March 28, 2011
lynn magic
Alessi Tea and Coffee Towers, Greg Lynn (source)
Nostradamus in a Magic Circle, Engraving (source)


While CNC milling is prized for its capacity to rapidly produce large-scale prototypes of complex geometries, the physical properties of the mill’s construction—it relies on circular drill bits to carve away material—results in residual noise, or grooves, otherwise known as ‘tooling paths’. Although these tooling paths can be smoothed out with coats of Bando or sanded out of existence, over time they have become accepted into the contemporary design language and even celebrated for their ability to map the fabrication process—a marriage between fabrication and ornament, not dissimilar to the work of Process artists from the 1960s.


If Process art was prized for documenting natural organic phenomena, such as movement and gravity, contemporary rapid-prototyping offers a parallel view into the world of digital machines. The width and head-type of a tool-bit or the resolution of a plastic printer reveal the limitations of the technologies that produced them. But while the artists of the 60s were producing sculpture at a one to one scale, architects typically utilize rapid prototyping to produce scale models of objects that are much larger. And while the grooves on Greg Lynn’s Tea & Coffee Towers for Alessi add to the sensual appeal of the domestic objects, they are perhaps less convincing when mapped onto the five-story girth of his early proposal for the Sociopolis in Valencia.


E. Sean Bailey


To ward off bad luck, the more traditional residents of Lancaster County—the heartland of those apocryphally known as the ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’—mount circles and shapes, colorful geometric compasses and mandalas, on their barn walls. The symbols have been termed ‘hex’ signs for reasons that are now opaque. Whether this name derives from sinister spell-casting—’hexing’, a gerund rooted in the German word for witch, Hexe—or from the more benign formal term, hexagon, is unclear. This ambiguity, however, reveals—despite its inherent confusion—a structural relation and hidden affinity. The distance between these two notions, between geometry and mysticism is, in some cases, not a great one.


The magic circle, imagined in both archaic and popular visions of sorcery, enacts precisely this conjunction of form and witchcraft. Drawn as a ring around its maker and enlivened by an accompanying incantation, it generates a protective realm, a field-like safe haven originating in simple, two-dimensional form. The magic circle forms a semi-architectural plan, the designs for a realm not built but mystically tangible.


Rachel Engler





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