Experiment in Scaling Nature
2007, CNC milled laminated Oak and Cherry wood
Museum of Modern Art, NY

The physical features of a terrain express the distribution and magnitude of the forces that have brought it about. These forces embody the complex relations between physical matter in its given environment, and denote its subterranean force field. The work explores the notion of material organization as it is informed by structural load and environmental conditions. Three natural micro-structural 2-D tissues (a leaf section, a butterfly wing and a scorpion paw) are visualized, analyzed and reconstructed into 3-D macro-scale prototypes by computing hypothetical physical responses. An object-oriented finite element application is used to determine material behavior according to assigned properties and performance such as stress, strain, heat flow, stored energy and deformation due to applied loads and temperature differences. The interaction between the directional morphology of the specimen and the tensor direction produce physical effects that emphasize the tissue’s spatial texture in different ways. The resulting model is six dimensional and includes 2-D information, out of plane deformation, flux and elastic stress. The tissue is then reconstructed using a CNC mill and multiple types of wood. Anisotropic in nature, grain directionality and layering are informed by the analysis resulting in laminated structural composites which respond to given ranges of energy and loading conditions. The emerging scientific insight into simulation of material formation may have potential implications for tissue fabrication and “natural engineering” of larger material complexes such as a building’s skeleton. Photos: Mikey Siegel