Nature provides abundant examples of transforming shapes and figures. The changing arrangements of these forms are made apparent through the shifting of the light that animates them. A tree canopy is one of the best examples nature provides for altering forms and intensities of light. Through a process described as “biomimicry,” design fields have learned to use these examples given by nature to improve the qualities and effectiveness of spaces.
Light Ribbon utilizes the concept of biomimicry to create a new canopy of diverse light. Using 3-D modeling tools, a surface is pierced with openings of varying sizes and then populated with undulating filter modules of varying heights, with openings adjusting according to height. These filters are laser-cut and folded trapezoidal prisms made of museum board while the underlying surface is a laser-cut felt ribbon onto which the prisms are sewn. The sizes and heights of the openings and filters, respectively, were based on high-contrast images of light filtering through a canopy of trees. Darker areas of an image were represented by smaller openings and taller filters with smaller apertures while areas of intense light were transformed into large opening with shallower filters and larger apertures. Once the prisms are sewn onto the felt, the whole is molded into a new undulating form held by a wire mesh frame. This layering process thus further mimics the multitude of layers that create a tree canopy.
The process of creating Light Ribbon is heavily dependent on the use and understanding of digital fabrication and materials. First, understanding the fabrication process directly alters the design of the filters. Determining that these would be created using a simple laser-cutting process meant understanding the limitations of transferring a three-dimensionally modeled object to a two-dimensional unit that could be rebuilt. A process of unfolding and re-folding addresses this challenge by taking the original 3-d model, digitally unfolding each module size into a flat plane, laying out the shapes on the materials to be cut, and refolding each final, physical piece into its original 3-dimensional shape.
Second, these shapes need to be easily manipulable, to be bent into their individual modules on the one hand, and to be twisted as a unit into an undulating shape on the other. This necessitates a clear understanding of materials and their limitations. The material of the modules is first chosen based on its perfect combination of stiffness and malleability. The museum board withstands the burning process of laser-cutting while also allowing for ease of folding. The felt piece is then chosen for its soft, fabric qualities. It provides a surface onto which the museum board can easily be attached to become a unit that the felt can then reshape. It is also a solid material that can control the light that passes through it. By puncturing specific holes of various sizes in the fabric, the light that shows through is controlled and create dynamic.
The entire assembly of Light Ribbon is intended to demonstrate varying intensities of light through a filtered process. This can be done at any range of scales. Light Ribbon can be adapted on a small scale as a lamp accessory. It could also be transformed into a medium scale construction as a ceiling light pattern; or, it could be expanded into a larger scale façade system, transforming the interior atmosphere during the day and activating the façade attitude at night.