The Palm Arms


Palm trees are angiosperms, which means flowering plants. They are monocots which means their seeds produce a single, leaf-like cotyledon when they sprout. This makes palms closely related to grasses and bamboo.

Palm Tree
Components of Palm Trees
Growth and Decay
Palm Growth and Decay Process
Palm Tree Information
Palm Tree Information

Mimicking the Geometry

This mature palm shows how the pattern originally seen in the young plant, forms a distinct mathematic pattern known as ‘Phyllotaxis’. This is a pattern with reoccurs throughout nature and is based on the Fibonacci sequence. In order to try to understand the use and formation of the palm fibre, the overall formation of the palm stem needed to be mathematically explored.

However, redrawing the cross-section of the base of the palm plants allows a better understanding of the arrangement of the palm plant.

Frond Arrangement
Palm Frond Arrangement

This exercise allows models to be made to recreate the patterns found in palm plants. By engineering plywood components, the basic shape of the palm geometry can be made into a physical model.

Palm Base Model
Re-creating Palm Base

This was pushed further by curving the plywood components to make extruded palm structure models

Palm Structure Model
Extended Palm Structure Model
Palm Structure Model
Three-Dimensional Palm Model

The arrayed components can then be altered so that the base of the models form regular polygon shapes. Doing this allows the potential for the structures to be tesselated. Using different numbers of components mean the structure can then be tested for strength.

Tessellation Models
Tessellation Models

Palm Wine

There are hundreds of used for palm fruits, this the plant producing materials which range from durable, to flexible to edible. One of the more interesting ones if the production of palm wine using the sap from the tree. Within 2 hours of the wine tapping process, the wine may reach up to 4%, by the following day the palm wine will become over fermented. Some prefer to drink the beverage at this point due to the higher alcohol content. The wine immediately begins fermenting, both from natural yeast in the air and from the remnants of wine left in the containers to add flavour. Ogogoro described a ‘local gin’, is a much stronger spirit made from Raffia palm tree sap. After extraction, the sap is boiled to form steam, which is then condensed and collected for consumption. Ogogoro is not synthetic ethanol but it is tapped from a natural source and then distilled.

To understand the fermentation process more clear, the process of fermenting sugar to make wine has been undertaken.

Palm wine tasting
Testing Palm Wine

Alternative Fuel

The distillation of the wine can be used to make bio-ethanol. This production of this fuel can act as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuel energy, which is overused and damaging to our environment.

How Much Energy?

Future Proposal

The developed structure, as well as the production of palm wine and bio-ethanol, can be collaborated to develop a programme, which provides sustainable energy, within a space that is inviting and exciting.

The production of bio-fuel releases a lot of carbon dioxide. In order to ensure the process does not impact the environment, this needs to occur inside a closed system, so the CO2 does not enter the atmosphere. This can be done by using the properties of a Solar Updraft Tower. Carbon dioxide released from the fermentation and distillation processes can be received by palm trees for increased photosynthesis, while the excess oxygen from the trees provides fresh air for visitors.


Solar Updraft Tower Implementation
Form 01 – Solar Updraft Tower Implementation


The fermentation process can be controlled within an isolated area of the model.

Fermentation Implementation
Form 02 – Fermentation Implementation


The Distillation process, which requires a store of water for cooling, can also be conducted in an isolated area of the model, with apparatus incorporated into the structure.

Distillation Implementation
Form 03 – Distillation Implementation


The final proposal will be a combination of all three forms



The London Housing Crisis – Survey

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As part of my research to inform my final thesis project on the London Housing Crisis, I have created a short multiple choice survey that would benefit greatly from the input of members of the WeWantToLearn community who have lived in London at any point over the past six years. The survey only takes a few minutes to complete and will directly influence the design progression of my project in the coming weeks. Please spare a few moments to participate, and/or share with friends and relatives who may be able to contribute also.

You can find the survey at the following link: Here

All survey responses are anonymous.

Thank you in advance.

Thousand Line Construction

Thousand Line Construction :

Hamish Macpherson

A spatial exploration into the interplay of materials, construction techniques, and delicate and precise design.

Inspired by Hanakago; the craft of Japanese Bamboo basketry, to celebrate the western discovery of tea and its associated culture during the renaissance.

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Kinetic systems

“…the main task is to unfreeze architecture- to make it a fluid, vibrating, changeable backdrop for the varied and constantly changing modes of life…”

Reciprocal systems can be used to create a wide variety of movable structures based on pin-joint assemblies, especially in planar form.

