Part to Part: Building “Under Magnitude”

Under Magnitude is a two-story tall permanent structure suspended in the atrium of Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center. Created by New York-based art and architecture studio MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY, the project carves a three-dimensional impact into an otherwise vast space. The story behind the design and construction of the project is that it further evolves Fornes’ invention of “Structural Stripes”: the fundamental premise of the studio to unite surface, skin, and space into a holistic and never-before-seen system.

Read as one element from afar, Under Magnitude is the sum of many sub-elements: a network of branches unified by a single smooth and continuous white surface. The intricate curvilinear surface is also structure, forming a unified system of both “columns” and “beams,” aggregating to create a three-dimensional subspace. The open, tubular branches come together within a Y-shaped plan and reach upwards to form a shape that is both like a vault and a suction cup: a “shell from shells.”

It is an example of the studio’s invention and ongoing development of innovative “new minimalist” digital assemblies—unique constructs that unify skin, structure, and spatial experience into a single system.

The material thickness of Under Magnitude is just a millimeter, thinner than a credit card, yet it is strong enough to walk upon. The studio builds upon the research of Frei Otto—the notion of “Extensive Curvature” and the achievement of the Soap Bubble Model. Otto determined that a bubble, when blown up to the size of a room, is more structurally performant than a box.

The strength of Under Magnitude is achieved by “Intensive Curvature,” which is the maximization of double curvature across the project while constraining maximum radii. The result is a structure that has much tighter curvature with constant change of direction resulting in more structural performance. “Intensive Curvature” leads to the curly, tubular branching characteristics consistent across the studio’s body of work.

The practical, logistical end of achieving “Intensive Curvature” has been made possible by Fornes’ invention and ongoing pursuit of the last ten years: “topological-mesh-walking” as a “structural stripe” based material system. Cut from flat pieces of aluminum, “Structural Stripes” describe a construct as a set of precise parts—in the case of Under Magnitude, 4,672. A Stripe is analogous to existing units of building material, such as a brick, but unique in that it is specific to its position, and also aware of its neighbors.

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