Elias and Yousef Anastas and the team at AAU Anastas, Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos (The University of Miami) and Yann Santerre have recently completed an experimental pavillion as part of the IASS Expo 2015 in Amsterdam. Using BIC pens as a point of departure, the designers materialised a structure that floats seamlessly in the lobby space of the Muziekgebouw concert hall in Amsterdam. Karamba was used to analyse the performance of the structure, which is currently being presented at the Expo and will be dismounted on the 24th August.
Text out of the Press Release from the Designers.
“The time of endless growth and unlimited consumption is over. Recycling, reusing, and transforming are the new ways we found to answer current demands of sustainability. New constraints are progressively incorporated in the stakes of projects. The ecological war is declared. Industrial waste and ocean-flooding toxic substances are spoiling the earth. All of our culture has to be thought anew.
It is not about imposing new norms, rules or relevant criteria. Defining new initial conditions is not sufficient either. Thinking differently is what it is about.
Not only is the BIC pen affordable, industrial and functional, but it is also an innovative object. It is a technical display of a way of thinking. The same way of thinking that has produced the great engineering of contemporary history. Since its invention in 1950, more than 100 billion pens have been produced. Umberto Eco defines it as “Intentionally ugly it became beautiful because it is practical, economical, indestructible, and organic, the BIC Cristal is the only example of realized socialism. It cancels any right to property and any social distinction.”
The BIC is thus more than a pen.
Its 2km-worth ball point is made of tungsten, making it useable in all situations. Its oil-based ink is waterproof and dries in less than 2 seconds. Its polystyrene body allows for an evaluation of the remaining quantity of ink. It is pierced, in its center, in order to maintain a constant pressure on the ink and guarantee a harmonious flow. Its pierced cap avoids suffocation in case of an accidental inhalation. Its top and bottom caps are the same color as its ink. ”
“To describe the BIC pen, one needs to navigate between extreme simplicity and excellence, between common sense and brilliance. Its character is unseizable, timeless.
Systematically reaching for better performance, the BIC pen is a brilliant response to an initial functional challenge. Its only limits are the intrinsic material properties and economical-related considerations. It is a symbol of yesterday’s self-sufficient engineering design process. Materials were then considered as basic consumables with established dead-still physical properties. A time where the only limit to the design process was linked to objects’ production.
Today, the paradigm is fundamentally different.
Carbon footprint, Life Cycle Assessment and natural resources exploitation are new criteria to take into account. Each project is inscribed in a global process. Each production implies a complete cycle. But what could we do of the realised myths that are part of our cultural heritage, and that our ecological conscience rejects? Our stance is to accept their existence, to take into account what characterises them, and consider they are among the elements with which we are able to conceive.
The BIC Cristal pen was obviously not designed to be implemented structurally. However, it has mechanical and aesthetic properties that could change its function. The reflections and diffractions it creates because of its geometry are unique. This project is not about the object itself, but more about the process transforming its initial function. It is about designing with components rather than norms. Thus, we designed the BIC pavilion and truly believe in this way of thinking.”
“Reusing BIC® Cristal ® pens is not only about the process of subverting a symbol of a way of thinking, it is also about going beyond the scale of a unique pen. Integrating the 14.7cm pen in the design process of 6m long, 4m wide and 4m high pavilion transforms the scale use of the pen. It is the main component of a pavilion in a structural engineering competition and is no longer seen as a pen but as a texture whose light effects increase as the number of pens do.”
“By increasing the number of pens used, the light effects of the hand-friendly hexagonal geometry of each pen, make the unit disappear and reveal a texture. Reflections and refractions get affected by the angular section of BIC Cristal pens. The entire structure produces an unprecedented texture emphasising the light effect properties of BIC Cristal pens.”
“The goal of form-finding is to find structures in static equilibrium. This objective is achieved by defining particles, with masses, on which loads are applied, and strings with specified stiffnesses and lengths. The overall procedure attempts to equalise the sum of all forces in the system.
The three parts of the pavilion are defined differently in a unique model. The central part (red) and the hanging part (blue) are defined alike. The only difference is the direction of applied loads. With applied loads upwards, the central part takes the shape of a “perfect” compression vault. On the other hand, with applied loads downwards, the hanging part is a cable net working in tension. As for the intermediate part, a bending strength is included in the form-finding by trying to keep each three consecutive particles in a straight line.
During the form finding process, the values of numerical quantities (e.g. bending strength) are arbitrary since it is only their ratios that affect the shape.”
“The BIC pavilion is a crossing between a hanging model and a vault. The first part of the structure (upper part) works only in tension while the central part (the vault) works only in compression. As a result the intermediate part resists to bending forces. This hybrid continuous structure is form-found as such and three different constructive elements are set. The hanging part is a simple cable net composed of BIC’s threaded in cables. The intermediate part is built out of identical BIC-length-edged tetrahedra, linked by their base with butterfly rotation-free connections and from their vertices with rigid plexi-glass slender elements. The central part is also built of tetrahedra elements but with rigid base triangles in plexi-glass material.”
“The final mesh geometry is the result of an iterative looping algorithm. To simplify fabrication and construction, the implemented algorithm attempts to approximate the initial surface with a new mesh composed of identical equilateral triangular modules.
Starting from an arbitrary point on the surface, a first sphere centred on the latter point – whose radius equals the length of one side of the equilateral chosen triangular – intersects the surface. The intersection results in a curve, called a geodetic. As the algorithm loops, a rose geometric pattern is created on the whole initial surface (fig A). By linking resulting intersection points a new mesh is generated (fig B). The latter is made of almost identical equilateral modules: the degree of precision depends on the size of the initial sphere and the surface’s curvature.
Once the rose pattern mesh is generated, a second algorithm is implemented using Dynamic Relaxation (DR). The mesh is separated in two parts: springs and nodes. The springs are set to have a rest length equal to the desired triangle side length. The nodes are left free to move in all directions of space. The dynamic relaxation optimisation is then launched and attempts to converge to a solution where all springs are in a static equilibrium, i.e. they reach their rest length. The obtained new mesh is thus, an approximation of the initial surface, built with identical equilateral triangle modules (fig C,D & E).”
“Diagrams showing axial stress in all elements of the structure. As expected, three different behaviours are noted. The central part (hump in green), working in compression, has a homogeneous behaviour and axial stress values. The intermediate part has a heterogeneous behaviour as it resists to bending forces, implying compression and tension stresses. The hanging part works as a cable net in tension.”
“Diagrams showing displacements in the structure. Suspended by its four cable net wings, the maximum displacement in its center is further increased by the hump’s weight. The maximum displacement of 15.3 cm is found in the central part. As a free-from-obstacles suspended structure, the BIC pavilion has been dimensioned with the stress values rather than its displacement values. However, the displacement value has been observed and verified after construction and confirms calculations.”
Design Team: Yousef Anastas, Elias Anastas, Yann Santerre, Landolf Rhode Barbarigos, Tim Michiels, Victor Charpentier.
Fabrication Team: Margaux Gillet, Yousef Anastas, Elias Anastas, Yann Santerre.