Each year, the Burning Man festival held in the Black Rock desert of Nevada attracts fantastical sculptures of all shapes and sizes. Joshua Potter, a fifth year student at the University of Westminster in London, is hoping that his structure “PURSUIT” will make to this years festival. Part of his studio assignment, PURSUIT follows a parametric approach—and an emphasis on self-reliance to fund student projects—that has become synonymous with his studio unit.
Run by tutors Arthur Mamou-Mani and Toby Burgess, the studio, named DS10, has garnered a strong pedigree for complex designs. However, DS10’s primary approach, according to Potter is about producing “happy and fun” architecture that also relies on rigorous testing such as model making and digital fabrication.
“The studio’s philosophy is to involve students as much as possible in the design, fabrication and construction process” the two said. “We chose Burning Man for its ten guiding principles which include ‘Radical Self-Reliance,’ ‘Radical Self-Expression,’ ‘Leave no trace,’ and ‘communal effort.’ This meant playful and climbable structures, fully built by us as a team in a way that wouldn’t harm the local environment.”
Within the past five years, DS10 has submitted over 80 projects to the Global Arts Grant of Burning Man. As a result, six proposals have been provided funding through the scheme, notably Fractal Cult and Shipwreck constructed in 2013 and Hayam in 2014.
Students are heavily encouraged to seek funding for their projects either through the Global Arts Grant or Kickstarter, to see their projects realized.
“They try and make it a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work!” said Potter, who also added that DS10’s ethos has taught many students, including himself about being independent and self reliant. His project brief, meanwhile, called for a project that could respond to a social agenda, through a set of parameters.
As a result, PURSUIT was born. Deriving from a mathematical theory known as “pursuit curvature,” a system that relies on inputs and thresholds. Potter used the shape of an arrowhead and formed the idea of six arrowheads pointing towards the center. Using the this algorithmically, an iterative process forces certain points to move in accordance with each other.
“With Pursuit Curvature, each point starts at a unique position of a polygon, and moves incrementally towards the nearest adjacent point until they all converge in the centre. The path travelled is directly influenced by the points around it, so the final curves represent the effects all of the points have on one another as a group,” he explains.
On his Kickstarter page, he goes on to say that his project “celebrates humanity’s ongoing quest for Peace, Freedom and Joy – in Life, Love and Art” aiming to “create an interactive and unique sculptural playground for visitors.”
The design forms three interconnected spaces that offer unique perspectives of their surrounding and interior spatial arrangements. Potter adds that this encourages “playful interaction” and allows visitors to climb up the and around the structure while also providing a “space for personal reflection and communal gathering.” If Potter’s $25,575 dream is realized, PURSUIT will be burnt to the ground when Burning Man is over, perhaps symbolizing the final end of the “pursuit.”