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Mårten Nettelbladt and geometries of bending

parametric design, architecture and art

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We have already talked about Mårten Nettelbladt as a very interesting researcher on topics of complex geometries, and specifically the topic of developable surfaces.

His website, “Omkrets arkitektur”, and his blog The Geometry of Bending should be a reference for all those who are interested in the developability of surfaces, and in general for those who are trying to create and construct complex forms.

As I am explaining here in French, developability is a key concept to understand if you are trying to construct very complex forms that are easy to draw but difficult to build.

As Mårten says: “I am fascinated by organic shapes and have sought in my investigations to find forms on the dividing line between free-form and the geometric. I have also tried to find a balance between complexity and simplicity.” He also explains in a very simple way the purposes of his research blog:  “When you bend a thin strip of an elastic material you get a beautifully shaped curve. What geometry does this curve follow? Please help unravel this mystery by commenting on these posts!”

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In a recent article (in French) about “Hybrid Archtiecture: sentient spaces and new design” we have been focusing on the complex relationship between the virtual model, the physical model, and the engineering calculation model. I think that developable surfaces are a central topic in these studies, as they are something that we must strongly consider if we want our complex virtual forms to become physical objects.

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Image credits: Mårten Nettelbladt

This is why I think the work of Mårten Nettelbladt is especially relevant, as he’s always going back and forth between virtual models (using Rhinoceros and Grasshopper) and physical models (paper, plastic, rubber, etc). For example, he has developed an interesting Grasshopper definition to draw developable strips (you can download it here).

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Image credits: Mårten Nettelbladt

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Image credits: Mårten Nettelbladt

I find this strong relationship between paper studies (physical) and Grasshopper definitions (virtual) particularly interesting, as it gives evidence that developable forms are not merely abstract results of a virtual modelling, but that they have a strong physical meaning as well, as their forms are the results of forces of nature.

This could perhaps be a subject that we could work on one of our next Parametric Architecture Workshops.

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