Easy Minimal Surfaces

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This episode we managed to get away from our workstations and head outside to Munich’s beautiful olympic park. There we found some prime examples of the shapes soap films form when they evolve between metal wires.

Yes – we’re talking about Frei Otto and his Olympiapark. Frei Otto was one of only two german architects to ever win the Pitzker price for his contribution to the design of tensile structures. Noticed those tent like roofs that span across the Olympic Stadium and The Olympic Halls? Those are what’s called minimal surfaces. But how do you design a shape like this when you don’t have access to powerful computers? (When the Munich Olympiapark was planned in the late 60s, there was only limited computational power available to engineers and architects.)

Frei Otto used a very analog approach – building major structural components in a wire model and then dipping it into liquid soap. Et voilá the soap by its very nature formed the shapes we can now marvel at in Munich.

We (of course) stuck to a computational approach of solving the minimal surface problem. There are advanced techniques involving heavy calculations but we stick to a more brute force approach – building a particle network that behaves as if it’s particles were interconnected by small springs.

Have fun with it!

Download Project File (.hipnc)

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