Saturday, September 24, 2011

Zonotopia 2011 : Hi Resolution Desktop Image

The first of our fundraising perks for Zonotopia at Burningman 2011 is ready for distribution. It is our high res desktop image. This image is available to everyone who contributed . Thank you everyone.

To download the hi res image of Zonotopia 2011

Zonotopia 2011 Hi Res  <----  right click link and save as

Zonotopia: The Once and Future Utopia of Zomes
photo by Kat Parry

Thank you one and all for making Zonotopia possible and great.

zome mani padme zome
Rob Bell

Monday, September 12, 2011

Zonotopia, The Once and Future Utopia of Zomes

Miracula Mirabilis
The Twelfth Wonder of Zonotopia
Burning Man 2011

 This year I had the amazing good fortune of having the best build team at Burning Man. We were ten minds, ten hearts and twenty hands strong. Each and every member, five women and five men, focused all of their unwavering strength and efforts for three days under grueling conditions to create this manifest vision of zonotopal architecture.

On a hot Friday morning at 10am, August 26th we were placed and began building in beautiful proximity to this years spectacular Temple.

 We began by building the every charming Bodhisattva Zome, this for the eleventh time.

Before sunset on the first day both the Bodhisattva Zome and the 2010 Zonotopia Zome were fully erected and the Mirabilis was begun.

One Hundred Twenty Five panels and connectors, organized and ready to go.

For three days, we worked all day and into the evening.

And here we see a typical example of the women industriously hard at work while the men stand around not doing much of anything.

Here Zonotopians, Jeff and Val limber up during the build.

 Almost all of Zonotopia is assembled using only scaffolding, ladders, mallets and muscle.

For the topmost rhombs, Art Support provided an appropriately blue boom lift assistance.

And on Monday, Complete! A remarkable wonder, the Miracula Mirabilis brought three new design elements to Zonotopia: a new upward spiralling, helical shell....

...,a indigo color design which faded down to white, and most importantly of all....

 ...Climbability! As many can attest, it was solid and fun 5.0 wonderland!

 There are few things better in life than climbing your own art piece at Burning Man!
 Each Zome provided a different visage and experience to all playa travellers.

 On Wednesday night, we hosted our third Annual Zome Party with Mission Country Club. There was great music and ... spinning in the Zomes.

At long last, Patricia got her life long wish to chill in her hammock in a Zome.

The fade to blue portals garnered no shortage of compliments throughout the event. And as predicted, there was always one row of panels which perfectly matched the sky.

The Mirabilis came out at 25', just a bit taller than the 2010 Zonotopia Zome.

Intergalactic Zonotopians, Star Tiger and Sunshine stop by to admire the construction of their wedding chapel.

The Mirabilis at night, illuminated from within.

This is Zonotopia, the Once and Future Utopia of Zomes.

A giant Zome shaped Thank you goes to...
...The Zonotopia Crew
Sergio, Megan, Jeff, Val, Audrey, Ian, Stephanie, Earl, Patricia and Rob.

special thanks to
Mission Country Club
Dark Sevier
Mad Dog
Our Indiegogo Contributors
The Artery
Art Support
and Burning Man.

zome mani padme zome
-Rob Bell

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pecha Kucha : The Geometry of Desire

Coinciding with the ending of our Zonotopia fundraiser was a Pecha Kucha event which emphasized Burningman projects so I took the opportunity to tell the story of Zonotopia.  The theme was Desire.  It was a great time and everyone laughed in all the right places.

The Geometry of Desire

In 2005, I was working as a software engineer. It was then that I began a journey into the world of zonotopal architecture. Here are a few of the paper models I built to begin educating myself in the structural systems of space.

To manifest a desire one should state an intention. In 2006 I started a fabrication studio and this model was one of the first things I cut on my cnc and it was a declaration of intention as you will soon see.

In my studies of different coordinate systems and explorations of non-rectilinear geometries I learned that computer architecture is a dangerous place were magic is easy. It's quite difficult to build something completely new in the real world and that works.

