Origami is much more than the art of folding paper. Georgia Tech students use it as a method for creating shelters and active facades.
In December 2017, students from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School of Architecture proposed an origami design that earned them an opportunity to travel to Japan to learn from Tomohiro Tachi, a widely-known origami expert and associate professor in graphic and computer sciences at the University of Tokyo.
Master of Architecture students, Leila Moghimi (’18) and Kashmira Ranadive (’18), enrolled in an origami-focused civil engineering course in fall 2017 semester, a course taught by Glaucio Paulino, Raymond Allen Jones Chair and professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
“The reason that we opted for this class,” Ranadive said, “ was because it was parallel to our studio project. Almost the entire studio was in our class except maybe three students. It was kind of like a collaborative exercise between Daniel Baerlecken and Glaucio Paulino.” Moghimi, Ranadive, and their classmates were encouraged by Daniel Baerlecken, associate professor in the School of Architecture, to take the class as it related to the origami-based coursework in his design and research studio.
Paulino’s class included nearly 50 students from across several different majors at Georgia Tech. While listed as a civil engineering course, students from architecture and biomedical engineering also enrolled in the class. Paulino required students to form groups of four with no more than two members of the same major in each group to begin a project centered around the application of origami with social implications.
“On the first day of school, I met Soeun [Park] and she told me she was studying civil engineering. So when [the project] came up, I was interested in designing a building, which is why I asked Soeun to be in our group, “ Moghimi said. “And when Giovanni [Malcolm] asked to join and I said, “The more ‘civils,’ the merrier!”
Moghimi continued, “Kashmira and I were both interested in going in more of a shelter/structure-route. And that’s why we went for civil engineers. After that, we began discussing how a building can help someone. So that’s where we got the idea of shelters for the homeless that can easily be deployed.”
The group agreed early in the semester to do something to help their community with Atlanta’s homeless population in mind. Upon further discussions, the group considered the social implications for how an origami shelter could be beneficial on a global scale. Their final project proposed a solution for shelters that could be used for disaster management by creating a structure that would be easy to deploy and could house four to six people.
“We wanted to do something that we learned in class; we wanted to apply that. So the origami pattern we used was the Yoshimura Pattern,” said Ranadive.
The Yoshimura Pattern may seem like a simple folding pattern, as it is comprised of a series of triangles. However, the power of this pattern’s effectiveness is in its simplicity when deployed.
“The main thing about the pattern is that it is flat-folded, so it can be folded into a flat sheet. And when you open it up, it is a strong, compression structure,” Ranadive said. “It was also very easy to make because it is basically made up of triangles. In fact, that’s how we made our final model. We alternated triangles and then you get the Yoshimura Pattern.”
Sturdiness, size, and cost were imperative elements considered during the development of the design. “Since they fold up, they are easy to pack a lot into, whatever you’re using to transport,” Moghimi said. “When there’s been a disaster, you want something fast and that you can move easily, and also something that is cheap, which again, our design only used one panel type to help make it easier and cheaper to manufacture.”
Near the end of the semester, each group presented their projects in hopes of winning a trip to Tokyo scheduled during Georgia Tech’s winter break. As it turned out, civil engineering and architecture students made the perfect combination of majors for creating applicable origami to help benefit society. And on December 16, 2017, Malcolm, Moghimi, and Ranadive hopped on a plane to begin their weeklong trip to Tokyo.
“When we got to Japan, we presented our design to Tomohiro Tachi, famous for origami in Japan. He might be the most famous person for origami in the world,” Moghimi said.
Ranadive added, “I remember when I was at the airport, there was a video about him (playing on the televisions in the concourse)!”
Their first full day in Tokyo was spent exploring the city. The students took a guided tour of Tokyo, which included seeing the Tokyo Tower, walking through Meiji Jingu Shrine. To conclude their introduction to Tokyo, the group dined on native sushi. Though Ranadive noted, “There’s a lot more to Japanese food than sushi.”
“The following morning we went to the University of Tokyo and they put us all in a room and gave us a bunch of patterns, and we started folding them” Moghimi said. “Tachi and two of his doctoral students walked around and helped us with folding techniques and were telling us about the different folds and ways they’ve been used in the past.”
The remainder of the trip was spent in origami classes, practicing new techniques and observing intensive sessions of origami creation.
Ranadive described the cultural experience of Japan as her biggest takeaway from her trip. “I’d always wanted to go to Tokyo,” she said. “But I never thought I’d actually go there, especially with a sponsorship and everything. I spent every day thinking, “Wow! We’re in Tokyo!”
The students were especially appreciative of Professor Paulino and Associate Professor Baerlecken for their enthusiasm for interdisciplinary connections and for encouraging their classes to look at how they can inspire and create change on any scale, and in this case, with just one resource – paper.
Contact: Carmen Wagster | Georgia Institute of Technology | School of Architecture