It’s a quieter task reserved for the months when the sun hangs low in the sky; I’m beginning to sense that Vertecology will have yearly seasons just like any earthbound venture. That seasonality will leave the coldest month of the year, when Oregonians spend evenings about their wood stoves and even Angelinos, Portlandians and San Franciscans slow from sprints to heady gallops, to put together one or more audacious permaculture-times-Bucky proposals for next year’s festivals, to explore and finalize concepts that evolve over the course of months and years.
That said, I recently and unexpectedly got to spend the weekend at Eugene’s Kaleidoscope Music Festival with VIP bracelet, big name headliners and old bromance partner in mad-scientist crime Dustin Feider of O2 Treehouse. With a new fire in the belly I remembered that it’s never too early to do some sketches to sleep on during the hustle of waning summer.
Some of you might remember the solar updraft concept I blogged about a couple of years back (the image below might remind..,). The concept is simple – build a conical structure with a high chimney on dark earth, cover it in greenhouse fabric and use the rising heat generated inside to run a turbine with no other moving parts in the whole assembly. Those of you who’ve watched Zeitgiest might also remember Jaque Fresco’s discussion of of conical structures as a prime way of resisting high winds – a high priority in his hurricane-prone burb of Venus, Florida.
Like geodesic domes, conical structures have uniquely amazing properties and represent another, less known class of that great library of Buckminster Fullerine applications. I suspect they’re able to do a lot of things that geodesic domes and spheres can – and can’t – especially with regard to circulating air and heat on both the insides and outsides of their surfaces. Not to mention that like geodesic domes in their time, they can offer a whole new aesthetic language. Wind-resistant, modular renditions of Angkor Wat that can go up in two days at a festival and turn turbines in their rafters with no moving parts, powered through the night by the body heat of sweaty ecstatic dancers and all the while pumping airborne seeds of native aromatics and edibles into the night sky? Yup. That’s the idea.
There’s a fair amount of math between here and there, a lot of that probably best saved for the coldest month of the year, as well as a fair amount of prototyping and hiding thermometers around the room next time I go to my beloved ecstatic dance night here in Eugene – all just to see if the idea is feasible . For now though, it was great to get back from the festival, and in the face of exhaustion, get the wheels turning by inventing a simple method in SketchUP to explore various strut skeletons for public/festival scale conical structures.
When the geometry works, it’s like the first in a trail of breadcrumbs into the future, the first in a series of incredible hints at what’s possible. Starting with a Fibonacci spiral, then rotating it 60 degrees again and again to get the look of a spiral galaxy, then flipping the “galaxy” the other way to get a dream weaver-like pattern, I projected that shape onto a cone whose height curvature is shaped by the Fibonacci sequence too (here’s a whole treatment on the Fibonacci sequence for you fellow nerds out there, or 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 and so on for the rest of you), and voila, I got a 3-D pattern that would be self-supporting if built.
Next I connected all the vertices with straight lines which with the real build would become struts, maybe simple conduit, maybe elegantly carved wood or anything in between, all connected with universal hub like the one I used for the Illumi-Geo. A cover can be sewn out of whatever fabric is desired. Next it’s about figuring the inflows and outflows of air using the principle of inflow volume = outflow volume, and wow, we may just have a powerful Venturi engine. Drop the turbine in place, hook up the flywheel, do the numbers and if we’re lucky, hire the DJ’s and fire up the sweaty-ass BOOM.
For those of you who want to play along with this design, you can download the SketchUp file here. You’ll need SketchUp 3D of course, a great, free 3D design and modeling program… while I’ve worked in far more complex professional wares these years, I’ve got to give props to SketchUp for open-sourcing the whole 3D design process for pretty much all practical DIY applications.
And for further enjoyment while you wait for more on the topic, here’s an image of the fanciful concept I call the “Tensegrity Deck,” loosely inspired by Angkor Wat, and created in SketchUp using the above mentioned “Fibonacci” file. Believe it or not, I believe this is entirely buildable with some serious anchoring of the three supporting pylons and the correct balancing of cable-workloads and materials. The cables are triangulated, allowing the conical form to rest in the balance with no supporting walls.