This project, entitled Grazer, is inspired by Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest sculpture series.
Although I don’t think this project will reach anything as spectacular as the monstrosity you see above, I hope it will provide a lot of wonderful experiences, and teach me a great deal. I am fascinated with the things that can’t fit completely into one category, but rather fit a little into here, a little there, and a little way over there. This project totally fits that category. It broadens peoples expectations of what can happen within a certain discipline. While Jansen’s work would not be able to function without math and engineering principles, it also exhibits a very notable aesthetic: simple, beautiful, but also strikingly odd — hallmarks of interesting design. It begs the question: “what does that do?”
In trying to answer that question, I have completed one functioning leg. It made it’s first steps today:
In these photos, the leg is held down by a vice grip, but soon will find its home tethered to a poured-concrete block so it can be displayed in the science center at Westtown. I am loving how these materials look together: the rosy 2x4s, pale disk, white PVC, bits of aluminum bracing, concrete, and the wisps of zip tie; very bare and industrial. A DC motor and a steel chain might join this collection soon. I must also give some big ups to Jeremy Spiegel, who joined me in fabricating this leg during our Design and Engineering class.
I realized with this piece that it’s very hard to get every thing to rotate strait and inline with the use of PVC joints, as they are very flexible:
To remedy this for Grazer, I plan on drawing up some steel joints in CAD software that will still fit with PVC pipe structural components, but will hopefully move very predictably and unfailingly (zip ties can snap or stretch after a while). Joints machined on a CNC mill will be very precise and strong, and will make it a very reliable machine. Even in Jansen’s own videos I see his “beests” fall over a lot and break. Maybe this process will remedy that design flaw. More to come next week!
A mini Hamster Strandbeest: