Tumble Truss Project Converts
Desert Plants into Digital Works
Dollens manipulates botanical X-rays
The light of New Mexico's desert has inspired generations of artists. For Dennis Dollens (Los Angeles, 1950), moving from New York to Santa Fe meant advancing his architectural and computer studies within that region's plant kingdom.
"Tumbleweeds grow in my garden. I let some develop naturally, while I use bonsai techniques to modify the shape of others. Before they mature, I inject some with radioactive iodine in order to X-ray them. I also take pictures of cells in mature plants by means of microscope enlargement," explains Dollens, co-founder and editor of SITES Architecture magazine as well as designer/editor of Sites OnLine, both devoted to architecture and design.Models from the TumbleTruss Project--an architectural, electronic, and environmental exploration of forms generated from tumbleweeds (the rolling plant in Western movies)--are on display at Barcelona's Galeria H2O until January 5th. The project's electronic versions are available at the artist's Web site. Each piece is the result of a long process that involves Japanese techniques as well as up-to-the-minute technologies.
After loading the images in the computer, Dollens manipulates the X-rays in Photoshop and converts the cells into three-dimensional images, in order then to print them on silk or special Japanese paper, the only materials that do justice to the curves and undulations of the shapes.
Thanks to the desert plant's flexibility, he is able to construct models that he covers with silver leaf, copper netting, and his handmade yucca paper. Concurrently, he designs virtual electronic models and converts those into three-dimensional animations.
The results are unprecedented. The model is like a seed that grows with electronic fertilizer and becomes virtual architecture--a structure than can be physically and computer manipulated at one and the same time, in an alternating cycle of physical and virtual development.
"It is a process of visualization, as much for the digitally abstract pieces as for the real architectural elements:awnings, kiosks, roofs, or buildings," Dollens explains.
The TumbleTruss Project links back to the Gaudi/Jujol trend at the start of the last century: the structural performance of organic forms in architecture.
Dollens's models cross borders bewtween architecture, urban planning, and design: the same form can be converted into a wall lamp,ear ring, or canopy--even into a projection screen.
The TumbleTruss Project takes advantage of curves and warped surfaces to adapt to the site. "All of it a challenge to concepts of contemporary architecture, based on horizontal and vertical planes", says Dollens.(Translated by Ronald Christ from El Pais, Ciberpais, Madrid, Spain, Thursday, December 22, 1999)
Dennis L. Dollens is an artist and writer living in Santa Fe, New Mexico and editor of SITES Online Magazine