Facing Feelings, Molding Mindscapes.

This was an entire group project, in which we decided to tackle mental health issues.

1. Concept Overview

The project started from discussions of roles everybody will take and thinking from what angle mental health should be approached.

2. Inspiration
An inspiration for the concept was taken from everyone’s personal life’s as everybody can relate to this topic.
When the concept of the theme for solidified, everyone self-assigned themselves roles they wanted to have in this project. I knew I wanted to work on the structure. There were few people in our group that expressed a desire for the structure to be soft, and also Brittany mentioned that it would be nice to use it for projection. I also knew that two groups formed, one group that wanted to work on a zine, and another group that wanted to create a video that can be observed in googles. That meant I had few parameters and some options, I needed something that incorporates fabrics, something you could project on. At that starting point I had few possible options, I could create some sort of wall – room divider, that can also become a surface for an exhibition for zine people on one side, and for projection on another side, or I thought about some shelter, cocoon, which also could be good private space for video googles experience. In both cases, I thought the structure will be great for organizing sense of flow in the space and will guide viewers to experience different projects my classmates are working on. Olivia, Max and I had a shared folder where we started to collect inspiration images.
While browsing initial images, I already was thinking about the structure that one can easy and fast to assemble and disassemble. I thought of stacking cardboard as a possibility, and also I found a lot of neat cardboard chairs, so I thought if Nicky would like to create a chair from cardboard I could create a matching structure. Wood frames could be folded and be held by hinges.
The second option was some sheltered place and I came up with initial few options.
After we presented we received a feedback from my classmates, who said that they don’t want to display zines, but mostly everyone liked the idea of soft shelter. We came back to look at more sheltered cocoon structures. I personally was very happy with that choice as I relate this type of structure to mental health. I know a number of people who would like to hide in a cozy cocoon when they are stressed and overwhelmed, it is almost a visceral experience.
During the next meeting Erin, Olivia and me looked at our cocoons and sorted main ones we liked.
These were –
Even though Erin and Olivia liked the cube, I thought that wouldn’t be enough of a challenge for me to build, so I really wanted to explore these organic bent shapes.
3. Material research
This was challenging part, as we were constrained within healthy materials, which made all cheap easy accessible materials to go away (goodbye PVC pipe). We found out that fiberglass rods are flexible, so we decided to experiment with those. For the fabric we went to Spandex World and picked up few samples of spandex, and found out that we really liked supplex. Supplex is strong and stretchy and has a nice cotton look.
There were few challenges. We found fiberglass tent poles, and while they were coming, we needed to find thinner fiberglass rods for a mini model, none of them I was able to find to fast shipping options, so I could start building before Thanksgiving. Erin suggested that plexiglass may work. We picked up few rods from Canal Plastics and during Thanksgiving I started to play with mini-model. By that time our tent poles arrived. We ordered just one set to see how they look and bend. Max and me met on the last day of Thanksgiving break to look at them and see if they work and how many I need to order more. I was not sure at all how strength and bend will be translated from small model to an actual structure, because we used different materials, but we had faith in these poles, I did math in translation from small model to big, and ordered more poles.
4. Sketch Images
These sketches show the shape, and calculations to translate the small model into big. I also created a system of efficient rod markings (5th image). i divided the whole continuos line into 6 sections, calculated these spots on rods, and also I calculated point of support. Without that symmetrical assembly of large object would be impossible.
Main shape idea:

