2018 Bridges Conference

Tung Ken Lam

Statement

My work is a mixture of art, craft, mathematics, engineering and play. My origami aims to be elegant with qualities of simplicity, economy and inevitability. It should not be obvious and be surprising (in a pleasant way)—although some of the best origami has a ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ quality. My Modular origami aims to be pleasing to fold, assemble and use (e.g. look at, play with, use for demonstrating mathematical concepts, etc). ‘If there is an art in origami then it exists within the sequence of folds [transforming] a sheet of paper into a model. . . A proper perception of origami can only be achieved by doing it.’ (Kenneway, 1987)

Artworks

As part of the work leading to WXYZ, units based on “Blintz Icosidodecahedron” made four intersecting irregular hexagons (FIIR) which have angles of 90º and 150º. Adapting this to make equilateral triangles was successful but the arrangement of paper and assembly was improved with the WXYZ unit. Opened up, the FIRR unit looks like a young bird's beak. Four units make a skeletal cube without complete planes. Six make a skeletal cuboctahedron but the planes are no longer a single colour; the planes are irregular dodecagons with rotational (not mirror) symmetry. The assembled units are reasonably strong and the paper is efficiently used: the minimum flap-pocket locking mechanism is used.
WXYZ is inspired by Robert Neale's pioneering Skeletal Octahedron modular origami and Buckminster Fuller's analysis of the Vector Equilibrium in Edmonson's “A Fuller Explanation”. I made many modular origami skeletal cuboctahedra with some of the best from 1:√3 bronze rectangles. I asked myself what would happen if the hexagons became equilateral triangles? My first units were like my “Blintz Icosidodecahedron”. Later I made a better unit from a square despite its 60° geometry. WXYZ is moderately challenging and uses only 12 units. The name alludes to the XYZ of Cartesian coordinates and Ed Sullivan's origami. It is a kind of optical illusion as it's made without cuts or glue. It has influenced others to create other planar origami.