Look up. Above your head in the dark, a glowing whirl dangles, emanating blue-white light. Maybe it’s a tethered alien spaceship or the tempting lure of a gargantuan deep-sea fish! The thing appears frozen in motion, spinning like a great loading sign in the sky. Its openings spiral as they rotate, varying in size between each module. When you look closely, you see that there are actually three sets of these openings, rather than the expected two-sided surface that twists around on itself. This specimen is a rare three-apertured Möbius strip, an organism that landed in Houston for one night only last year.
This particular Möbius is the work of Paul Kweton, Ami Patel, and Hidekazu Takahashi, and was realized during the trio’s completion of the Design-Make Residency, a program developed by the Young Architects Forum of AIA Houston. The award provides workshop space, access to tools, and mentorship for designers who want to bridge the gap between design and fabrication. In their proposal, the team imagined their looping idea at different scales, but they chose to work through the details of the concept as a lighting fixture, 36 inches in diameter and fashioned from CNC-cut folded aluminum sheets that were bolted together.
As the group tested what worked in fabrication and what didn’t, they rewrote their Grasshopper scripts and tweaked their Rhino models, moving fluently between design tools. Their process allowed for speedy prototyping, with parametric iterations that led to new and unexpected qualities of space. Kweton said: “I’m interested in things I haven’t seen, or stuff I cannot dream up. I can have the algorithm produce it for me and I can evaluate it. It expands my horizon and my thinking.” This method relates to a directive from the deck of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies: “Gardening, not architecture.” Möbius emerged from the expert cultivation of a formal crop by skilled hands, a reliably fruitful operation that expands the realm of the possible, one experiment at a time.
Jack Murphy, Assoc. AIA, is a master of architecture candidate at Rice.