Calculation of proportional translation into big scale, and establishing how much of fabric we need:
Calculations I had to do before I got to meet with Max, Erin and Olivia, so we could use time efficiently while assembling this.
Possible solutions for challenge that we faced after assemled tent poles that didn’t want to stend up.
5. Mini Model Images
 Initial shape idea taken from inspirational images. Plexiglass rods are easily breakable.
Fabric pinning to see how fabric is able to support the structure without tape. It worked! The previos shape won’t be able to become a shelter, so I had to brainstorm quite a bit how I can modify it to create something that is able to become our cocoon. This is the shape I ended up with:
Here I needed to get fabric pinned on this structure, but cut tape off a little too soon. As I later established it should be cut after all fabric is pinned first. This mistake turned into a disaster as I broke my rods and had to go to Canal Plastics again to buy new ones. I also needed more pins. More shopping.Here are new rods, and second version of mini model On the small model I started to come up with marking system to keep my eye on the symmetry.Possible roof idea I had to cut and pin and mark fabric to find out the pattern multiple times by trial an error checking how tension works.
Petal and roof: (for some reason I don’t have an image of the final mini model with the roof attached, as time was a big factor and I rucshed to take it off to calcualte how much of the fabric we need for big structure so we can start attaching big pieces of fabric to see how it will work)
Challenge: I still didn’t find a good book on tensile structures. I ordered few expensive books and all they are just a collection of images with minimal information. The very last one had few meaningful images, but that is about it, no math, no theory of tension. I am still confused how people find out how to build these things. I found few architectural software plugins to Rhino that test strength and weak points, but it doesn’t seem to enough for me. My biggest goal is to solve that and I won’t stop. I am a type of the person that gets very bothered by things that I don’t know and want to know.
— While I was working on mini model fabric pinning I asked Olivia to test few possible ways to “pin” fabric for large scale model, possibilities were – buttonhole, or rivets, or snaps. The challenge was to save the hole from destruction, because it had to take tension at the same time.
6. Final Images (as Final as it goes with this concept)
I realized that the same way I was assembling the mini model will not work. (for small one I was laying circle on the floor and pinching petals). It would simply be no space. So i came up with this:
We cut the fabric as long as we tought we need, but I didn’t want to translate my small shape of the petal into big one yet, because I thought tension could change and thus the pattern too may need some adjustments. The challenge we experienced is that the structure started to fold.

That was less than two weeks before the installation date.

I brought my partner to brainstorm, as I didn’t find solution that can be found in the last image in sketches neat, or easily and efficiently buildable. And on that day our tent poles started to snap and break.

These poles don’t work for a few reasons. Well, first is apparent – they break. Second – they are too thin for this structure, they looked thicker on Amazon. Also, I established on that day that these connectors work against us. If you hold with both of your hands continuous line of petal it doesn’t twist, connectors allow the line to twist, which isn’t something that we want.

Next step for me now is to find different thicker continuous rod.

Since that happened 5 days before the installation I had to come up with new structure, as there was not enough time to get new rods and experiment with tension and pattern of the fabric.

Come back to square one.

1. Concept Overview
Still the same idea of some shelter space.
2. Inspiration images/Material Research
3. Material Research
Again no PVC, so I had to get a bamboo fence. (this guy was heavy! and required SUV)
I researched the best ropes for lashing and found out that it should be special waxed nylon thread, there was no time to wait it delivered, so I got regular nylon thread and followed somebody’s youtube tutorial to apply bee’s wax. Further, I realized that in order to be able to assemble the structure in one hour we can’t use lashing((((( so I ended up using zip ties. I own thousands of leftover zip ties from Burning Man camp build up and they save my life all the time.
4. Sketch Images
Skept at that point as I know how pyramid looks.
My only sketching was to establish fabric pattern
5. Mini Model
Skept at that point
6. Final

Lashing is fun, easy and sturdy! At this point Erin arrived, and we decided to move to bigger space, and at that point I decided to post pone my lashing experiments to use time efficiently so we can start solving fabric challenge.

Fabric was already cut to the shape of petals for previous structure, so we had to map it onto triangular surface of our structure. We created big triangle pattern, did some measurements and math and started to map.

It took us good amount of time to go over the edge because it was very badly cut.

The event photos of everything coming together:


Goal for future: To solve tensile structures!

I’m very happy I took that risk and tried, even though I wasn’t able to accoplish this task into short timeline. I think I was realistically too dare to risk, but hey you need to fail multiple times in order to succeed.

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