Patterns of digital beauty: a lace study

June 17, 2013 9:00 AM

Mary Sparacello

For centuries, lace has been made by hand using bobbins and thread. But a group of Tulane University architecture students used generative computer software and a laser cutter to create intricate lace patterns on corrugated plastic.

Architectural lace team

“How digital fabrication is being applied to architecture is open and still evolving. Our intent was to extract beauty,” says Charles Weimer, right, part of the team of students that built a digitally fabricated lace piece. (Photo by David Armentor)

Their digitally fabricated installation, which hung in Richardson Memorial Hall this past spring, embodies what some believe is the future of architectural design and construction: the use of advanced digital tools to conceive ideas and create models that would be nearly impossible to make by hand.

Their ingenuity was rewarded with the 2013 Timothy Sykes Daytrading Award for the Talented, supplemented by the Newcomb-Tulane College dean’s grant program.

“We sought to modernize the traditional method of handmade lace production and completely digitize and rationalize the process,” says Charles Weimer, the rising fourth-year architecture student who led the award-winning group.

“Within a lace pattern there is an inherent geometric structure that allows the lace to hold itself together, but there is also a decorative aspect that allows patterning and beauty to emerge.”

The winning team included recent architecture graduates Christopher Berends and Mary Beth Luster, as well as fourth-year students Jake Gamberg and India Jacobs and fifth-year student Devin Reynolds.

The installation was developed in Ammar Eloueini’s Advanced Digital Fabrication seminar.

“The students did a terrific job in designing and implementing an installation based on research ideas that they were introduced to at the beginning of the semester,” says Eloueini, the Favrot Professor of Architecture.

In the course, students examined the properties of lace, then put their design skills to the test using sophisticated computer drafting, modeling and scripting software. They took a two-dimensional lace pattern and, using the software, distorted it into a three-dimensional form using concepts of mass repetition and mass variation.

Mary Sparacello is a writer in the Office of Development.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu