Innovative Lives

What does architecture have to do with math?

What does architecture have to do with math?

Using math

Chuck Hoberman Studying mechanics and movement and symmetry in nature, Chuck Hoberman realized that geometry is a universal principle that can make anything fold. Some of Hoberman's structures are based on simple geometric shapes like triangles and trusses. Other structures are based on more complex shapes like icosododecahedrons. In order to build his structures, Hoberman must understand very complicated mathematics and use computers. He believes "mathematics is not just numbers, or formulas on a page. Mathematics is shapes, and relationships between shapes."

"First I have to understand it in a simple way," Hoberman explains. "When I just think of an idea, at the beginning, I'm not thinking of formulas; I'm thinking of pictures in my mind." The complicated formulas and computer-aided design (CAD) come later.

He describes his structures as math that you can see that is also beautiful, combining transformation and movement. "What I'm trying to do is to make something that combines the math and the art."


All text and images © Smithsonian Institution. Updated 5 February 1999.



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