Contact me if you want to arrange an assembly event at your school or conference.

A Reconstructable Geometric Sculpture

George W. Hart

I am running a series of events in which the participants assemble (and then disassemble) a four-foot diameter wooden sculpture. Shown in Figure 1, the form is composed of sixty identical cartoon-like plywood "people". Precisely designed lengths and angles ensure that the parts fit exactly together while weaving in and out through each other in three dimensions.

Figure 1. Assembled sculpture.

At the wrists and feet, the parts are neatly fastened together with 240 small nylon thumbscrews and 120 aluminum connectors. These are easily worked by hand, so no tools are required.

Figure 2. Aluminum connectors and nylon thumb screws

The figure below shows a stage shortly after the start of construction. The work is suspended so a half-dozen people can add to it from all sides at once.  Each of the sixty parts lie in a different plane in space, based on a stellation of Catalan's pentagonal hexecontahedron. [1]  The geometry and the pattern of connections are not immediately intuitive, so it takes some practice before the participants become fully comfortable with the structure. Keeping track of what belongs inside and what goes on the outside is another tricky aspect, but the participants developed a good visualization ability as they go along.

Figure 3. Start of the construction at Stony Brook University.

These pictures were taken at a workshop with students and faculty at Stony Brook University in March 2004. This was the first complete assembly of the sculpture. Previously I had test-fit the parts at MIT, [2] where I cut the sixty Baltic birch plywood components on the laser cutter at the computer science and aritificial intelligence laboratory. (Thank you Erik Demaine and Martin Demaine for arranging this and for all the help!) The previous semester, while I was artist in residence at MIT, I had created a thirty-component sculpture in a group barn-raising, [3] but this new sculpture is a factor-of-two increase in complexity.

Figure 4. Two thirds through, working from both inside and outside.

The disassembled parts are small enough and light enough to be easily shipped from one venue to another.  So I am organizing a series of events around the US with this set of parts. A minimum of 45 minutes is required for the assembly. Depending on the time available and the interests of the audience I can also present background information about the geometric and computational issues underlying this design and related sculptures of mine. In addition, if there is more time available, a paper construction assembly workshop along with building the wooden sculpture can provide participants with a deeper insight into the mathematics underlying its form.

Overall, this is a unique interdisciplinary experience in which the participants find the precision of geometric thinking, the beauty of wooden sculpture, the engineering of architectural structure, and the fun of an intricate assembly puzzle.


[1] George W. Hart, "Sculpture from Symmetrically Arranged Planar Components", in Meeting Alhambra, (Proceedings of ISAMA-Bridges 2003, Granada, Spain), Javier Barrallo et al editors, Univ. of Granada, 2003, pp. 315-322.

[2] Photos by Erik Demaine,

[3] George W. Hart, "A Salamander Sculpture Barn Raising", Proceedings of Bridges 2004: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science, Reza Sarhangi and Carlo Sequin, eds., pp. 53-60.

Contact me if you want to arrange an assembly event at your school or conference.