Michael Hansmeyer's Sixth Order is a new order of column, developing beyond the orders of column with their origin in classical architecture (Doric, Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian, Solomonic). The columns of Sixth Order begin with a Doric column. This column is subdivided into its constituent parts and features (proportions, shaft, capital, base, fluting, entasis) and then algorithmically processed. This process involves subdivision of the parts, and then a unique application of the algorithm to all elements of the form. Thus there is an overall and specific transfiguration of the topology as well as topography. The column becomes something wholly transformed; a staid and archetypal form elegantly mutated into something that reflects a twenty-first-century paradigm.
Hansmeyer doesn't so much design forms as he designs processes that generate form. Designboom describes this element of Hansmeyer's practice saying that it:
“… utilizes algorithms and subdivision processes in its formal approach to create unique permutations that manifest themselves as a complex and elaborate system of ornaments. four individual columns were generated from a single process and then constructed from layering 1mm grey board sheets that have been mill or laser cut. while sharing the same constituent process, the columns have not a single surface or motif in common.”
(2011, Sept. 14) “Michael Hansmeyer at Gwangju Design Biennale 2011”
Sixth Order is a specific instance of a more broad project called Subdivided Columns - their exhibition at the Gwangju Design Biennale of 2011. During this exhibition the four unique columns were displayed with mirrors on adjoining walls, multiplying their architectural and spatial presence. This layout also allows the viewers to see the columns from multiple sides. This display also emphasizes the variation and permutation that permeates all of Hansmeyer's practice. Even the singular columns are made up of approximately 3,000 layers of very thinly sliced material (ABS plastic in the case of the Gwangju Biennale). Each column consists of far more than 16 million facets, to further emphasize the multitudinous quality of Hansmeyer's project. The algorithms used to produce the forms are repeated and recombined to determine the final outcome, a family that is clearly undeniably related while preserving individuality. The columns resemble heroically proportioned figures, like caryatids, continuing a theme of commingling the futuristic with the mythic.
The constellation of themes in the work of Laleh Mehran converges as much as it diverges from those of Michael Hansmeyer. In Laleh Mehran's project Men of God, Men of Nature (2012-2013), architecture plays a key role in the final form of the work as it is located in the Daniel Libeskind-designed Denver Art Museum, a space with no right angles. While Hansmeyer reaches the sublime and mythic indirectly and algorithmically, Mehran takes the straight line. The political and the mythic enter Men of God, Men of Nature through the construction of Mehran's own Kaaba, a cubic enclosure covered completely with an ornate and crystalline patterning. These patterns are mirrored, as in Sixth Order, expanding their effect. Men of God, Men of Nature contains multiple families of pattern. The first are crystallographic patterns on the interior of the structure. These patterns are related to pre and post Islamic geometric design, which begin mathematically perfect, and slowly, algorithmically degrade as they approach the roof and the center of the space, at which point they reacquire perfection. Additionally, Men of God, Men of Nature incorporates the meandering lines of the topography of the Middle East, as well as components informed by the composition of Butterfly wings. In this way Mehran is able to articulate a network of referents, beyond the objectivity of the purely architectural. Neither Hansmeyer nor Mehran resort to simple repetition, each reaching very different manifestations of the sublime.
Olafur Eliasson is another artist whose work utilizes digital generation and fabrication techniques as a means of producing complex projects that would otherwise be prohibitively labor intensive or impossible to calculate. In his 2004 – 2008 project The Other Wall, Eliasson designed three walls to further sculpt the space of the foyer of Oslo Opera House. In addition to its perforated and modular “quasi-brick” patterning The Other Wall contains two light sources: one to highlight the geometric pattern of the wall itself and another to illuminate the structural walls behind it. The two light sources are controlled independently, changing perception of scale and hue, creating a myriad of possible spatial properties that can be composed for particular events, times of day, etc.
Two quotes about Hansmeyer's approach, in his own words, are also applicable to the practice of Eliasson:
“It is an attempt to incorporate tools and technologies that can expand the scope of what is possible and what is imaginable and in the best case to create something that is not yet imaginable,”
Vourazeri, Stefania (4, May 2011) “Ornamented Columns by Michael Hansmeyer”
“I propose we look to nature. Nature has been called the greatest architect of forms. I'm not saying that we should copy nature. I'm not saying that we should mimic biology. Instead I propose that we can borrow nature's processes. We can abstract them and to create something that is new.”
Hansmeyer, Michael, (2012, June) “Michael Hansmeyer, Building Unimaginable Shapes”
Eliasson's projects work to blur or transcend the distinction between the aesthetic and the pragmatic. Akin to Hansmeyer's columns, and extended architectural practice, Eliasson also endeavors to bridge the potent multidisciplinary space between the aesthetic and the (potentially) utilitarian.
The marriage of procedural/parametric development processes and physical fabrication techniques continues to innovate on multiple fronts. These methods provide unique opportunities otherwise unrealizable; they point toward an other order for the futures of the aesthetic, architectural, and artistic, to name only a handful.
Michael Hansmeyer - Sixth Order (Columns)
Michael Hansmeyer – lectures/video
Laleh Mehran – Men of God, Men of Nature
Olafur Eliasson – The Other Wall