will be fixed to edges of timber curves and turned on at night. Assembly will be completed on site.
Interactivity and Mission
Error 101 is left open to interpretation – everyone can have their personal take on the piece. Visual and emotional perception of Error 101 may change depending on how close you get to it. It may encourage visitors to think of it, as something that travels between dimensions, which is a liberating allegory of how one thing can become another and how the whole is just a collection of its parts. Just like water can be liquid, ice or vapor, Error 101 can be a triangle, pyramid or chaotic curves.
The structure is climbable and each of many unique curves can be treated as a nest. Occupying empty spaces on different levels may make burners feel like a part of the ‘chaos’, that has a space for everyone. Different curvature can suggest different positioning of a body that may influence visual as well as physical experience. Entering the structure’s core shifts the visitor’s focus away from the idea of a pyramid and allows them to focus on what’s within. Such study erases preconceptions and allows new ideas to be born. This notion is also enhanced with the use of lights at night.
Error 101 is a product of human ability to perceive beauty, and computer’s power to process complex mathematics. Its development started with an attempt to try to understand fractal geometries that only became possible to study in the recent years due to the development of computer processing power. A continuous human-computer-human processes that involved both logic and error allowed for the piece to be born.
Error 101 is a common error in Internet browsing. A simple solution to it is clearing browsing history and cache. It may also appear in other spheres of digital world when software or a device is out of date. Burning Man participants are invited to clear their mind, update the ‘software’ and reset their system to become a new advanced version of themselves. The final steps of error 101 creation involved chance and error. The chaos led to something beautiful. We, as humans, can learn from this – learn to let go, to acknowledge and even appreciate mistakes, complexity of the world and our own selves. The geometry of an artwork is essentially a continuous strip that can be unrolled into one flat curve on the ground. This idea of continuity and interdependence is an allegory of a world’s structure.
The closer you get to Error 101, the more you can learn from it. A 2D triangle turns into 3D pyramid and then into a collection of overlaying shapes that are not truly from our dimension. With the speed of the modern world we tend to simplify things, which leads to inability to see details. Visitors are invited to come take time to study and appreciate the complexity of the Error, and to realize the beauty of a whole. From this, they may find that, in fact, all processes in our lives have a similar structure. Chaos generates order and order generates chaos.
Think back to when you were younger – how many times were you exposed to technology in a day? Whether it was a phone, a computer or watching TV. The world has had a dramatic advancement in technology and the questions that should be asked are, “are we as humans becoming more robotic? Running day-to-day tasks repeatedly?” My aim with the project below and the help of Burning man is to try to make us human again by reflecting on the 5 senses. Part of my childhood in Kenya was filled with no technology at times especially because it was a third world country. Weather I spent an hour climbing trees or just playing several different sports – no technology was involved. From a more personal experience babies/ kids at the age of 1 are already watching TV and playing games on phones. Where were we 30 or 100 years ago and where are we now? Who are you? What is your identity? When was the last time you experienced something that moved you spiritually/ emotionally? The journey through a temple or certain spaces can personally move me at times. If it’s just experiencing the space or listening to religious hymns – having a connection with something greater than yourself can not be described but just needs to be experienced.
Art installation name: To Make One Human Again
Project Description Fractal geometry has always existed but was very recently discovered. The chosen design is based a fractal (as shown above) and the research of temples. At this stage in time everyone around has become very dependent on computers and technology as days go on – systematically – wake up, go to work, have lunch, work again, come home, sleep, repeat. It appears we have become robots running day to day tasks.
The structure is to have several entrances with a variety of different spaces – each space can be used in different ways. The proposed idea is to focus on most of the senses and finally introduce the user/ occupant to an area which can be used as he or she prefers. People who visit the installation will have a range of different background and want to reflect in different ways. The idea of interfaith participation with the installation will be a focus and even if one is an atheist, they should still be able to reflect with the installation. Experiencing the senses in the art piece/ sculpture shall take away the user from their day to day working/ life and try to make them experience a change in conditions which would make them feel “Human” .
Interactivity and mission
The proposal uses the 5 senses, so in order to enter into the main space, the user will need to experience one of the 5 senses. The space in the middle/ communal space can be used for multiple purposes (as burners see fit).
This is a preliminary installation for myself. The project is still at its concept stage and through experimentation and learning a working design can easily be constructed. The assembly process may need more than a one person (burner/ volunteers can help).
Although the burners may use this installation in different ways, possibly climbing it – the final product should be partially combustible, and any material left can be re-used by recycling.
The sensory installation will allow people to reflect with their inner self. Some memories are brought back with certain smells etc. For the installation to work, all the spaces must be kept clean at all times and each person’s privacy respected.
Philosophy of the piece Focusing on fractal geometries at university – I was drawn to looking at Sikh and Hindu temples. Some of these temples use fractals in their construction. I have studied and worked in the UK but was born and brought up in Kenya. I have come across a range of different people with backgrounds which vary dramatically. The first world counties highly depend on technology and even now certain third world countries value technology over day to day necessities such as food. The idea of using the senses allows technology to be minimised in the installation and for one to be made human again. This is one of my major motivations, however, the objective of the installation at burning man is to experiment with the scalability of materials, construction techniques and to provide a sensory experience.
The proposal of using the 5 senses.
Sight – Certain LED lights can be added to the structure – so that it is visible at night.
Smell – Scent infused timber can be used so during the burn, these can be released or as people occupy the space the timber can have a smell to it.
Touch – Some of the timber can be engraved/ have different textures
Taste – The users can sit in the space to have their snacks/ meals
Hear – Chimes or other instruments which harness the wind can be hung in this area.
Language has a strong symbolic meaning to the mankind. It is not just a sound but with meanings which then allows to self-express, communicate and inspire. The mechanism of the sound system of languages is translated into visually represented geometries using Chladni’s Law.
3-Dimensional computer generated Chladni Patterns
When the frequencies increase, the pattern gets more complicated.
Tower of Babel – The origin of different languages
“Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly. […] Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:3~4)
(The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel)
It is the story from the Bible but also architectural structure found in Mesopotamia Civilisation – called Ziggurat. It was made of asphalt and baked bricks with total dimensions of 90m x 90m, 90m high. This is equivalent 30th floor building.
The united humanity spoke a single language and agreed to build a city and a tower that is ‘tall enough to reach heaven’. God found such behaviour as rude and disrespectful. He confounded man’s speech so that they could no longer understand each other.
Concept Development through systematic studies of Ziggurat
The frequency and nodes of the word is analysed and recreated as two geometrical forms. They are proportioned according to the Ziggurat Algorithm ratio and timber pieces are stacked up vertically reaching the highest deck at 8m above. The structure encourages to climb complex geometry.
While reaching the top, less intense the space becomes. The LEDs are placed underneath the timber pieces which are concentrated on the top of the tower and scattered following the central void of the structure. Lights illuminate with the voice reactive sensor placed at the top of the tower.
Human always wanted to reach higher points either physical or spiritual. The height of architecture symbolised one’s power and control. This can be observed from the tower of Babel and continues in architectural history. Such expression of the desire of heights lead to competition of building higher structure.
High rise buildings were often found in religious architecture where they had few typical characteristics. First, it was the only tower to observe your land and the only tower which can be seen from everywhere in town. It has a visual meaning that the land within the perspective is the land within control. Second, religious architecture often had music instruments embedded within. This represented the control of the land where music reaches. And finally, high-rise tower was a representation of the centre of universe and sacred space in religious term. The tower, architecture of height is a spatial symbol of man’s deep desires.
The ritual is all about finding the true desire of your own. This begins with constructing the tower where the ritual follows the biblical story of Babel. Climbing up 8m high construct is a challenge then the climbers are rewarded with the beautiful panoramic view of Black Rock city. The climbers will also interact with the installation by continuously stacking up the Babels with anything they can find. Eventually it will deform from the original shape. Then the Babels will be the collective symbol of the Burners’ pure desire.
SOL is an architecture designed by Burning Man for Burning Man as a celebration of its surrounding landscape.The design creates an enclosed space, which is flooded with light daily at 12pm for a limited time. This ritual occurs only when both sun and architecture line up, becoming one entity.
SOL is 9m long, 3m wide and 5m tall. The entire structure is made out of 18mm birch plywood, cut with CNC and assembled on the Playa.
SOL is directly connected with its surrounding landscape, mimicking the silhouette of the harsh mountains. A series of 9 chimneys, which rise from the ground create several sloped surfaces where users can lay down to relax and embrace the natural surrounding. During daytime SOL will be a climbable structure, which can also provide shelter from the challenging conditions of the desert.
