May 23, 2014

Spaghetti and String

Written by Assistant Professor Tyler Sprague

As we wind down the quarter in ARCH324, students once again took part in the (now) annual tradition of building small-scale prototype structures, out of spaghetti and string. The hot gluing of tiny sticks on cardboard platforms becomes a useful means to reveal the fundamental issues of structure, often bringing a quarter of calculations into a new light. The issues that control structural design at larger scales – slenderness, stress capacity, connection anchorage, and force vector orientation – are suddenly made more tangible, tactile and intuitive.

Some students chose to model a particular element of their studio or final structural design project; others took the opportunity to experiment with stability, bracing and various types of lateral force resisting systems. At the end, the students all described how their models might translate into full-scale, habitable structures – where the spaghetti becomes steel, wood or bamboo, and string becomes high-strength steel cables, or fabric membrane. For most, it doesn’t take much imagination to visualize the larger-scale version.

With a limited material palate – spaghetti and skewers for compression, string and paper clips for tension – and only two hours, I was once again impressed at the level of spatial creativity demonstrated by our students. The diversity of forms, from such simple everyday materials, truly speaks to the endless potential of creative design to shape new spaces.  See the full group here:

Below are some of the examples of student work.