 In 2009 we built the first Zome of Zonotopia, the Bodhisattva Zome. It defines a space where people can enter and not feel enclosed, to see and to be seen. It creates a form which is compelling and beautiful or in a word... Desirable.

 And in 2010 at Burningman Zonotopia consisted of two Zomes. The original eight frequency Bodhisattva Zome and seen here a newer 20' tall twelve frequency Zome. You can determine the frequency by counting the number of petals which emanate from the center.

I call this collection of zonohedral pavilions Zonotopia: The Once and Future Utopia of Zomes,
because now that I understand how simple they are I see no reason that they could not have existed long, long ago.

As this acrobat can attest, when properly constructed Zomes are incredibly strong. All of my Zomes are built entirely with interlocking wooden fasteners and we don't burn them. They will be heading to the playa this year for the third and hopefully not the last time.

To me Zonotopia represents not only possibility of what might be but also of what once might have been. Imagine if this were only the top of an ancient larger structure. What would that structure be?

What would a would an ancient people, knowledgable and skilled in this architectural space build had they the means? And were I allowed to continue digging down to unearth it what sort of undreamt of wonders might I find?

This is how a cube may propagate a helix in 3-space. Polar Zonohedra are hyper dimensional cubes which when transformed in similar fashion create polytopes in their higher dimensions which cast volumious, helical shadows into our 3 space.

This is the design for Zonotopia 2011. A 35' tall tower I call the Miracula Mirabilis. And the fact that it can be constructed using the same panel and connectors from last years Zome even blew my mind.

Now that the design was nailed down our next task was straightforward. Raise the money. So on a rare and beautiful hot day in San Francisco we set up our Zome in Dolores Park to kick off our Indiegogo fundraiser. We set up in a little over an hour.

Unfortunately police came and shut us down almost immediately. And then, to add insult to injury we were labeled Renegade Hippies by the local Mission Blog. We may be renegades but we're no hippies.

Furthering the fundraising efforts I made this 1/8th scale model of the Miracula Mirabilis. This model and models like it are some of our donation rewards. This one is currently on dislay at Coffee Bar, just a block from my fabrication studio. 

Production is well underway. This is one unit of 1" ACX Pine. One of the great challenges on a project like this is how to minimize waste, maximize efficiency and create systems where friends and supporters can come into the shop and help.

 Our joinery systems have evolved and become more sophisticated. To the lower right is one of the new panels fresh off the cnc. The curvy connectors I call frogs and are a new design created to easily and accurately join parts together.

This is my frog editor. Not only do these forms create a positively locking joint but both positive and negative can be efficently cut in a single continuous pass. Generally something of this complexity would take too much time to be cost effective.

Based on the joinery need at hand Frogs come in many shapes and proportions. Here you see the first Legion of my Wooden Frog Army coming off the cnc and I'm making more every day...soon I will be invincible.

Zonotopia would not exist and none of this would be possible without the help and love of my friends and supporters. I'm doubly blessed to be able to manifest this madness and to have such wonderful people encouraging and helping me to do it.

If you like what you see and you'd like to see this and more of what still lies underground, I encourage you to help us with our fundraising efforts on idiegogo. I look forward to seeing you under a Zome on the playa and beyond.

Thank you one and all.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pecha Kucha Inspire Japan

For the second time I got the privilege to speak at a Pecha Kucha event. This time it was for a fundraiser benefit for Japan and the theme was Inspiration. The event was held at Yoshi's in San Francisco. It was a great time and everyone's presentation was awesome. The format is 20 slides - 20 seconds each, so each presentation lasts just under 7 here we go!

Zome Geometry and the Silver Ratio

Hello Everyone. For about 5 years now I've been exploring an architectural space called Zomes.  My zomes are polar zonohedral domes and I believe that the space they create is very inspirational. I designed and built this pavilion two years ago and from my observations, everyone who experiences it feels the same.  And beyond the simple beauty of the structure I've discovered to my delight that the form is very functional.

Nature has provided me with an important source of Inspiration. Natural architecture, living and inanimate, provides many examples of economy and function packaged in countless beautiful and varied designs.  I believe that were all designers to thoughtfully study what Nature has to teach we would all be better off.

