March 28th, 2011

Lugged and Braised Buildings

3 of these things, they do belong here. 3 of these things are kinda the same. But one of these things, doesn't belong here. Now it's time to play our game. It's time to play our game. 

From left: extruded hub; Mero ball; Nodus joint; cast lug.

Screw the suspense. Bottom bracket shells, from bicycle frames, don't belong among crude jointing systems used to make space frames. Not only are they much stronger compared to their weight, and not only are they produced in large enough volumes to ensure an impeccable finish, but they are also available in slightly varying configurations to accommodate every size, set of bodily proportions, weight and riding style of any cyclist. All those variations are possible because there are enough cyclists around the world, paying lots of money for bikes, to warrant manufacturers making so many variants.

Until recently, space frames in buildings have been based on repeated Platonic solids—cubes and tetrahedra most commonly. There has not been the demand for many small runs of subtly different Mero balls, for example, as would be needed if we were to build a geodesic dome in the literal shape of, let's say, a dog. (Don't laugh, such a building is proposed for Shanghai).


From left: Bob the lost dog (a proposed building in China); Federation Square; a bottom bracket.

A London based firm of specialist architects, Newtecnic, developed a jointing system for LAB's Federation Square in Melbourne, that they say is inspired by a car tow ball. And of course a ball and socket joint could be a logical basis for the kinds of complex space frames we have been seeing in the past decade. The problem? To date irregular joints in buildings have been crude to the eye, and, no orthodox or best way has yet been agreed on for joining irregular space frames. Yes, I'm imagining some company manufacturing an infinitely wide range of Mero balls, or perhaps even cast lugs for architectural applications.