SOL was designed to act, appear and generate different experiences based on the user’s position.Frontally viewed it acts as a sun clock aligning with the sun at 12pm.
The overall shape resembles a series of monolithic rocks emerging from the playa, which are inspired by the landscape. During night time, SOL is dynamically lit by LED strips both internally and externally, producing a colorful light show, which celebrates the darkness of the night through artificial light.
Over the years, Black Rock City has seen a multitude of projects which have been created to animate the Playa.
SOL aims to be a playful, interactive and informative design, which enhances the relationship between humans and celestial bodies, in particular with the sun. Human history has been driven by the cult of the sun, and divinities and architecture have been dedicated to it. With the help of parametric design and environmental analysis, SOL is a direct representation of a particular moment on the playa: 12pm of everyday.
Internally, the light that penetrates and cast itself on the floor for only 30 minutes, wants to make the user aware of the sun’s movement in a more evident way. This phenomenon is a daily ritual, which brings people together in order to experience a connection with our universe that we sometimes take for granted since we cannot directly perceive it.
The wooden structure will be lit on fire on the last day of the festival since it was designed to exist only at Burning Man for the length of the festival.
My inspirations has a direct link to archeoastrology, a science that looks at the relationship between celestial bodies and architecture, i.e. Stonehenge, Chiceniza and the Parthenon in Rome. The common element between these projects is the attention, precision and relation with the sky and the movement of the sun. All of these projects and many more, create a different dimension where the architecture only becomes a tool to admire and contemplate what surrounds us.
In conclusion, SOL aims to be an example of how architecture can be shaped by the use of datas and parametric design, in order to deliver a project which is directly derived from its surrounding environment.
Whatever your creed your reliance on the sun is unquestionable.
We have worshipped it as a God.
Spent lifetimes studying it through science.
Yet human hands will never touch its surface.
Celestial Field brings our sun to the Playa for us to dance in its glory.
Triggering our own solar flare.
From the dawn of time the sun has been a constant in human life. It has been central to the beliefs of nearly every civilisation throughout history. What was once an astrological wonder sustaining life; dictating when to plant and harvest our crops; evolved into a god and deity, woven into the stories and teachings of nearly every culture, from the Egyptians to the Ancient Greeks and even Christianity.
The oldest man-made structures in the world have resounding astrological connections to both the sun and constellations, covered in carvings they unquestionably align to major astrological events.
Newgrange in Boyne Valley, Ireland, thought to be built in 3500BC, has a tomb in which sits a stone basin lit by a single beam of light at sunrise on the winter solstice.
The Egyptians, Greeks, and Christians have all referenced the sun within their religion and beliefs.
The Egyptians in 3000BC had Ra, the Greeks in 400BC believed Helios to be God of the sun, and Christians have often depicted Jesus in front of what is thought by many to be the solar cross.
In the past the sun has been depicted as a 2Dimensional disk of light travelling across the sky before dying only to be reborn at sunrise.
The Ancient Greeks believed Helios to be the personification of the sun. A man with a many rayed crown of light, pulling the sun across the open sky with a horse drawn chariot. The Helios named after the Greek god has been used and adapted through the ages, with one of the most recognisable iterations being the logo of global corporation BP which symbolises “a number of things – not least the greatest source of energy … the sun itself..” – bp.com
This once celestial being has now become a tangible thing. Through advances in our technological and scientific capability we have gained an understanding of the suns chemical make-up, uncovering many of its secrets from sun spots to solar flares. Although we have developed an increased understanding of the forces driving the sun, it is still no more accessible to us mere humans than on the first day on earth remaining an impenetrable sphere in the sky only to viewed from a far.
Digital animation of lighting tests
The suns surface has taught us much. Galileo’s sun spot diagrams unknowingly demonstrated the unique fluidity of the suns chromosphere. Further study of these sun spots and magnificent solar flares proved that the surface of the sun is covered in billions of interlaced magnetic fields all interacting together to form the whole. When these fields cross swirling plasma burst in an instance out into the corona bringing with it immense light displays that can be seen on earth as the aurora.