And people have also provided me with inspiration.  Buckminster Fuller, set an example of forward and free thinking that most of us can  hardly conceive. He provided me with invaluable ideas I would have never come up with on my own.  Not the least of which is that the  geometry we are taught in school is not exactly the way Nature works.

More recently I had the honor of corresponding with and being inspired by another interesting character, Russell Towle.  An autodidact, he surprisingly discovered a new and wonderful class of polyhedron called Spirallohedra which were secretly hiding inside of every polar zonohedron.  But then what is a polar zonohedron?

Polar Zonohedra are all around us and one of them is quite ubiquitous.  At the far top left that's a three frequency polar zonohedron also called a cube.  One can say that the frequency defines the number of dimensions of the polyhedron. So here we are looking at projections  3,4,5,6,7 and 8 dimensonal cubes.

Here's the first Zome I built in 2007.  This is an eight frequency polar zonohedron.  Note that the door is a perfect square and therefore the edges of that square are at 45 degrees to the floor.  In fact, all the edges are 45  degrees to the floor.  This angle is called the pitch.

One can change the pitch to make the polar zonohedron tall and skinny or short and squat. Whatever you do each and every edge is always the same pitch as every other edge. That middle one with the Silver Rhombus label...that one is special and pretty soon I'll tell you why.

Sometimes something is so big that it needs to be framed to be put into context .  I think the Universe is like that.  So when people tell you to think outside the box, say no, I'd rather just increase the number of dimensions of my box - and in this case it is eight.

Many people know about the Golden Ratio. Here's a geometric sketch of how it is derived.  The silver ratio is lesser know but derived in a similar fashion - but using a square instead of a pentagon.  It's only at the pitch of the silver rhombus that polar zonohedra are perfect three dimensional projections of higher dimensional cubes.

Here's another source of my inspiration. Japanese joinery!  I've been designing some of my own systems and techniques which will allow me  to build a strong and completely habitable structure using only interlocking fasteners. Here's one of my early working joint designs.

This is my workshop on a somewhat typical day.  There in the back you can see a computer controlled router. I use this tool for most of  my build work - that's the tool that makes most of this - if not sane - at least possible.

Good ideas in the computer sometimes just don't work in real life and conversely good techniques in real life can be very difficult to model.  So there's a lot of trial and error before success.  But I've found that persistence and tenacity will take you a long way.

With the proper choices of pitch and frequency one can recombine rhombuses from two or more zomes to make a bigger one or conversely  take a big one, and rebuild it as two or more smaller ones. For example you can see those green squares on the far left cube get used again in the six and again in the twelve frequency zonohedron.

This last summer I took on quite the challenge. To build a twelve frequency Zome over 20'.  I had invaluable help from my friends. We fabricated all the parts and drove them to the desert without having had time to see if it would actually work.  Here I am applying a little persuasion to a tight joint.

I have had some wonderful building successes. This was beautiful zome greenhouse my partner Patricia and I built together. An elongated  twelve frequency structure in which each panel was tongue and grooved into it's neighbor. But this new project was another matter altogether.  And the new joints had only been tested in my shop.

Here's the digital model of Zonotopia. I've written some parametric design software which automatically generates all of the parts there's but still plenty to pay close attention to and lots of places to go wrong.  It certainly looked cool here - but would it look cool there - and more importantly would it work?

It did!  It took countless times up and down a ladder but we did it and we did it with mostly our bare hands. I love how the Rising Sun creates cresents of shadow light from across the structure. Everyone else loved it too.

And at night we illuminated it from within with white black-light paint and LED black lights. The effect was astounding and ghost-like. With three doors, nine benches and 84 portals Zonotopia was almost always occupied.

And here it is again - all of it - along with my ever dependable Toyota truck. The truck and I have been together for 187,000 miles - that's the same distance light travels in one second and I don't think I could have done much of this without it. - thank you Japan.

And lastly here we see my two silver pitch zomes - an eight frequency and a twelve frequency.  They have provided me and thousands of others with the inspiration that we can do things we never thought we could do and that we will get to see wonderful things we never thought we would  see.

Thank you.

-Rob Bell