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Bond research project illuminates the skies and wows the crowds at Vivid Festival

After almost 12 months planning, Bond’s Architecture teachers and students have finally seen their light installation, Cellular Tessellation, come to life at Sydney’s Vivid Light Festival.

The S-shaped pavilion measuring 9 metres long and up to 3.3 metres high is proving to be one of the stand-out attractions of the 2014 Vivid Light Festival, which on opening night alone attracted an estimated 100,000 people.

The public response to our installation has been overwhelming,” said Assistant Professor Chris Knapp from the Bond University Abedian School of Architecture.

“On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights there was a queue of 100 people or more waiting to get inside and experience our pavilion.”

Throughout the Festival, which runs from 23 May to 9 June, it will be viewed by an estimated 800,000 festival-goers as part of the Vivid Light Walk that extends from the Opera House around Circular Quay to The Rocks area.

Cellular Tessellation will be made available for sale after its showing at Vivid and the Bond team is hoping it will eventually find a home on the Gold Coast.

The geometric architectural installation is a complex structure made up of 380 individual cells that each perform a slightly different function so that the surface can curve in different directions.

The project was constructed by Bond architecture staff and students in the workshop and also foyer of the Abedian School of Architecture and then transferred to Sydney, where 21 architecture students from the University of NSW, University of Sydney and UTS helped to assemble it on site.

“It was fantastic to see the architecture community come together to support the project and bring the exhibit to life,” Professor Knapp said.

“Our key challenge was to utilise a novel software application, firstly to test and validate our design theory and then to create digital templates for each individual piece to be laser-cut and CNC-routed in the workshop,” he said.

“The construction phase was the moment of truth. We had to fit together 1200 uniquely shaped pieces and 3000 bolts and plywood spacers with absolute precision.

“No two cells in the entire piece are the same shape and size – a bit like the markings on a giraffe – but, using the advanced design and fabrication technology we’ve developed, they all fit together perfectly.”

The tunnel-like pavilion was threaded with 200 metres of strip LED totalling around 4,500 lights and sealed with a covering skin of weather-resistant HDPE plastic.

Professor Knapp worked on the concept and design with fellow Assistant Professor Johnathan Nelson, Masters student Michael Parsons and Fabrications Laboratory Manager Nathan Freeman at Bond’s Abedian School of Architecture, in collaboration with Byron-based consulting engineer, Phil Wallace.

Three Bond students who have started up their own workshop in nearby Mermaid Beach were also brought into the fabrication stage of the project.
“Aside from the prestige of being accepted for the Vivid Light Festival and the excitement of seeing the public respond so positively to the installation, the most exciting aspect of this whole project is that the techniques and systems we’ve been researching can be universally applied to other, bigger structures and buildings,” said Chris.

“There are very few people in the world doing this kind of work and only a handful adapting it to a project of this scope and size.

“We’ve pushed the boundaries to find techniques that offer a better way to design and fabricate complex forms and we’ll continue that development by exploring how it can next be achieved using robotic fabrication and assembly through our new robotics lab here at the University.”


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