In an age where endless streams of newfound knowledge are accessible with the touch of a finger – it is easy to lose our sense of innocent amazement and unquestioning awe. We have a constant need for explanation of why and how phenomena exist, no longer blindly excepting their beauty and revelling in it.
The indescribable beauty of these gigantic magnetic fields can often be lost and forgotten in the mundane when scaled down to earthly objects. Viewing them at a micro scale allows us to connect with their other-worldly nature.
Science has taught us how a magnet attracts and repels enabling use in industry, medicine and everyday life. And as our knowledge expands, we move from child to adulthood and our desire to play diminishes – burdened by explanations and reasoning; we are no longer in awe of our ability to make metal move without laying hands on it. It has become the norm and the expected, it is no longer ‘magic’.
Life should be fun and full of mesmerising moments. Our increased knowledge should enable and enhance our experience of ‘magic’ not hinder it.
Celestial Fields captures the unexplainable wonderment the sun once held and makes it accessible through modern mediums, combining two worlds; science and enchantment, imbedding them on the Playa at Black Rock City, Nevada, for people to explore and lose themselves in.
Thousands of swaying rods made of tubes of one-way mirror form an undulating field, rising high above your head, and falling like the plasma pulled in all directions by the phenomenal magnetic forces found on our sun.
By day a field of mirrors reflect and intensify the suns natural beauty and power. Creating a maze of ever changing light to explore, push through and play within. At sunset everything transforms. The field morphs, bursting into a sea of glowing beams reacting to movement and mimicking the fluid, almost pulsing nature of the suns corona.
Like the chromosphere, magnetic fields have informed density and pattern, creating patches of pure brightness and areas as dark as sunspots. With each rod built on a spring loaded base it can be pushed a manipulated, enabling you to forge your own path through the densest areas of Celestial Field, parting rods like magnets repelling polarised iron.
Movement through the sprung rods creates interest not only for the participants but also onlookers. During daylight hours people weaving in and out can be seen across the playa through the constant glinting of the sun on the reflective rods. An ever changing shimmer, like sunlight dancing across water in the distance, drawing people in from all directions out of wonder and intrigue.
Once the sun has set the lights come on, and the show only gets better. The rods now glow and pulse, changing colour, transforming the world around them – each equipped with a sensor so as to react to movement as people push past; creating tracks of swirling light shifting like the turbulent surface of the sun. Areas of intense and overwhelming light can occur when people team together to trigger a cluster of rods forming a concentration of light evocative of a solar flare.
The sun is not solely about light, with it comes inevitable darkness. Shadows too have been used throughout time as a symbol in opposition to that of the sun; and in this instance the areas of shadow formed in the magnetic layout create areas of calm within the thrill of the lights where one can sit and ponder everything from the dessert to the sky and the sun that brings life to earth.
What was once worshipped as a distant god and celestial being can now exist on the surface of the earth as a Celestial Field in Nevada. The sun has risen and set, bringing with it heat and light; powering life on earth since the dawn of time, a focus of incomprehensible wonder and fascination for each and every culture across the globe.
Celestial Field intends to reignite our faith in the intangible, while showing us there are powers and beauty still to be found in the modern world.
“We can also discuss the mandala in terms of the soul. The soul is the totality of the mandala. Essence arises in the soul, but for a long time… the soul is not completely essentialized; only part of it is. The rest of the field of the mandala – the rest of the consciousness of the soul – is composed of all your mental, emotional and physical experiences. The thread is defined by the center of the soul, and we can know that center most specifically and in a delineated way by recognizing the essential presence and what quality is manifesting.” – A.H.Almaas
The word Mandala derives from:
manda =essence, la =container
Thus, the word Mandala translates as “the container of the essence”
However, as an image the mandala is a symbol representing both the mind and the body of the Buddha.
In esoteric Buddhism, the Mandala’s main principle is the presence of the Buddha in it. This can be represented either as a tree, a wheel or as a jewel, or in other symbolic manifestations.
The Mandala is consecrated to a deity. In its creation, a line materializes out of the dot, while other lines are drawn up to the point where they intersect, creating in that way triangular geometrical patterns. The central area of the Mandala is the residence of the deity. Each Mandala has its own resident deity, with whom the mandala is identified. The circle drawn around the deity’s residence stands for the dynamic consciousness of the initiated. It is the gathering point, in which all the outside forces are drawn.