One of the most widely known reciprocal kinetic structures is the iris diaphragm which uses four or more elements hinged at their ends with pin joints to generate a sliding motion for opening and closing. The elements join one another at different points along their spans and these intermediate points of connection can be used to determine new kinematic behaviour.

              658px-Lens-iris   7a4b032b5d49095bf3d6465baa2ee078

Iris diaphragm with 6 and 8 elements

Jean Nouvel’s facade design for the Institut du Monde Arabe is based on the iris mechanism, with aluminium diaphragm panels employing squares, circles, stars and polygons to generate decorative patterns through rotation. This light-responsive south facing facade uses a photoelectric cell to adjust the admission of natural light by the opening and closing of the mobile diaphragm.


Institut du Monde Arabe by Jean Nouvel

Calatrava’s project for a restaurant in Zurich has some similarities with the principles of retractable reciprocal frames. The roof structure is composed of nine metal and glass tree-like elements 12m high. Each of the nine columns is mechanically operated and folds simultaneously with all the others to provide shelter for the restaurant underneath.



Model for a restaurant in Zurich by Santiago Calatrava

The idea of a retractable roof which operates similar to the iris of the camera lens was first patented in 1961 by Emilio Perez who proposed a dome built of 3D curved segments which retract. The segments twist simultaneously and create a circular opening at the top.

Patent of retractable dome

Patent for a retractable dome by Emilio Perez

However, issues such as cladding materials, the changing geometry due to the retraction, design details of the hinges, eliminating the danger of progressive collapse, drive mechanisms which will provide simultaneous reaction to the beams and the cladding as well as overall construction detailing have to be considered and developed.

Chuck Hoberman’s research in the field of mobile and folding structures can have a remarkable impact on the development of kinetic reciprocal structures. His unique approach in the field of transformable design has created created objects that simulate the behaviour of living organisms, fostering a dynamic relationship between structure and user.

The Iris Dome has a fixed perimeter with a centre retracting in a smooth radial motion. A lamella dome with a geometry of interlocking spirals, the structure is based on a Vierendeel grid which carries the load by bending action rather than by axial forces which makes it similar to a retractable reciprocal structure. The main difference however is that the segments which form the Iris Dome are an assembly of pairs of structural elements connected with hinges at their midpoints which move like scissors.

Scissor-like movement is the main generative force also for the Hoberman sphere. The unfolding structure resembles an expanding geodesic sphere which can reach a size up to five times larger than the initial one. It consists of six great circles, each made of 60 elements which fold and unfold in a scissor-like motion. There are also 60 nodes which give rigidity to the structure and prevent the circles from expanding further into elliptical shapes.

Hoberman’s piece emerged in part from working with NASA on their deployable structures programme: ‘rather than constructing a structure in space, you unfold a structure in space’.

Miura Ori based curved surface origami structures

I have been researching Miura pattern origami as a structural solution for rapidly deployable structures. Miura ori are interesting as structures due to their ability to develop from a flat surface to a 3D form, and become fully rigid, with no degrees of freedom, once constrained at certain points. 141110_Year 2 working folio2 Physical and digital experiments with Miura Ori have taught me that certain topographies can be generated by developing a modified Miura pattern. With the help of Tomohiro Tachi’s excellent research on the subject of curved Miura ori, including his Freeform Origami simulator ( I have learned that Miura ori surfaces that curve in the X and Y axes can be generated by modifying the tessellating components, however these modifications require some flexibility in the material, or looseness of the hinges. 141110_Year 2 working folio6 As a system for a rapidly deployable structure, I am most interested in the potential for the modified Miura ori to work as a structure built with cheap, readily available sheet materials which are generally planar, so I will continue to develop this system as a rigid panel system with loose hinges that can be tightened after the structure is deployed. 141110_Year 2 working folio4 In order to test the crease pattern’s ability to form a curved surface, I have defined a component within the Miura pattern that can tessellate with itself. The radius of this component’s developed surface is measured as it is gradually altered.

