Saturday, January 16, 2010

Scaling it up

This is my project from my first quarter as a junior. The assignment was to design and construct a privacy screen or room divider. Easy enough right?
Actually, it was really, really hard. As an exercise is simplistic design, we were urged not to make up an excuse for our design by giving it multifunctionality; shouldn't have to justify its existence by serving another purpose. The challenge was to display this minimalist philosophy in an elegant way.
My design ended up being heavily inspired by my graphic design courses, as I became interested in the simple mathematical aesthetic about typographic compositions. In essence, letters, the basic visual and structural building blocks of verbal and written language served the same purposes, physically, for my screen. I used .125 anodized aluminum, laser-cut from 3 patterns designed in Rhino.
Though some may find the 3-panel screen design safe and conventional, I think it is simple and appropriate, and at the same time flat panels speak to the 2D geometry of typography. As well, a screen need not be an obstruction, but it should enhance the environment, or create a new one altogether.
This brings me to the biggest challenge-- the joinery. I needed twist, an example of engineering that was neatly integrated into the overall design. I ended up building magnetic hinges from 3" cow magnets, folded my own aluminum brackets over them, and used aluminum binder posts to fasten them. These magnets allow a user to rearrange and construct a screen of whatever length or composition they desire. The polarity of the magnets permit a vertical flip of any module (similar to certain letters: b/d, a/g, etc). The polarity denies the user a horizontal flip, and to avoid confusion in this case the user only needs to match up the joinery on both sides of the screen to ensure a magnetic bond.

This has been a very long description for what happens to be my most intuitive design yet. Funny how that works...

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