Thursday, 13 March 2014

TED Talks 2014 + Catenary Action

So, TED has arrived in Vancouver. And like its brand new hosting city, this conference where the rich-and-famous share "ideas worth spreading", is offensively expensive yet so quintessentially cool that you cannot show distaste without being a rebel. But once in a while, you catch glimpses of beauty that make you understand all the fuss - like a rare, sunny day in Vancouver or this ethereal installation by Janet Echelman. This 745-foot aerial sculpture hangs between a 24-story hotel and the Vancouver Convention Centre, and gently melts with the sky. When the wind flows through the colourful mesh, creating mesmerizing ripples, it is pure magic. 
Physics and geometry may plainly describe this installation as a collection of strategically placed catenary curves. Catenary is the shape of a hanging string held at two ends. That is to say, catenary is dictated by the pull of gravity. So, when inverted, it becomes very efficient at carrying load, especially its own weight. This is why catenary exists commonly in architecture and engineering as bridges and arches, most notably in works by Antoni Gaudí. Here is a totally slick chair designed by Studio Bram Geenen dedicated to the master. 
I also came across this Catenary Pottery Printer by 'Great Things to People' that cleverly gets help from gravity to form these delicate porcelain objects. Check it out here!
Now, I am back to being melodramatic about TED Talks.

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