With the objective being to develop a system for the construction of a rapidly deployable structure, I have also been interested in understanding the Miura ori’s characteristics as it is developed from flat. Physical and digital tests were performed to determine the system’s willingness to take on a curve as its crease angles decrease from flat sheet to fully developed. I found the tightest radius was achieved rapidly as the sheet was folded, with the radius angle reaching a plateau. This is interesting from the perspective of one with the desire to create a structure that has a predictable surface topography, as well as from a material optimisation standpoint; the target topography can be achieved without the wasteful deep creases of an almost fully developed Miura ori. 141110_Year 2 working folio5 With the learnings of the modified Miura ori tests in mind, a simple loose hinged cylinder is simulated. As the pattern returns on itself and is fastened, the degrees of freedom are removed and the structure is fully rigid. 141110_Year 2 working folio A physical model of the system was constructed with rigidly planar MDF panels and fabric hinges. The hinges were flexible enough to allow the hinge movement necessary in developing this particular modified Miura ori, however some of the panels’ corners peeled away from the fabric backing as the system was developed from flat. A subsequent test will seek to refine this hinge detail, with a view to creating a scalable construction detail that will allow sufficient flexibility during folding, as well as strength once in final position. 141110_Year 2 working folio3

John Konings

Architecture & Sci Fi Novels

Some sci fi novels you might find inspiring:

Bernal Sphere
Bernal Sphere;

John Desmond Bernal – The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1929)

A space habitat intended for permanent residence; radical changes to human bodies and perception and the implications for society;

Brave New World
Brave New World – Impressions on Reading Aldous Huxley (Album Cover); source:

Aldous HuxleyBrave New World (1931)

Radical social changes due to technological advances. Huxley’s other work is worth checking as well.

Star Maker;

Olaf Stapledon – Star Maker (1937)

It is a masterpiece that AC Clarke, F Herbert, OS Card and other great sci fi writers have quoted as a major influence. Virginia Wolf was a fan as well. I would say architectural references in this book are not very direct, but it is nothing but pure inspiration. A conventional guy has a disembodied visionary experience that takes him across time and space and slowly allows him to merge his consciousness with the Universe. There is a mystical beauty about the way the cosmos is described, sci fi and philosophy at the same time. It has some interesting relevant concepts as well, such as the Dyson sphere – an artificial mega structure entirely surrounding a star in 3D to capture the entire power output.

Scene from Equilibrium directed by Kurt Wimmer; source:

George OrwellNineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

Relevant for the issue of surveillance and how it reflects on social life and implicitly, architecture. The descriptions of the ministry buildings are memorable.

Hari Seldon on Trantor; source:

Isaac AsimovFoundation series (1951)

A sci fi classic novel in which Asimov anticipates big data and open source encyclopedias and envisages a science which can use information to predict the future on a large scale. It is interesting from an architectural point of view as Trantor, the capital of the Galactic Empire, is a completely built up planet, covered in its entirety by a continuous mass of metal high-rise buildings and subterranean structures.

scene from Stalker directed by Andrey Tarkovsky; source:

Stanislaw Lem  – Solaris (1961)

Questions alien nature and the issue of communication between alien species. The Russian film by Andrey Tarkovsky is also a masterpiece.

Dick; source:

Philip K Dick  – all his work

Man in the High Castle (1963); Ubik; A Scanner Darkly (1978); Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968); The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) – all have subtle architectural references and address contemporary issues like immigration, mass-media, politics, drugs. Dark paranoid atmosphere throughout.

Dune-inspired render at

Frank Herbert Dune (1965)

Not so much about architecture, but it is a realistic depiction of the layered complexities of a planet: politics, religion, sociology, economy, ecology, technology, etc.

Larry Niven – Ringworld; source:

Larry NivenRingworld (1970)

Larry Niven, in 1970 theorized the Niven Ring – a continuous ring-shaped mega structure that rotates around a star to create artificial gravity force; Architecture at a star-system scale.


Arthur C. Clarke – Rendezvous with Rama (1972)

One of Arthur C. Clarke’s most well-known works, the main architectural interest is on th 50 Km cylindrical alien star ship which has its own geography and cities. Clarke comes from a scientific background and this is reflected in the rigor of his novels. Also check 2001:A Space Odyssey and his work on fractals.

Gheorghe Sasarman
Squaring the Circle; source:

Gheorghe SasarmanSquaring the Circle – A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony (1975)

Written in the style of Calvino’s Invisible Cities.  it is a collection of short stories full of mythical and symbolic references about utopias, politics, geometry and of course, urban design. <Spoiler> Babylon is an egalitarian society where everyone is allowed access to the top of the ziggurat but the steep ramps are greased every day. Rome is a fractal city made by recursively placing forums at the intersection of the cardo and decumanum; tunnel cities, underground, or moving, or towering ones, Atlantis, all linked to a poetic idea about their creation.

