In October 2012, I set out upon my second pumpkin adventure. The first post announced that I would be making lots of vegetables and introduced my version of the “scalable rectangular rig”. This device delivers scalability and organic variation in one hit. I really should go back and try to apply these ideas more directly to the world of buildings. But maybe the irregularity we find in an old cottage is rather different from the organic variation on display in a bowl of fruit.

The next post begins with one of my polemics about “the way we build”… my attempts to “look into the soul of Homo Sapiens through the lens of our construction activity.” Then I declare my intent to record a journey whose destination is still uncertain. Was “live streaming” a thing in those days? Similar idea: capture the spontaneity of the moment.

I also introduced the idea of inverting the process. Instead of carving a head out of a single pumpkin I would assemble a head from a motley collection of different vegetables. Pushing the envelope or breaking the rules? This post also included hand-drawn cartoons from my thesis project of 1992, having returned to university at the age of 40.

Architecture as the mirror of our collective soul. At the time I had a very strong sense that so-called “post-modern” architecture reflected a loss of confidence and purpose in contemporary society … “anything goes” or “let’s just make fun of our heritage, rather than make the effort to try to understand it”

The doric pumpkin evolved from an idea for a “profile” that could morph between a fluted column shaft and a lobed vegetable. The next post begins to explore variations on this theme. What if I connect the reference points in different combinations?

Host the results in rectangular rigs and you get sweet potatoes, capsicum, okra … all scalable and easily varied in proportions / curvature. Early days but I was clearly on a roll. How far could I take this theme?

Think of a vegetable. How can you make it using the idea of “mass profiles” and a “scalable rectangular rig”? Beads on a string, profile like an eye, five copies of different size and proportion … that’s a hand made of broad beans.

The avocado took me into the realm of revolves. “Create Form” sometimes gives you options : do you want an extrusion or would you prefer a revolve? I’m playing with material textures here also. It’s all about pushing the right buttons in our memory machine. The subconscious is more than capable of doing the rest.

Eggplants elicit more variations on the profile theme, and an interesting challenge to create the stalk. By now my regular posts had set up a dialogue with Paul Aubin which has since blossomed into a true friendship, one of several across the continents in the world of BIM enthusiasts that have become very important to me, especially in these crazy days of “shelter at home”.

Bananas seem quite straightforward at first, but I’m interested in the fact that they come in bunches. I used to have banana trees in my garden in Zimbabwe. Getting into the realm of repeaters now. Quite a long post this one, and finally I get around to assembling vegetables into a head. Time to reveal my sources of inspiration also (archimboldo and snow white)

First attempts at a render and it is looking very empty and clunky. Was I getting nervous? Cold feet? Can’t remember to be honest, but I had to keep going and hope for the best. Just keep making more vegetables and throw them into the gaps perhaps.

The next post was called “putting on the style” and turned out to be a spam magnet … thousands of hits … so I changed the title to “no robots please” The positives and negatives of our “viral age” Not putting the genie back in the bottle now I think. But I do hope we can outlive the rabid polarisation and politicisation that digital interconnection seems to have spawned.

I was actually thinking about “stylisation”, meaning the process of simplifying forms down to an essence that sticks in the brain. “Archetype” is a related concept. How do you capture “just enough” random variation to make something appear naturally organic?

The last part of the post sees me trying to feed these ideas back into the world of architecture. I settle on a door handle by Victor Horta. Very much a stylised version, but it made me think about a different sort of rig, based on a tetrahedron.

What a journey this was. Just kept on going. Now comes the post that became a “Vasari talk” later on. Green Onions and Wig Hat are two musical references sparked off by my decision to use Spring Onions as a substitute for strands of hair.

Looking back the analogy between biological evolution and the gradual unfolding of design ideas is very strong. Take something that was developed for one purpose, duplicate it and adapt it to a new use. Over time this produces a surprisingly rich complexity of forms.

The render still looks empty, but a bit less clunky.

This is supposed to be a Halloween picture, so “scary” is the operative word. Let’s add teeth and a grasping hand. Each new challenge is an opportunity to explore a slightly different take on the techniques previously developed.

Happy to see the use of orthographic views to understand the relationship of the different parts. For me it’s a big part of the BIM advantage. We always go on about data, and of course that is important, but the integration of orthographic and 3d views into a single package generates an extra layer of understanding that is often undervalued.

Populating divided surfaces with pattern-based panels and applying randomised values to instance parameters. The maize cob was intentional, the pine cone a happy accident. Life is usually a mixture of both, if only we can get the balance right. Artists are very familiar with this balancing act. Someone like Jackson Pollock took it to an extreme perhaps, arguably a bit of a dead end because of that. But any artist who observes the play of light and shade in the real world, or interprets the natural shapes of acanthus leave in a stylised way is engaged in balancing accident and intentionality.

Often this is done at a subconscious level of course. Arguably many of the best accidents occur inside our pre-conscious brains. Isn’t this what we mean by “inspiration”? Surely it doesn’t refer to a carefully calculated, predefined process.

12 posts in one month! How on earth did I manage that. Oh to be 60 again. Time was running out though and I needed to throw a lot more stuff into the picture frame (including a couple of picture frames, of course) Relying on my subconscious sense of composition here, those teenage years spent painting whenever I got the chance.

“What is this thing called BIM … does it have a soul, can it touch my heart?”

Right at the end there was a frantic effort to systematise and catalogue the stuff I had created during my journey, especially the “profiles”. Putting these on sheets was partly a justification for doing things “the BIM way” as opposed to say Max & Photoshop. But it’s also a really valuable resource for me, 7 or 8 years later, reflecting on what I achieved and how it might contribute to future work.

So the last image is not a blog post, it’s just the folder with the “deliverables” that constituted my submission for the Parametric Pumpkin Competition. Thanks once more to Zach Kron for unleashing the hidden demons inside of me. This was number two in a series of four adventures that I undertook using his annual Halloween event as an excuse. In many ways they were the precursors to Project Soane & Project Notre Dame. I’m not sure they would have developed as they did without the Pumpkin series. So it’s appropriate that this retrospective post began with a reference to “the way we build”

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