Inside Rensselaer

Luminescent Limacon, a folded lighting design, is inspired partly from the Dutch Ruff, or flamboyant linen collars considered fashionable in 17th century Europe, as a vehicle for the manipulation of light. The light is the product of an integral design process that combines computation, mathematics, material performance, and fabrication.
Photo by Andrew Saunders


Architecture’s “Luminescent Limaçon” Earns Top Honors at Design Competition

A School of Architecture design earned a place of honor at the annual conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, held Oct. 11-16 in Banff, Canada. The design of the Luminescent Limaçon light fixture — which takes its form from a math equation and its subtle glow from a Baroque painting technique — earned one of three prizes in the ACADIA 2011 Design + Fabrication Competition.

As part of the competition, the lamp, titled “Luminescent Limaçon,” was fabricated in the Brooklyn manufacturing studio of FLATCUT_. The lamp was made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic, the recyclable plastic found in many common consumer goods such as milk jugs and plastic lumber. After the conference concluded, the lamp, along with winning entries in the categories of furniture and partitions, will be part of a traveling exhibit.

Andrew Saunders, assistant professor of architecture and principal designer, said the award-winning design stemmed from a semester-long “Equation-Based Morphologies” design studio that built on his research in computation as a means of generating architectural geometric forms.

“Trigonometric and calculus functions can be used to generate geometric forms. In the seminar, we explore a number of famous math equations and the geometric forms they create, and the students altered the equations to change the form,” Saunders said. “The Pascal limaçon is one of the equations we looked at.”

But while the form relied on the equation, the quality of light cast by the lamp is influenced by the painting style of chiaroscuro, which emphasizes a strong contrast between light and shadow. The students studied chiaroscuro in the work of Flemish Baroque painters, particularly works portraying the elaborate linen ruffled collars popular during the Baroque era, and incorporated the effect of light and shadow in the design.

“The Pascal limaçon informed the overall geometry, and chiaroscuro informs the quality of the light,” said Saunders.

Saunders’ current practice and research interest lie in computational geometry as it relates to emerging technology, fabrication, and performance. He is currently working on a book using parametric modeling as an analysis tool of 17th century Italian Baroque architecture.

The design team included architecture students Caressa Siu, Florian Frank, Kate Lisi, Travis Lydon, Luca Tesio, Andrea Uras, Olesia Kruglov, Stefano Campisi, and Alex Rohr.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 16, October 21, 2011
©2011 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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