Friday, January 11, 2008


Constructions of highly elegant beauty, even with a function, are Theo Jansen's Strandbeesten. You probably all know this famous Dutch artist, nevertheless does he deserve a place on this blog, especially because of his design methods.

Strandbeesten are artificial mechanical creatures, powered by the wind, that walk along the beach to and fro the sea shore. Their purpose is to loosen up the sand, so it can get blown onto the dunes by the wind, thereby strengthening them. The nice thing is that Theo Jansen optimizes these constructions to get maximum movement with minimum material. The materials he started with was simple PVC tubing, tape and other low-cost materials, although he is currently building larger structures made of wood.

To get to optimal designs, he used evolutionary computer algorithms; shapes that would evolve generation after generation. So in the evening he would create a simple shape, set a goal for it to optimize towards, and in the morning he would wake up and an elegant design would have evolved. For these purposes, this method really takes away the need for the designer to be intelligent; only meta-intelligence is needed. Brilliant.

Here are a few movies, the first one showing Animaris Rinoceros, one of his latest creations, the second is his TED talk.

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