Center Column

Though I’m not on any structural design team, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the design of the center column, since that piece in particular must house some of the most complex electronic and mechanical components in the whole system: the bronze ring controls, the pendulums that animate the phytoplankton forms, and all the internal computing and circuitry to ensure that the whole system operates in harmony.

When I last spoke with Gene, he outlined a method for construction that would enable us to realize more complex shapes while keeping the complexity of construction to a minimum. He described a sort of two-and-a-half-dimensional “sliced” method, which simply stacks laser-cut shapes made from flat materials with some thickness, building the desired shapes layer-by-layer.

While we may yet find another way to construct this column, I found this method intriguing, and set to work finding ways to mount the different subsystems to this sliced column.

The picture above shows a (crude) model of how one of the controls might be mounted, by simply adding/subtracting circular shapes to/from a certain set of “slices.” By making voids in the slices below the mounting point, all the accompanying electronics can be stored out of sight. Since all the electronics are connected together via one main void running up and down the entire column, a channel can be made from each sub-void to the main void, completely out of sight, and requiring no exposed bolts or separate holes to be drilled. Essentially the entire electronics enclosure is designed into the column itself!


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