Magrathea; by microbot23

Douglas AdamsThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

This is a comic series, but it has some unique ideas. My favourite is that Earth and some other planets are artificial mega structures manufactured on Magrathea for some wealthy clients. A planet-building factory! <Spoiler> Earth was originally commissioned as a mega human driven computer to compute the ultimate question about life, the universe and everything. One of the characters, Slartibartfast is a coastal designer and won a prestigious award for the design of the Norwegian fjords.

A picture of the Moon before it was fully constructed; Source:
Serge Brussolo – Territoire de Fievre; source:

 Serge BrussoloTerritoire de Fievre (1983)

Brussolo has an intimidating imagination. Short novels, easy to read, you can also check Les mangeurs de murailles (about a cube-shaped dystopian city), Portrait du diable en chapeau melon (about a labyrinthine prison city), <Spoiler> In Territoire de Fievre people live on a breathing planet and their planet gets ill.

Stephen Baxter – Ring;

Stephen Baxter – Ring (1994)

A mega structure formed of cosmic strings;

Stephen Baxter
Time Ships; source:

Stephen BaxterThe Time Ships (1995)

A sequel to HG Wells’ The Time Machine; It has a few architectural references, but the main one is the Dyson Sphere at the centre of the Solar System built by an advanced civilization;

Vernor Vinge
Rainbows End;

Vernor VingeRainbows End (2006)

It is a critical insight into plausible extensions of technologies available today, seen through the eyes of a man who just recovered from Alzheimers.

Helix Fractal; source: deviantart

Eric BrownHelix (2007)

Galactic-scale mega structure; Depending on the complex relationship between the geometry of the Helix and the stars, various ecosystems form;

JAM.D G-Code

My study about a custom G-Code for FDM 3d printing geometries based on a central axis (not necessarily a straight line! – any curve would do). Rather than printing layer by layer horizontal sections that are uneven and inefficient in terms of travel time, the slices are consistent and always perpendicular to the central axes. Moreover the transition between layers – rather than being done from a single point through a vertical motion which is the traditional approach – is a continuous gradual motion upwards, the travel path resembling a spiral, thus improving efficiency.











Philosophical Statement:

Inti: The Incan Sun God, his face portrayed as a gold disk from which rays and flames extended. Inti is the Sun and controls all that implies: warmth, light and sunshine. During the festival of Inti Ramyi, held during the Summer Solstice, Inti is celebrated with much drinking, singing and dancing – special statues are made of wood are burned at the end of the festival. This sculpture is an extended physical manifestation of this; decadent ritualism and a spiritual experience.

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Inti incorporates 288 petals are self-assembled into 12 concentric rings, with each petal representing the hours of the day and each ring every month of the year. These are held together using mirror polished circular brackets, designed to catch the light and reflect circles of sunlight around the structure interior. Inti’s focus is the sunrise; as the sun rises on the playa, Inti is designed to catch the light at this precise moment and funnel through the piece, enveloping and bathing the burners inside with it’s warmth and spirit.

night_light copy1


Timber Wave by Henry Turner

01 Day

Philosophical Statement:

‘Timber-Wave’; a plywood instillation emerging and crashing on to the desolate Black Rock Desert. This breaking wave a remnant of the retreating Quinn River, draws on imagery of both waves and dunes provoking thoughts of the original Burning Man Beach Parties and surfing counter culture. Simultaneously the design evokes concepts of the Silk Road as a mirage of a giant wave appearing from across the playa to be discover by wondering burners.

The design of the Timber Wave was driven by creating an interactive environment. In daytime, people are encourages to climb and search between the interwoven plywood structure. Open sun soaked communal areas create areas for group contemplation. Solitary areas for single travelers have also been designed as places of refuge from the intense sun, wind and dust storms hoping to encourage serendipity. At night the wave truly come alive as a monument to the sea. Bathed in varying blue tones of color the spectacular structure is a mysterious beacon within the dark playa.

02 Night

Physical Statement:

‘Timber-Wave’  structure consists of 3 layers of 12 intersecting plywood ribbons.  Each ribbon consists of a varying number of water bent plywood components con-caving and con-vexing together forming a rigid series of tensioned and compressed sections.  The result is a homogeneous structure creating a beautiful ergonomically sized spaces. Each ribbon a series of circular penetrations in the form of an abstracted water pattern.  Creating foot and hand holes for climbing as well as allowing dramatic shadows to be cast throughout the structure and across the playa. At night the penetrations allow the lighting of the instillation to spill across the playa and between the layers of the structure.

03 Day

04 Internal Image


1:20 Scale Model

01 Portfolio Review.indd