Insight - Breaking Wave

Breaking Wave

March 23, 2015

Scientists search through billions of experimental data points in order to find patterns to develop new drugs, to treat multiple sclerosis, cancer, and other diseases. Without a particular framework or perspective, these are just 0’s and 1’s, with no form or information. But with the perspective of an understanding of molecular dynamics, these data points create a clear picture about the hidden dynamics within the body, and allow scientists to craft drugs to successfully treat these diseases.

Breaking Wave is an anamorphic kinetic sculpture created for Biogen's new headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The sculpture tells the story of the search for patterns and the surprising results that come by changing our point of view. 804 suspended spheres move in a wave-like formation. When the wave crests and breaks, the balls hover momentarily in a cloud. From almost anywhere in the room, this cloud is purely chaotic, but step into one of two hidden spots and this apparent chaos shows a hidden pattern. From the first, a labyrinth hints at the search for knowledge, and from the second, a Fibonacci spiral inspired flower reminds us of the natural order and patterns found in nature.

Above the sculpture lies the mechanism that drives its motion. A motor drives a large rotating stainless steel cam. 36 rollers follow the contour of the cam, which traces out the overall waveform. Each roller slides on a linear track, pulling a cable that spins one of the 36 output shafts. Distributed along each shaft are different sized drums from which the wooden sphere (coated in zinc and steel, and then rusted chemically) are hung. As the shafts rotate, the drums pull the balls up and down – larger drums pull balls higher. In this way, the size of the 804 drums mechanically programs the images hidden in the cloud of balls.

This concept was designed with pencil, paper, and processing. The structure was designed in Solidworks. The piece was built with many hands and several miles of wire rope.

If you’d like to visit in person, Breaking Wave runs Monday through Friday, 8am to 8pm at our Headquarters building at 225 Binney St. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The sculpture is viewable from the street or from inside the lobby.


Breaking Wave
by Plebian Design and Hypersonic

Project Management Small Design Firm
Lighting Design David Weiner Design
Material Development Lightfast D+B
Concept Rendering Carl Albrecht
Order from Chaos Video Alberta Chu at ASKLabs
Music by knolls

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