michael hansmeyer: ornamented columns michael hansmeyer: ornamented columns
apr 11, 2011

michael hansmeyer: ornamented columns

zurich-based architect and programmer michael hansmeyer has sent us images of his latest exploration into computational architecture, ‘ornamented columns’. working with the CAAD group at ETH’s architecture department, hansmeyer has created a series of columns — both 3D and in actuality — that utilize algorithms and subdivision processes to generate a new column order that defines and elaborates its system of ornament.

michael hansmeyerall images courtesy michael hansmeyer



taking an abstracted doric column as a point of departure, individual components are identified through the subdivision process which works on a number of local parameter settings based on the input form’s topography as well as its topology. the result is a complex and idiosyncratic language that exhibit very specific local conditions and forms.

michael hansmeyer



the 2.7-meter high fabrication is painstakingly constructed from 1mm layer grey board sheets which have been individually cut using a mill or laser then stacked together on poles that run through a common core. consisting of over six million faces, the circumference of some sheets measured along the cutting path can reach up to 8 meters. since the initial prototype, tests using ABS, wood and metal have been under way.

fabricated prototype

on exhibit at the swiss federal institute of technology in zurich

photograph of column segments during construction

detail of prototype

initial sketches of variants that were generated from a uniform process

stacking of the layers

calculation steps for obtaining the cutting paths


  • amazing, this is what CGI can do that a human has a very hard time doing. way to go!!

    EA Berlin says:
  • it’s not all CGI – the images with humans in them are the real built exhibition, as well as the colored image nearest the bottom (showing the layering technique of building).

    it is quite fantastic though – it’s nice to see a use of computational designing which goes beyond the blasé parametric designs that are becoming so common and generic these days.

    i can only stand to see so many egg-crated blob shapes or amorphous and sinewy museum designs, easily generated by even the least skilled Grasshopper user.

    @EA Berlin says:
  • A pretty labor intensive column cover, and a lot of chip board. Cool result none the less.

    Adam says:
  • i like!

    Darija S. H. says:
  • A monumental use of paper for what in the end is an arbitrary piece of decoration. If this was a one-off sculpture we could call it art. As such it is a shame that students of architecture are being exposed to this kind formal tedium. Then again – wavy stacks of robotic placed bricks and or disposable fractal paper columns express a consistently vacuous academic vision. A vision perfectly in keeping with the techno cult of the day.

    Philharmonikon says:
  • amazing! unlike anything i’ve ever seen before.

    Marcus says:
  • how many layers you cut for this model?

    Han Tang says:
  • This is a beautiful design, not just aesthetically, but in how it exemplifies a modern way of thinking and making architecture. A column should represent the mindset of the time, and as contemporary design is very much headed toward a computational mode of working, this begins to make sense.

    chris says:
  • Mumbo jumbo

    Philharmonikon says:
  • Unfortunately, some people cannot wrap their minds around why this is a noteworthy project.

    Classical orders were defined by a system of proportions and could be ideally summed up by mathematical equation. They were and are seen as a beautiful example of forward thinking and expression of the times.

    Hansmeyer is creating a new language of orders by incorporating today’s computational advances, utilizing algorithms and subdivision processes for generation. Still a mathematical process, this is also a beautiful expression of contemporary times.

    A simply brilliant concept.

    arch+TEX says:
  • Shhhh! Just let the die-hard modernists keep thinking that this kind of work is evil decoration.

    tod says:
  • There is a huge artistic involvement in here. This is not just science. If Philharmonikon can’t see that, he is just as blinkered as he suggests the creator is. the methods used to create are never as important as the result.

    peter says:
  • I find it interesting that the formal qualities of this type of work always seem to bend toward some predetermined notion of “the future” as depicted by generations of popular science-fiction. I believe the intention and the tools speak to a contemporary taste, and are laudable to a degree in terms of their use here, but, for me, this kind of work is aesthetically empty, and I agree with Philharmonikon in that this effect is the general result of present day technocentricity.

    thinkmcflythink says:
  • thinkmcflythink … I think you are being exclusive in that the results of any experiment should not be excluded because of the means. Those are pretty amazing pieces by themselves and you will divorce yourself, and find yourself behind of any enjoyment of any of these pieces. I understand your techofreak take as it stands in the very wake of a humanness, but everybody has to/should be inclusive of new technology to create as many new views as possible..

    peter says:

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