The centre is visualised as the essence and the circumference as grasping.
In its complete form Mandala means:
Grasping the essence.
The residence of the deity is located in the square structure concentrically within the surrounding circles. The outlying square symbolizes the physical world bound in four directions, which are represented by the four gates, which in turn symbolize the bringing together of the four boundless thoughts.
The square structure is divided into four isosceles triangles by lines that run from the center of the Mandala to the four corners. Each detail in all four quadrants or triangles faces the center, where the deity of the mandala resides. The square form defines the architecture of the Mandala described as a four-sided palace or temple.
Palace – Residence of the presiding deity
Temple – Contains the essence of the Buddha
The four quadrants of the Palace or Temple are divided into isosceles triangles of colour.
white, yellow, red, green, dark blue
Each of the aforementioned colors is associated with one of the five transcendental Buddhas, further associated with the five delusions of human nature. These delusions obscure our true nature, however spiritual practice can transform them into the wisdom of these five respective Buddhas.
The series of concentric circles surrounding the central palace or temple follow an intense symbolic structure.
Ring of Fire
Ring of Thunderbolt or Diamond Scepters (Vajra)
Eight Cremation Grounds or Graveyards
Ring of Lotus Leaves
A person meditating on a mandala visualizes himself going into the mandala and making his way through the levels of images until he arrives at the center. Buddhists believe that the Mandala meditation helps concentrate spiritual power and bring freedom from suffering.
Drawing the Mandala
After thorough research on the Indian Mandala, I started designing mine taking into consideration the various symbolizations and components that constitute the traditional Mandala.
The Final Proposal – The Cubic Mandala
According to Buddhist religion, the mandala appears as a series of concentric circles that are a representation of the process of transformation that human beings are asked to undergo before entering the sacred area, located at the centre of the mandala. In other words, when meditating in front of a mandala, human beings move through the different layers, liberating themselves from the delusions that obscure our true nature, and consequently reach the centre of the mandala and attain enlightenment.
Based on that theory, the Cubic Mandala is a three dimensional, cubic representation of the traditional Indian Mandala and is designed in a way so that all the fundamental elements of the traditional mandala are being incorporated into the design. For instance, the central area, the palace or temple, the four quadrants along with the four gates, the ring of fire, the lotus and diamond ring, as well as the eight graveyards. The aforementioned are of great significance and vital to the process of transformation and the attainment of enlightenment and spiritualism.
This process is further emphasized by the introduction of 4 layers that form each side of the cubic mandala and represent the different stages that human beings have to overcome in order to reach the centre of the mandala. The cubic mandala is an actual representation of the difficulties one is asked to overcome in order to put an end to human suffering and acts as a means to discover divinity by the realization that it resides within one’s one self.
The Cubic Mandala is a 4,5 m high timber and acrylic construction consisting of layers that form four concentric cubes, creating a journey to the centre of the mandala. The twenty layers that form the four concentric cubes are made out of timber. However, a 10mm acrylic sheet is attached to the five layers that form the first cube as well as the third concentric cube. LED strips will be attached at the edges of the acrylic sheets, lighting up the whole structure during night-time.
Each cube consists of five sides, instead of six, as the bottom side has been removed and replaced by a base that holds the whole structure. The sixteen vertical layers of the structure are being inserted to the pockets that have been created at the base of the structure. The remaining four horizontal layers are attached to the horizontal elements.
While observing a mandala, a kind of spiritual essence surrounds the one observing it, which as a result allows him a higher level of awareness and consciousness. Consequently, the creative mind of the individual is allowed to escape reality and run free. The mission of the “Cubic Mandala” is to encourage people to focus on it, absorb the beautiful designs and allow their minds to wander. People are tempted to let the “Cubic Mandala” absorb all their attention, by moving into the mandala and gazing into its patterns.
A feeling of lightness is what people are going to experience, while falling into the mandala. Intuitive thoughts might arise. People are encouraged to relax, embrace one another and let the feelings come to them. According to the tradition, the making process of the mandalas involved four monks – one at each quadrant – working simultaneously until the mandala was complete. Having said that, the original process of making highly encouraged interactivity. Therefore, the purpose of the “Cubic Mandala” is to bring people together and, through the ritual of mandala meditation, to raise their spiritualism, to promote self-expression and finally, to liberate them from the everyday life.